It’s not often I feel old. My nieces in their early Twenties are skeptical, but I tell them, as you grow older, you never really have the perception that you ever hit an age that your parents were in your lifetime. But now and then I’m brought up short by a comment or event that makes me realize I’m not technically young anymore. If young is defined as the generation that is currently shaping Pop Culture. Or the generation that the advertisers are falling all over themselves to attract. No, I guess I haven’t been that generation for awhile. I’m a bit too young to be a Baby Boomer, which is the generation that will never let go. As I’ve said before, I’m Generation Jones, that lost generation between the Boomers and Gen X.
But through it all, I never really feel old. Except for sometimes. And I’m not even counting those times that I mistakenly refer to “records” in front of a twelve-year-old who has never bought one. At least twelve-year-olds know what records are and vinyl still has a certain hip-retro-cool factor.
So when a “feel old moment” suddenly slaps me in the face, it’s all that much more shocking. I had one just a few days before Christmas.
Shopping for cufflinks for my husband, I stumbled onto a selection of cuffs made from old coins. Old American coins. When the young and perky sales girl tripped over, I said that I very much wanted to buy a set or two, but did she have some made with British coins.
No, she didn’t. But being young, perky and on commission, she noticed the pair I was fondling. I’d already decided that if I couldn’t get British coins, I’d buy this set.
Young and Perky wasn’t going to let me leave without a purchase, so she started the pitch:
“We don’t have British coins. But look at these lovely cuffs you’re holding. They’re made from very rare old Buffalo quarters.”
Buffalo QUARTERS? Rare? Old?
I know buffalo NICKELS were last minted in 1938 and the government started taking them out of circulation in the Fifties and Sixties. But they were still so much in evidence when I was growing up, that my brother and I regularly rooted through our dad’s change bowl looking for them. And found one at least every week or so. In fact, I still routinely check all my change as I expect to see one at some point.
I fixed her with a steely-eyed stare that I hoped conveyed the greater knowledge gleaned from a few more years of living.
“You mean those Buffalo NICKELS? The ones they say gave Buffalo, New York the nickname The Nickel City?” They’re not so rare. They were all over the place when I was a kid. And they were still worth…well…about a nickel.”
Never try to show off in front of someone younger and perkier. At least not with knowledge. It doesn’t work. I couldn’t tell if she was surprised at the news that there is a nickname for Buffalo, New York. Or that she was shocked at being confronted by someone who had used a Buffalo Nickel as actual currency. And was still ambulatory and breathing without a portable oxygen tank.
Suddenly, in the middle of Nordstroms, I felt like one of the last survivors of the Great San Francisco Earthquake. You’re thrilled there are still a few of them around, but it’s tough to see them trotted out at gatherings for fear they may die in front of you.
I bought those Buffalo “Quarter” cufflinks. But the joy was gone. If I were now to find a buffalo nickel in the change dish, it would look as sad to me as my tattered old Mouseketeers hat the last time I saw it in my mother’s attic.
Now THAT makes me feel old.