My mother asked me the other day if I’d seen any art when I was in Italy. We were in Rome in 2005 – business trip for me and Johnny is the perpetual tourist. I told Mom we did see wonderful works of art when we visited the Vatican and amazingly enough, the hotel we were in had magnificent artwork on its walls (the Hilton Cavalieri – here’s a link to their art collection: http://www.romecavalieri.com/cavaliericollection.php). She then asked me if I’d seen any art when I was there at the age of 17. It was a school trip and I recall going to Florence and seeing the statue of David but as I told my mother, I didn’t appreciate what I was seeing at the time. “Youth is wasted on the young”, I told her jokingly and she replied in all seriousness, “I know”.
This started me thinking about all the things I wish I’d paid attention to when I was young. I wish I’d asked my grandmother more questions about the family. Why didn’t I do that? Now that I’d love to know more about my ancestors, it’s too late to get that first-hand source. I do genealogy research (although not so much at present) and many of my fellow researchers have the same lament. I do remember one friend telling me that she was always interested in family history; even as a child she would ask questions. I never did though. I was too busy being young.
I was fortunate enough, as I have mentioned, to have the opportunity to go to Italy when I was 17. We visited Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Tivoli. I vaguely remember the Colliseum and the Roman Forum. I remember climbing the Tower of Pisa and being afraid to move at the top (heights are not my thing). I remember the gardens in Tivoli and of course, the Statue of David. With the exception of the gardens, I appreciated none of it. These days, I’m fascinated by history and whenever I have the opportunity, whether in the US or in Europe (where history is inevitably much older), I love to tramp around places and think about what once was. I love to research history. But at seventeen, I had no concept of appreciation for the past. I was too busy being young.
Conversely, there are some real advantages to youth. They have more stamina, for one thing. My step-daughter-in-law has a wonderful blog (http://mizwrite.com/) and her most recent blog was about first jobs. The responses to this have been really interesting and fun and I started thinking about how I worked multiple jobs when I was younger. I mentioned that I worked three jobs and went to college at the same time. I started working at a motorcycle shop when I was a senior in high school – they needed a bookkeeper and my bookkeeping teacher convinced me to take the job. After I graduated, I got a job in a glass factory (south Jersey used to be full of glass factories) working the midnight shift. So I would work all night, leave in the morning and go immediately to do the books (this was quick), then go home and sleep for a few hours. Then I’d go to school, come home and go to Sears where I worked in Women’s lingerie. After that, I’d head for the midnight job. Just thinking about this schedule makes me tired now. I couldn’t do this again - I’m too busy getting older.