Arts and Culture

The Wisdom of Grandparents

Finally, a little bit of sunshine in the north-east of France! This weekend, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle returned to the countryside for a family visit, and had the pleasure of spending the afternoon drinking tea at Grandpa and Grandma Lapin’s. It is very easy for youth to forget that once upon a time, grandparents were young too (probably cooler and better-looking than us too). They had exactly the same hopes and fears, aspirations and challenges as we did. If we only take a little bit of time to listen to what they have to say, we’d be surprised by how much perspective they’d be able to offer.

In fact, the Turtle feels (with no disrespect whatsoever to our parents’ generation, i.e. the Baby Boomers and the Gen X) that grandparents are often better able to relate to the worries of the youth today. GodzillaPin for instance, like the true blue Frenchie that he is, has an aversion to Big Corporations. While the Turtle is slightly more comfortable with globalization and all its evils, it is true she enjoys living in a country where organic foods are easily accessible, even when dining out, and easier on the pocket than in some other countries. Our parents came from les années disco-rock-pop, where eating out at McDonald’s was a status symbol (because you know, it comes from America) and Coca Cola summed up what life should really be (red and effervescent, with a big spike in blood sugar), so it is to our grandparents that we turn, for guidance on which months are the best to plant certain vegetables, and how to gut a fish.

So over steaming hot cups of peppermint tea and gateaux au miel, we listened to stories about how they experienced the economic uncertainties that proceeded the war, how they raised four children, and looked at photos from a family album. Grandpa and Grandma Lapin also have some radical ideas that mark them out as possibly dangerous countryside rabbits to take note of, if only they weren’t 82 and 88 years old respectively.

On politics
Grandma Lapin: Useless, the lot of them (politicians). Our taxes go into supporting them, and two-thirds of them aren’t worth what they earn. We should take to the streets and protest.

Grandpa Lapin: War! War! (He didn’t really elaborate on whom.)

On wartime experience
The Ninja Turtle: Weren’t you afraid during the war?
Grandma Lapin: Oh no, we left in a car and carriage. Every time we stopped to make an enquiry, the Germans were always 30km behind us. They never caught up.
Grandpa Lapin: It was a holiday for her. She had never left the village before in her life at that stage, so it was a grand adventure.

On languages
Grandma Lapin: When we arrived in Auvergne, no one spoke bloody French. They spoke their patois and we couldn’t understand a word, even though we were all French.

On fashion
Grandma Lapin: Oh, it was the coldest winter ever, 1940 in Auvergne. Between the war, the winter and all that snow, we thought everything was conspiring against us. And us women, we wore skirts and socks, so it was bitterly cold.
The Ninja Turtle: Didn’t you have time to pack all your clothes? Pants would have been more practical.
Grandpa Lapin: What? You think women were allowed to wear pants back then?
The Ninja Turtle: But surely by the 30s and 40s women were already wearing pants.
Grandpa Lapin: Coco Chanel, perhaps. But not the women in the countryside of France!

The first remark made when looking at their old wedding photos
Grandma Lapin: Oh look! That pear tree was still standing on the corner of the street then!

On kids
Grandma Lapin: Of course kids are a pain in the ass. But later on, you get grandchildren who come to visit you, so it’s worth it.
Grandpa Lapin: Oh yeah. We had four, and we don’t regret it. They become useful at some stage.

On raising kids on a budget
The Ninja Turtle: Kids are expensive.
Grandpa Lapin: No they’re not. We had a garden. We just left them outside to play.
Grandma Lapin: We didn’t use disposable diapers back then. We would wash and re-use.

On travelling with kids
The Ninja Turtle: How did you manage to travel so frequently with four children?
Grandpa Lapin: Who said we took all four with us? Look in the photos, they are usually only two.
Grandma Lapin: They played cards to determine who’d come on holiday with us.

On life in general
Grandpa Lapin: I’d rather die in good health than to suffer a life of misery and dependence.

Grandma Lapin: You don’t get to choose where or when you die. So, you better do everything you want to, because you may run out of time.

Grandpa Lapin: N’aie pas peur! (Don’t be afraid.)

Wise words, Grandpa and Grandma Rabbits. It’s cool to be able to speak so frankly about life and death with persons so old that the former is mostly nostalgia and gratitude, while the latter doesn’t really scare them anymore. As all four grandparents of the Ninja Turtle are no longer hanging around in this dimension, it was with the greatest pleasure that she profited from the company of  GodzillaPin’s.

So… go hang out with your grandparents. They’re often a lot cooler and funnier than we give them credit for.

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