I had a long talk the other night with an old boyfriend (as old as me anyway) and the most satisfying thing about it, besides his obvious good health and continued success, was the pure pleasure I felt at the fact that he really hasn't changed at all. After the nearly 20 years that have gone by since we were an item, he was entirely familiar to me.
It's a comforting thought in a cold, calculating world, that there are some people (and some things) that can be counted on to stay the same. A good same - still funny, still hopeful, still looking at the world and describing it (even those distressing differences and changes) in much the same language, punctuating those thoughts with a laugh unchanged by the passage of time. A genuinely good person, who hasn't decided to add cynicism and bitterness to those few gray hairs or additional pounds. (And looks even handsomer with 'em...)
When I think of the terrible changes that have occurred in the last 20 or so years of my life and particularly about the people who have died (the ultimate buzzkill change) what I think most about is the surprise I imagine they'd feel at the way the world has chosen to evolve.
For my mum, gone more than 20 years now, forget explaining the internet, CD ROMs and car seats that warm at the push of a button, it's trying to find the words to describe 9/11, the second (or even the first, come to think of it) Bush presidency, and the enthusiastic return to bigotry - now so juicily enjoyed not only in the more undeveloped parts of the world, but with so much dark and gleeful zeal here in the West. (You would have to go into very great detail and perhaps have to provide supplementary reference materials to explain to her the steadily growing loss of freedoms Americans seem so quietly willing to accept, untroubled by any silly old Bill of Rights/Constitutional issues.)
For my father, who's been dead almost 10 years, it's actually the technolgical innovations that would have fascinated him most. For a man who was on the internet in the early 90's, he'd be gratified to see the ever-exponentially increasing wealth of information and services made available, and pretty much indifferent and unsurprised by the porn and bullshit. He'd have immediately ordered up all the newly published books from the library with just a few mouseclicks, and all from the cozy comfort of his own home. The move to communicating almost exclusively by email would have provided him, an inveterate and witty letter writer, with quicker and easier communication with his fellow correspondents. And if he and my wicked stepmother had been separated by divorce rather than death, he would have plunged whole-heartedly into online dating. He would have been impressed by the greater opportunity to connect with his fellow man... and the corresponding increase in available babes.
A former banker, he'd have hated the way that industry has gone - he always said that as banking itself moved into the future, the only thing that would provide any meaningful measure by which to distinguish our financial institutions, would be their commitment to service and the personalized treatment offered to their customers. He used to think the Toronto Dominion (Now TD Canada Trust - sorry dad!) was marginally the best - I'm not sure he'd notice any differences at all now. He would likely have pronounced it disturbingly Orwellian, and probably have made some grumbling, mumbling reference to the suspicious similarity between pigs and men.
As a gadget-lover he would have been tickled at the usefulness of GPS, cellphone and Blackberry technology, and as a keen follower of scientific news, he would have been over the moon at the unlocking of the genetic code.
As a dying man, the possibilities of stem cell research might have interested him most of all.
I used to collect china horses when I was little, then dictionaries, and until quite recently, it was an overweaning interest in shoes (it's so been there, done that, Sex and the City over ) but now my collection is invisible to the naked eye and for the increase in shelf and closet space alone, I'm grateful.
Now I collect attachments - attachments to the great things that haven't changed.
- Great restaraunts in New York
- The Sunday Times
- The New York Times Review of Books
- The Simpsons
- Brick houses and leafy tree-lined streets in Toronto
- Architecture in Montreal and Quebec City
- Sunshine on a freezing day in Calgary
- The Rockies
- Homemade butter tarts
- Pringle cashmere sweaters
- Barbour waxed jackets
- Classic handbags
- Chanel perfume
- Clubhouse sandwiches
- MacDonalds fries
- Diet Coke
- Soft-shelled crabs
- A brand new uncracked Vogue magazine
- Reading (and eating) in bed
- Old boyfriends