Ageing, Xmas and Exile

Ageing and Xmas.

I think of all the old people, like me, who spent their childhood and youth under different climes. It is impossible not to think of the blue sky and sun, the Bougainvillea at the entrance of the house and specially, the feel, the scent, the sounds of the air of my youth. It is not nostalgia. It is a physical lack. Nothing to do with people but all about the natural environment. This feeling of loss may be a general feeling of old people. It must be more acute in those of us who cannot visit again our childhood environment. I call it ‘nature imprinting’ something that cannot be shared unless one is a poet. I should really research poems of exile.

But the estrangement from the social environment is also important.   In my middle years I concentrated on adapting to a new country and observed  Xmas, the food, the rituals so that the children did  not feel deprived. Later, we had to carry on the tradition so that the family could get together with their respective diverse partners and the grandchildren. An all-embracing emotional atmosphere leaving no space for personal feelings of exile.

Now with a great-grandchild at the family celebrations,  I am reduced to being an observer. The cultural differences are multiplied  by two generations and  the diversity of their lives. I am aware of their lives trajectories, I am the receptacle of some secrets and my view of the future is different from theirs.


3 thoughts on “Ageing, Xmas and Exile

  1. I’ll check around for resources about old people and exile. Thanks for the post on the agingstudies FB page. Yesterday, I’d read your blog post and identified with it strongly (“reduced to being an observer”), but from a different standpoint – I remember being 10 or 12 years old and feeling similarly at hippie parties in my mother’s ‘neighborhood’ – the backwoods of N. Idaho (dirt roads, outhouses, generators, pot and shrooms, etc.). I was going to respond, but stopped myself, knowing that I don’t have as many years of experience, thinking it might be ageist of me to presume a parallel. For the last day, I’ve been carrying these ideas around like a koan. No answer yet, natch, but I do think there are similarities. In recent years, I’ve felt that way at parties where the majority of conversation was in another language. Your phrases are so apt: cultural differences and diverse trajectories.

  2. Thanks Leni for the comment. Yes I think that there are similarities in the feelings of being an observer in some social circumstances, at whatever age. I think that it is the point of view which is different.
    Apart from a cousin of mine (who on my example) declared herself to be old at the age of 62 and who was born abroad, I cannot find anybody who feel this lack of the connection with the natural environment. I asked my friend aged 83 who lived in New York until the age of 30 if she missed NY, she replied that she never thinks of the city.
    I think of all the old women in immigrant families. Do they talk about their loss of connection with the natural environment?

    • It’s a good question – sounds like a doctoral dissertation topic. 🙂 I think it might depend on the background of the immigrant. In my classes, the immigrant students (mostly Hmong) consider “getting back nature,” even at the level of camping, to be a negative experience that brings up memories (or memories of the stories) of the terrible days and months following displacement from their homes.

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