The title of this post, “What’s a Hippie, Grandma?” is a purposeful distortion of our latest addition to The Buzz by Sara Davidson, “What’s a Hippie Grandma?” To the punctuationally-challenged, the two might look the same. They’re not (I never actually read Eats Shoots and Leaves, but like the author, Lynne Truss, I take my punctuation seriously.)
What’s a Hippee, Grandma?” is a question, I suspect, that one (if not all) of my three grandsons might ask someday, perhaps when the Sixties come up in history class. Being a hippie grandma myself–late of the generation that didn’t trust anyone over thirty–I prefer not to be called “Grandma,” though. So they will have to ask, “What’s a hippie, Minna?” if they want to get my attention.
Like Davidson, I wouldn’t have dreamed of actually moving to a commune in those days–I wasn’t that kind of hippee. But when I was an editor at Random House in the late sixties, I remember stringing “love beads” in my office. I used guitar-strap material to lengthen my sons pants (he’s finally forgiven me!). And I was all about altered consciousness. Once the boys learn about the Seventies, maybe they will also ask whether I went to Studio 54. (I did.) Hopefully, it will be a long time before they ask about that picture on my desk of me in all black leather and dog collar–attached to a leash, no less. I’ll try to explain that their grandmother, once a hippie, segued to disco queen and then to ace reporter, covering S & M for New York magazine in 1994.
In contrast, “What’s a Hippie Grandma?” (without the comma) is the question Sara Davidson ponders as her daughter gets closer to the altar and Sara inches toward grandmotherhood. What, she wonders, qualifies her to become the “hippie grandmother” her daughter claims she will be? My answer would be: drugs, sex, and rock and roll–adjectives not formerly (normally?) associated with grandmothers. But there’s a lot of us out there who fit the bill (Davidson offers other “credentials” in her piece). “I’m in touch with my inner Mick Jagger,” one such grandma confided.
Not surprisingly, I also think hippie grandmothers have a lot to offer their grandchildren: an expansive, imaginative view about life and, as long as they’re out of earshot of their adult children, some damn good stories.
One of the (few) “gifts” of aging, contemporary grandmothers know, is that it’s easier to sort out what’s really important. No big deal about being a hippie grandma — or a hippy one, for that matter. Nora Ephron said it best when a television reporter asked her to sum up what she learned from writing, I Feel Bad About My Neck, her musings about getting older. Looking right into the camera, she said, “Eat more bread.”