Tia was a bad influence on me yesterday: instead of blogging I was socializing. I may have been a bad influence on her, too: she left several items behind when she went to work late.
For a long period of my life, it seemed that most of the groups I belonged to consisted primarily of women older than me. A lot of them didn’t start out that way, but that’s where they all seemed to default.
My poetry group, for instance. At the outset this group consisted of both men and women of a wide assortment of ages, although it did skew older. Over the years, as this person or that slid away, it came down to four of us: Sandra, Betty, Virginia and me.
I have to say, I just loved Betty and Virginia. Virginia as in Virginia Jones, who died a couple years back in her late 90s, and Betty as in Betty Light, who died just a couple of months ago, also in her 90s. It didn’t seem to matter what sort of community event I went to, I was likely to run into one, the other or both. Especially literary events, but also music concerts and presentations at the library. I assume, even after I started having more and more trouble getting out in the evening, they kept going, both of them built to outlast the Energizer Bunny.
[I don’t mean to slight Sandra, whom I got to know well when she was the first farmers’ market president and I was the original treasurer as we figured out how to get along on a shoestring.]
For awhile my tap classes (no Betty or Virginia there) ran a similar pattern to poetry. My first class featured two other men and several women, and we ranged in age from high school to grandparental. After that one class the remainder of my classes have all consisted of women (although some men joined classes behind mine), and as we’ve gone along and I’ve skewed older, so did the composition of my classes until it was me and women my age or older.
Except for Sam.
Not the Sam who helped build our house; this is Sam who grew up in Gunnison and who I know almost exclusively through tap. Now she’s the youngster in among the old people.
I’m pretty sure I met her as she was transitioning from youth classes to the adult program at the arts center, which happened to girls (always girls) in high school. Having already taken several years of tap, Sam was likely slotted into whatever intermediate class I was taking at the time, say 14 years ago or so.
I already knew her dad, because he worked at a store called Alpine Leisure that was located next to Pat’s Screen Printing in its previous location. And since then I’ve met her mom, who takes my utility and sales tax payments as a member of the city’s finance department.
I don’t recall the particular class where I met Sam, and I doubt I interacted with her a whole lot. She probably seemed pleasant, because that’s how she seems now, but the teenagers in those classes generally stuck together. It was likely a bit intimidating to leave the comfort of classes where everyone was your own age to wade into the world of adult education.
This was also about the time when the dance program at the arts center was starting to crumble. Longtime dance director Leslie Channell had left or was leaving, and the subsequent director focused on building an elite ballet corps of school girls to the exclusion of all else. (After she had the dance floor converted to something almost completely unusable for tap and poor for ballroom, she left the arts center and founded her own dance studio, exclusively for kids and heavily focused on competitive dancing.)
Since the glorious Leslie Era, dance opportunities have been far more spotty for adult tappers (and every other discipline), and my classes have gotten smaller and older. Kind of like me.
Those of us left who sign up for classes have been mostly women my age or older — and Sam. Sam fearlessly and enthusiastically plunges right in and makes herself completely at home, unconcerned that all her classmates are old enough to be her parents.
Recently I learned that this seems to be how Sam spends her free time: hanging out with people old enough to be her parents. The other interest I learned about was her knitting group.
I am familiar with this group as well, since I have been there, but not to knit. One of my several friends named Nancy is a member of this group, and sometimes on Thursday afternoons we carpool, which means she drives me into town after lunch (she lives another mile north of Gunnison than I now do), and somewhere between 6:30 and 7 I leave work and meet Nancy at her knitting group for my ride home, along with her fellow knitter and neighbor Holly.
So I have it on personal authority that this is another group (all women) that skews older. I haven’t seen Sam at knitting, but she tells me she does go. And Nancy knows her, so it must be true.
Sam’s major problem is that her job interferes with her activity life. She is a contract geologist, and when I finally asked what exactly that meant, she told me she pounds stakes in the ground to measure the vibrations. So she slings a sledgehammer. Which is hard to picture, because she’s not much taller than a sledge.
I gather sledges don’t need to be slung in Gunnison County necessarily, so she travels a great deal. This makes her attendance at her recreational pursuits intermittent.
I’m always selfishly grateful that she’s willing to sign up at all, because my tap class barely ever makes the minimum number of students required to run the class, and if Sam didn’t sign up, there would be no class. But I do feel bad when she makes it to only one or two of the classes after she paid full price.
This semester, for instance, she signed up expecting only to attend the first two of our five classes (it’s a short semester). Happily, her work schedule changed, and she made it last night and expects to be there next week. And she brought her friend Sierra along, who said she hadn’t tapped since high school but didn’t seem to have forgotten any steps along the way.
In Sam I see my former self (not that I ever slung a sledgehammer, although I do have an abundance of chopping and splitting tools in my garage), learning a lesson that so many others sadly limit themselves out of: follow your interests wherever they may lead you, with whomever they may lead you to, and you will make friends across a breadth of generations. And be so much the richer for it.