My Hippie Grandmother
The oldest people we know lived long full lives. Yet too often they are slotted into one-dimensional roles of parent or grandparent.
It’s the same in many picture books with older characters. Even picture books I consider “Age Positive” rarely portray real personality, values or life experiences.
Not so with the funky picture book My Hippie Grandmother* by Reeve Lindbergh. I dare you not to be delighted with its’ dynamic images of a grandma enjoying her Third Age.
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,”
The text dances on with a sense of excitement! This grandma relishes her days and uses them well. We can guess at the experiences that made her the person she is today.
Colorful 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.
This is an oldie from 2003, and unfortunately out of print, but definitely worth a peek here.
So much to love about My Hippie Grandmother:
- No apron, no cane, no little eyeglasses. Just ripped jeans, flowing gray hair and bare feet. (No shame in using a cane or glasses. Or an apron! But their use to signify an older person is rather tired.)
- Grandma has a boyfriend Jim, and a cat called Woodstock.
- She and her granddaughter romp through activities like gardening, selling veggies at the farmer’s market and picketing city hall.
- Picketing! “No More War” and “Kids for Peace.” Ten years ago when I began the “A is for Aging blog,” I shared this picture book. The first I spotted featuring an activist grandmother. Despite the fact that olders often take to the streets to make their voices heard, they’re still seldom seen in children’s books.
My Hippie Grandmother encourages kids to look at older adults with new eyes. Exposure to books like this help them to realize that older adults are not a homogeneous group—far from it.
Fact—older people are more different from each other than younger people.
Dr. Bill Thomas speaks to this in his book 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.”
Growing older many of us are fond of saying we feel just the same as we did when younger—we’re the same person inside. But actually, we’re not. Our life experiences shape us over the years.
We become thoroughly unique. And interesting. However, too frequently as we age, we are all painted with the same brush and become generically “old.”
Next steps in challenging ageism:
Have you ever found yourself saying—I wish I’d asked mom more questions about her life? Or dad, or grandpa, or grandma. I’m sure I’m not alone with those regrets at sixty five. (Say your age. Expose ageism.)
Delve into the life experiences of the older people you know and love. I share some resources for life story interviews below. Don’t put them off! And begin jotting down your own personal memories—yours, and those of older family members now gone. Think of the treasures you can share with your kids and grandkids!
Discuss differences in older adults with children. Use what you learn about family members’ life experiences and picture books to jumpstart a fun chat. How are older adults different from each other? There’s 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 take it deeper—think about possible major historical events and early values that may have shaped olders as they matured. Share anecdotes and stories.
Here are some current picture books where older adults have real personality: Northwoods Girl; A River of Words; Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child; Grandfather Gandhi; Grandmother School; Kiyoshi’s Walk; The Boy Who Loved Math; Marjory Saved the Everglades.
Find more Age Positive picture books on this website.
Get to know the olders in your life with these life story interviews:
Storyworth is a paid service a friend use and loved. They supplied great questions to discuss with her 92 year old mother in a weekly telephone appointment for a year. Their interviews were then compiled into a book by Storyworth.
StoryFile for Families is recommended on the Lives Well Lived website.
Find additional aging & ageism resources on this website.
***Next month, February 2023, this A is for Aging blog will be 10 years old! Watch for my post sharing my “Ten Favorite Age Positive Picture Books.”
*NOTE: My Hippie Grandmother is sadly it is out of print. Check your library, WorldCat.org, or used books online at BetterWorldBooks.org or Amazon.
The author, Reeve Lindbergh, is the youngest child of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She was raised in Connecticut, educated at Radcliffe, and has lived for many years on a farm in northern Vermont. She’s authored novels, memoirs and books for children.