Blended Generations by
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Prompted By Mind the Gap

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Some first cousins gather at a wedding. Standing next to Connie, one of my “mother surrogates”.

My dad was the youngest of eight children, my mother the youngest of four. They were 39 years old when they had me. I have first cousins whose children are older than me. There is a huge offset in the ages of the generations in my family, so the notion of “generations” is somewhat tricky. My father was very friendly with his nieces and nephews. Though I was much younger, I became so too, as I grew into adulthood.

My maternal cousins and spouses at a wedding.

I remember the phrase “don’t trust anyone over the age of 30”, but so many of my relatives fit that description and they were all great friends and wise people, so it just didn’t work for me. I enjoyed being with older people and never felt out of place with them. I looked to many for comfort and counsel.

With Harriet Prentis, wife of my dad’s first cousin and one of my “mother surrogates”, in 2011. She was a docent at the Detroit Institute of Art for 50 years, bought me beautiful clothing, lived near us and I often biked to her house just to hang out with her. She was always great company.

Feeling at ease with my elders helped me when I got into sales, as so many of my clients were also considerably older. I learned to discuss things that were of interest to them (politics and religion were always off-limits, even in the late ’70s and early ’80s; just bad business).

I made a point of befriending my children’s friends too (certainly their parents, but I also liked their children). Vicki has been out of state a long time and we are now out of touch with any of her friends, but David stays close to a group of his high school friends and I follow many of them on social media. They are a great bunch of people, engaged and involved. I love to hear what they are up to as they’ve grown into adulthood. We were thrilled that one showed up at Columbia for his thesis defensive eight years ago.

Loren after David’s thesis defense. She is tall, so squatted for the photo and joked that attaining his exalted PhD status made David grow several inches.

We were all invited when his friend Abby was married a few years ago in Cambridge. It was also a great chance for Anna to visit her American relatives (her mother is American-born).

The Pfaus at Abby’s wedding

Abby with Loren and Emily, her HS besties

David’s senior year in high school, he held a marathon “Lord of the Rings” viewing party – watching the entire trilogy. I brought in pizza for the group, but also got to sit and watch with them. Their school was in Boston’s Back Bay. Everyone came in by public transportation and went out together on Friday nights, but often I’d receive a call late on Friday. He was someplace where the train had stopped running and could I come pick him up? And maybe drop a friend off on the way home? So of course I became friendly with everyone. Abby’s birthday is August 1 and a group of them wound up staying with us on the Vineyard one year, celebrating her birthday that weekend. They are great kids. We like to hear from and about them.

Aside from acknowledging that we know little about current technology and we are dinosaurs in that realm, we find little gap between the generations.

On a recent trip to London, we discussed texting abbreviations with David. He said he’d learned some new ones from his British friends like ending a text with “CBA”, which means “can’t be arsed”, as in: “can’t be bothered to get up off my arse to join you”. That one tickled all of us. He used it in context for us: “Hey, want to go for a jog this weekend?” “Eh, seems like a lot of work. CBA, mate.” But David went on to explain that “mate” would be “m8”. So we learned new lingo and no generation gap here! LOL!

 

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. Good for you Betsy, and hangin’ with the kids keeps you young!

    Now that I think of it, having no daughters, over the years I did feel close to some of my son’s female friends!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Betsy. You have obviously done a great job personally of “bridging the gap,” with both older and younger generations. And, of course, this speaks so well for both your open-mindedness to all ages and the fact that the other generations obviously find what you have to say of interest too. So good on you all around!

    And, though I have a good number of British friends/friends in Britain, “CBA” is a new one on me, too. So thanks for sharing. In fact, I plan to ask a couple of my London-living American classmates who are coming for our reunion next week if they know it. And, if not, I’ll accuse them of being not sufficiently in touch with younger generation Brits.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Having had a rigid mother, I’ve tried to keep an open mind and learn from every source possible, I guess, John.

      Not sure if any of your British classmates (who are in their 70s) would know the particular slang that David shared with us. You can entertain them with your new knowledge.

  3. Marian says:

    I am so impressed, Betsy, about how you were able to get to know David’s friends. That did keep you flexible and engaged. I think our generation made the effort to bridge the gap, given that some of our parents were so rigid.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank you, Mare. I agree that our generation was more flexible and made the effort to bridge the gap – much more than so (for the most part) than the one that came before. We lived through the great social upheaval. I think we learned a lot from that.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    My husband’s family has similar generational issues, as his older sister’s children are close in age to his youngest sister. Things do tend to blur when that happens. I’m still wondering if your relative, Harriet Prentis, is related to my aunt Evelyn Prentis (maiden name)?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I think the blurring is a good thing.

      The “Prentis” was changed from Prensky in 1925 by my grandmother’s younger brother, Meyer, who was working his way up the ranks at GM (when it was the largest company in the world and the auto industry was notoriously antisemtic, I think Meyer was Comptroller by that time). He wound up as Treasurer, a position he held for 32 years; he died in 1970. Harriet was married to my dad’s cousin Richard, whose father was Joe Prentis, the younger of my grandmother’s two brothers, so I doubt we are related, since the name didn’t start as Prentis.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    I love the idea of a family where all the generations see more common ground than differences. My family was mainly a bunch of drunks at war with the other drunks. Luckily, my wife’s family is large, gregarious and friendly, so I have finally found a place where I feel like I fit in.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I think the brothers and sisters set the example of getting along, no matter what (they were quite different, but given a sick mother, they came together and protected one another). So the cousins did as well. We might not have had a lot in common in everyday life, but we truly love and respect one another and know that we will always be there for one another. And that’s what counts.

      Glad you have that with your wife’s family. Family is everything for me.

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