Last year, my daughter, now a mother herself, went to a rock concert that was held at one of the local wineries. She was a bit disappointed. "Mom," she said, "they're all from your generation." Well, I thought, then I should give it a try. So I got tickets for the Doobie Brothers -- mostly because I recognized the name from way back then. My daughter was right! As a grandmother, I did not at all feel out of place.
Actually, it was quite heartening to watch this middle-aged (plus) crowd coming to listen to the old beat. And yes, it was indeed a far cry from the days of Woodstock and Monterey. Unlike in the olden days, this was no spontaneous gathering that would last for days through severe weather and harsh living conditions. People here expected much more than to survive on love and music alone.
Gourmet chefs cooked up a storm and sommeliers advised concert-goers on the wines to pair with the food. Extremely comfortable camping chairs and picnic tables laden with goodies from Whole Foods and Starbucks bore witness to the times that were a-changing -- even for the flower children.
But then, The Summer of Love was forty years ago. Everyone who remembers those days must be approaching retirement or is already there. The drugs are different now, too -- mostly to treat arthritis, osteoporosis and all that stuff guys are worried about.
'Nuf said! We came for the music... I was looking forward to seeing the idols of our youth still jamming away. They seemed like immortal gods once. But when they appeared on the stage, they looked just like the rest of us. Even those who still refused to get a regular haircut were left with little more than a grey shadow of their former glory. Time leaves its cruel mark on everyone.
When the show finally got under way, I noticed something I hadn't seen in a very long time: Adults having fun -- in fact, expressing unbridled joy. The deluxe camping chairs were quickly abandoned and the crowd got on its feet, never to sit down again for the duration of the event. These people kept on rocking no matter what shape or size they were in. Seeing them in their everyday lives, you would never have guessed it: They knew the songs, they got the moves -- it was groovy! Some reached for their cell phones to take pictures, others to call their grandkids (I'm sure), trying to hold on to this moment in time for as long as they could. The Summer of Love still did its magic.
It was then that I realized that there is a spirit in us that does not wither away with the same inevitability that we know all too well from our physical decay. We can be as young as we choose to be -- perhaps not in every way and not all the time, but deep down and where it matters the most: in our hearts, in our souls.
We like to remember our youth as a time without boundaries. Life then fills every moment with high hopes and expectations. For most of us, these moments become rare later on and eventually cease to occur altogether.
When we look back and examine the roads we have taken, we may find it hard to explain how we could have lost these times of joy and bliss. But once in a while, if we are open to it, we can re-unite ourselves with our memories, sensing anew what it was like to feel truly alive.
Sadly, many of us will have to reach far back to retrieve those experiences, if they are there at all. But we are entitled to them as our birthright. They were given to us when we were young enough to receive them with honesty and without calculation. We can reclaim them and bring them back to life. It's a choice we always have -- because we can be forever young.