No matter what they were up to in the 1960’s, I suspect any Baby Boomer grandma or grandmother wanna be, will smile at the funky little picture book My Hippie Grandmother. Reeve Lindbergh, the author, is herself a child of the ‘60’s, and also the youngest child of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The book begins: “I have a hippie grandmother. I’m really glad she’s mine. She hasn’t cut her hair at all since nineteen sixty-nine,” and then dances on with such a sense of fun and excitement in its rhymes that we know this grandma is truly enjoying life!
Yes, grandma has a boyfriend, Jim, and a cat called Woodstock, but she and her young granddaughter romp through wholesome activities like gardening, selling veggies at the farmer’s market and picketing city hall. An American Library Association review called it “a lively intergenerational love song that features something rarely seen in picture books: a contemporary grandmother.” No apron on this one—she sports ripped jeans and bare feet.
The illustrations by Abby Carter take me back to my own high school bed room, circa 1972, with psychedelic curtains and fuzzy feet decals climbing the closet door. No doubt true hippie grandmas will have more to share—spurred by the book’s prompts like “No More War” and “Kids for Peace.” My Hippie Grandmother encourages kids to look at older folks with new eyes (Candlewick Press 2003, ages 4 and up).
Author Reeve Lindbergh was raised in Connecticut by her famous parents, educated at Radcliffe, and has lived for many years on a farm in northern Vermont. She has written two novels, two memoirs, and many books for children including My Little Grandmother Often Forgets (Candlewick Press 2007) about the special relationship between her mother and her own young son. While in her 90’s Anne was challenged by memory loss and moved into their home. One of Reeve’s memoirs, Forward from Here: Leaving Middle Age—and Other Unexpected Adventures was written on entering her 60’s, a stage of life her mother once dubbed “the youth of old age.” Reeve herself has said, “…I just seem to continue being me, the same person I was at twelve and at fifty.”
Finally, a picture book that celebrates getting older, but sadly I discovered that it seems to be out of print. My community library had a copy and I’m hoping yours will also. (Check the resource list to find out, and also see a list of possible vendors.)
Hmm…perhaps we need to begin by convincing a publisher to reprint My Hippie Grandmother. Of course, not all older adults will see themselves in this book, but despite the attitude common among younger people, older adults are not a homogeneous group—they are different from each other in many ways. Like Reeve Lindbergh, we often say we’re the same person as in our younger days, but in reality we are broadened by our years of experience. Dr. Bill Thomas speaks to this in his book for adults, What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save the World.
“Young people, especially the youngest, are quite similar to one another. Older people who are the same age show much more diversity and it is much harder to make general statements about them. Far from being a weakness or defect, this variability is among the gifts that longevity offers to us.”
Dr. Thomas is discussing the theory of gerotranscendence based on the extensive research of Swedish scientist Lars Tornstam. Also included in Tornstam’s findings is older adults’ new enjoyment in rising above silly social norms.
Try using the lifestyle and values illustrated in My Hippie Grandmother to jumpstart a discussion of how older adults are different from each other in obvious ways—some are still working, some are retired, some live close by and others far away, some are healthy and some are not. But also, take it a step further and delve into the different values held by grandparents and other older adults, and talk about just when those values may have been formed.