By Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions
On March 5, an intergenerational group of 25 people ranging in age from mid-20’s to eighty gathered in a classroom at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The simple premise: for the event: bring an object that has meaning and tell its story.
Sponsored by the curriculum committee of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and facilitated by Mary-Anne Morrison, the program was one of several intergenerational initiatives designed to connect groups that too rarely intersect in a world of iPads and ear pods.
Ten presenters, almost equally divided between millennials and boomers, shared their objects.
All of the younger presenters focused on objects the told stories of grandparents, siblings or older adults. Claire brought paintings done by patients with Dementia she had met while leading art classes for them in Florida. Brilliantly colored and luminous, they reflected a creative place in the brain that is still accessible, “ even though they may not recognize their families, may not even speak.”
Two women told tales of grandparents. One keeps a picture of her now deceased grandparents in her apartment. “They gave me rules to live by,” Natalie said, three of which were how to enjoy wine and art, and how to embrace growing older, despite physical limitations. was surprised to find out that traits could skip a generation. “ I’m not at all like my parents, but I found out that my grandmother was always rushing to get places on time, and I’m exactly the same way.”
A colorful cloth monkey was the prompt for a story of sisterly devotion. Danielle’s sister has autism and Down’s syndrome. One day, she threw “Monkey” an essential member of the household, out the window. Panicked, Danielle was able to retrieve him, but realized she needed a backup. Her perseverance led her to the manufacturer who listened to her story and found the last Monkey of that style ever made—tucked away in a storeroom.
The Boomers talked about their relationships—long marriages filled with hardship, humor and devotion.
Bill, who eloped with his wife in his early 20’s, showed a replica of Rodin’s statue, “The Thinker,” given to him by his wife early in their marriage with the comment, “ Nobody thinks like you, Bill.”
Two delicate and exquisite portraits on ivory from the mid 19th century opened a door into Valerie’s life as an avid collector and traveler with a special love for Napoleon, Josephine and French history, and to her deeply loving relationship, in business and marriage, with her husband.
A medieval hillside village in Italy shown in a photo mounted on canvas, took us into Anne’s world—twenty-five glorious years with the husband she met by accident while vacationing in the village. Though he is now gone, she goes back every year to join in “a beautiful way of life” as family and friends welcome her back to the fold.
The stories of other objects elicited lively conversation: plain white handkerchiefs with lovingly hand crocheted borders brought back memories of a time before Kleenex, and prompted one woman to say that in Japan and Korea, handkerchiefs are still used daily. Worry beads given to Jim by his parents reminded people of rosaries, meditation beads, and the “spinners” that millennials use to calm anxiety.
Even the most mundane objects carried stories that gave them a profound meaning. Ardita held up a rupee note from India no longer worth anything because it was taken out of circulation two years ago.
“My friends ask me, why do you keep it? It is worthless, and I tell them, My grandmother gave it to me as a blessing. When I look at it, I remember her as she was.” Ardita’s grandmother no longer recognizes her.
What stories of your life are hidden your simplest objects?
What delights, unexpected learnings, and inspiration might you experience from attending, or hosting your own Grown Up Show and Tell?
Try it and see.
Martie McNabb, originator of the concept for Grown Up Show and Tell has a Facebook page where you can see the myriad possibilities for hosting an event: https://www.facebook.com/pg/showandtales/events/