As we step into January, we are inundated with new. There are new episodes of our favorite shows to be enjoyed, new resolutions and promises to be attempted, new diets to start, new spring fashions to purchase during the New Year sale. Everywhere we turn, we are being lulled into worshipping the new.
However, my affection for the old grows deeper with each passing year. New is certainly exciting. New is bright and fun. New is extremely tempting. But consider, for example, an old pair of comfortable shoes. The longer I own a pair of shoes, the harder it is for me to part with them.
The more they are worn, the more shoes magically melt into the perfect fit for the feet they serve. They soften until wearing them is like slipping your feet into a snuggly hug. They take on the shape and smell of the feet, both of which can be good or bad depending on the feet and one’s perspective.
For the person who belongs to the feet, the closer the shoes are to being one with the feet, the better. Favorite shoes take a beating as they earn that special place on the feet, on the closet floor, and in the heart.
Great respect and appreciation floods my heart for our old house. Granted, by European standards, our house is relatively new. But by U.S. standards, it’s getting up in age. It did not come with granite countertops or a built-in vacuum system. But I absolutely love the custom workmanship and creativity that resulted in prohibition cabinets that now serve as coat and hat storage closets.
Our older house has already settled. It’s lived in and careworn. Its walls have witnessed countless family stories spanning generations. Many, I imagine, were warm and happy. Some were most likely sad or even tragic. The laughter and tears absorbed by its wood and gypsum contribute greatly to its charm and character.
If old homes could write novels, they’d write best sellers. All old homes are haunted by memories stuck to the cobwebs and wedged in the scratches of their hardwood floors. If I were more adept at housecleaning, just think of all the stories that would be lost. As a writer, it would be a sacrilege if I kept our nostalgic home pristine.
Speaking of prohibition cabinets, wine is a perfect example of the benefits of aging. There is a lesson for us in the nectar of the grape. With age, wine becomes richer, grows tastier and develops complexity. Cheese, which happens to pair well with wine, also takes time to reach its peak.
While we are using cuisine to flavor a point, I must mention my marinara. It is no secret to family and friends that my sauce becomes richer, tastier and more complex as it slowly simmers its way from morning to evening. Even the walls of our home can attest to this aromatic claim.
The patient passage of time has the same effect on humankind. We go to our elders for advice and comfort because Father Time graciously bestowed upon them the gift of wisdom in exchange for their longevity. I’m confident no one has ever made a pilgrimage to the peak of a mountain in search of a teenager or twenty-something purported to hold the key to the mysteries of life.
Moving to mountains as we follow the progression of my thoughts, older mountains are so much easier to climb than the steeply set younger ranges. While I have much respect for people who achieve high altitudes with their ropes, grappling hooks, and snow gear, it is the older, gentler hills that afford the great multitudes of fresh air, stunning views, and moderately challenging exercise.
Accountants, fast food cashiers, stay-at-home moms, and retired mechanics all equally deserve the opportunity to walk past a babbling mountain brook on their way to a modest peak for a picnic lunch surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
As you can see, old has quite a few worthy merits. So when you find yourself falling short of all your new resolutions, remember that consolation can be found in the old. Settle into that old pair of sneakers, shimmy into an old pair of jeans, and pull on an old sweatshirt.
And as for that old soul mate pointing out every misstep on your voyage through your new promises for the New Year, do not let that person sour you on the old. First, remember as with worn out shoes that make it feel as if you’re walking on clouds, the longer you are with your mate, the harder it is to part. Then, take a moment to relish in the comfortable oldness that surrounds you.
Goodbye old friend, Old Year. And thanks for working so diligently at the task of aging our environment, and us, to perfection.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibaregmail.com.