I’ve often wondered if I was a throw-back, a soul that came before, and if so, how did that affect me? Even now, as I look into the eyes of my grand-kids, I sense times of long ago, and hold onto old-fashioned ways. I followed in the footsteps of my Bubbie in her world of baking from scratch. Each recipe held a story: matzo balls, gefilte-fish, strudel, mandel bread and chicken soup told of her history. Her essence was tradition. I clung to the old ways with a sensibility that pulled me inward.
Now a days they have labels for this behavior—traditionalist, conservationist, hippy, sustainable living, back to the basics. I call it prudent with understanding.
The idea of “old soul” has been reinforced since I was a child. I remember my first blanket. It captivated me with a story, I never understood. I carried it with me until the quilted figure and rhyme of Old King Cole, a merry auld soul, disintegrated. I don’t know who gave the blanket to me, but I do remember the struggle that followed as my parents tired to coax it away when I went to school. I associated it with giving up thumb sucking and maturing. Neither of which made sense to me or my Bubbie. Her answer was more pragmatic. She thought my mother should rework the quilt into a coat and save my thumb for a prize on my return home.
An old soul connects to the earth and beyond. Although I didn’t garden when I lived in Baltimore, I chased dandelion dust. The flower was like the sun, the white puffs, like the moon, and the dust like the bright stars of nighttime magic. I even placed buttercups under my chin, to see if there was a yellow reflection. None appeared. I believe the old wise tale, that it if you had a yellow reflection, you liked butter. I’ve always eaten my toast dry, enjoying the yeasty crunch on its own.
When my grandkids visit, we take walks and search out the dandelions—yellow suns and then blow the white-moon puffs apart so the stars reach the sky. I love when Paige says, “Bubbie remember when we took a walk, where did the dandelions go?” So far neither Paige nor Lane have the yellow reflection of the buttercup, but we’ll see as time goes by.
My old-soul inklings toward flowering weeds extends to wild roses, with their sweet smell and unpretentious petals and to the monstrous Gunnera plant. Commercial roses are too tight, too pushy in their beauty. It’s the soft open pedals that cause me pause.
I first saw the Gunnera at a garden in British Columbia. Since then, I’ve always included one in my home garden. I imagine the plant in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed, and ate the prickly leaves that rose from four to eight feet high. They remind me of giant rhubarb, but Gunnera isn’t edible and they prefer boggy soil. I’m impressed that each year the leaves die back to their crown, only to rise again, larger and stronger.
Some say that old souls have wisdom beyond their years. Others say that the soulful, listen and observe before they speak. Old souls are intuitive and draw out what is already there.
I think of Einstein who was wiser and more brilliant than the technology of his age. He discovered quantum physics and talked about gravity waves that dealt with measuring time and space. His thoughts challenged Newton and the dropping of the apple, and the basic ideas I grew up with concerning gravity’s pull on the earth. Jim and I had the enlightening and most confusing pleasure of visiting LIGO at the Hanford Reserve. (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). Einstein’s theory was finally proven true in 2015 when the two national facilities, one in Washington and the other in Louisiana, detected the gravitational waves generated by a pair of colliding black holes, 1.3 billion light years away. Measuring the minute ripples in space-time proved what the sage, scientist already knew.
I never met my grandfather, my namesake, Abraham. But as time goes by, I get inklings of his soul. He was a mechanic and an inventor. I have no talent in this area, but as Jim and I put together a cabinet, I noticed a special female part called a “cam lock”. Something about its shape reminded me of my grandfather’s repurposed car part inventions. Downsized from piston proportions to that of a nickel, I imagine my grandfather years ahead of himself with an oversized fastener mechanism. The one used in our cabinet to lay flush and catch the male screw, was invented in 1985, thirty-three years after he died.
My adult children used to and may still believe I know everything about life. Not the specifics, but manners of the heart and business. I on the other hand, realize they have technological knowledge still foreign to me and can maneuver in a more complex world. I see reflected in their eyes, the souls of my parents. My three children are exactly as I wish them to be. New souls with the souls of those that went before.
The Magic of Words
Thanks to www.Wordmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: Noun: makeup, Verb: To apply makeup, to embellish or gloss over.
ETYMOLOGY: From Old French fard (makeup), from farden (to apply makeup), of Germanic origin. Earliest documented use: 1450.
MEANING: Noun: Overcome with emotion; choked up
ETYMOLOGY: From Yiddish farklempt (overcome with emotion), from German verklemmt (inhibited). Earliest documented use: 1991.
Overwhelmed at the wedding of her daughter, her words caught in her throat, verklempt by the emotion. Her tears ruined the fard, carefully applied by the beautician to accent her eyes.