It began with a brief mention in a book: The character stopped to wind her watch before going to bed. Winding a watch. I’ve become so accustomed to my battery-operated Iron Man triathlon digital watch, with all the timers and trackers and buttons that do I-don’t-know-what. I’d forgotten what it was like to have to wind a watch at the end of each day to simply be able to tell the time.
And then, I got into a conversation on Facebook about what’s good about e-mail. I contributed how it helps me stay in touch with friends who have moved out of the country, into different time zones, and recalled the days of typing letters on “onion skin.” Do you remember onion skin paper? I know if I tried to explain it to my nieces, they would look at me like I was crazy. “You peeled the skin off an onion and wrote letters on it?!” I can understand why they would think that was weird.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I sat next to my great-grandmother and listened to her stories about traveling from Montana to Colorado in a covered wagon. In my limited experience, only Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie did that, and that was on TV, so it couldn’t be real, right? But my great-grandmother was a pretty serious lady, so I swallowed my skepticism. In time, I learned to listen and I began to wonder how much the world would change by the time I got old.
I don’t consider myself “old” at 45, but I am older, and I continue to be in awe at how much the world has changed in my lifetime. I love how my place has shifted in the circle of life, how I am now the teller of strange tales. “When I was your age…,” I begin, and my nieces give me that look. It may be weird to them now, but I hope some day they look back and think the role I played in their lives, bridging the gap between my past and their present, was also wonderful.
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s old enough to remember when the whole extended family could pile into one car, seatbelts not required.