By Sondra L. Shapiro
Friendship is the first word that comes to mind as I reflect on the last decade.
When I ushered in the millennium at Walt Disney World, the big Y2K scare wasn’t a concern for me. Rather, I was enjoying the moment, surrounded by dear friends.
From the vantage point of a boat in the middle of Epcot’s World Showcase lagoon, our little group sat entranced by IllumiNations, a breathtaking fireworks display. Life doesn’t get any better than this, I thought, wiping away a few sentimental tears that caught me by surprise.
On that night, little did I realize the metaphor of the moment. I would find safe harbor among my friends as we navigated the decade’s unpredictable currents. There would be amazing personal and national highs and devastating lows of personal loss and social and political upheaval.
As a country, we would be shocked by, then mourn, the tragedy of Sept. 11 and would welcome the election of the nation’s first black president. We would enjoy financial affluence and endure unbearable hardship.
On that magical night 10 years ago, I was spared the foresight that I would lose three cherished friends and come close to losing my dearest friend.
During that trip to Walt Disney World, I experienced only mildly irritating airport hassles. I didn’t think about wearing shoes that could be easily removed at a security checkpoint. Among my carry-on luggage were sundry containers of creams and medications in their original packaging and a few bottles of water tucked away to keep me hydrated during the flight.
I heralded in the millennium with loads of energy — blessedly void of chronic aches and pains — enough to stay awake late into the night and still rise early the next morning to cram in another full day of recreation.
During this New Year’s celebration, as I said goodbye to the decade, I found myself struggling to stay up until midnight, and was content to hunker down the next day with a good book and a cup of tea. I closed out the decade like most boomers, painfully coming to grips that we aren’t kids anymore.
Though we favored the styles worn by our teen-age kids and tooled around town in automobile makes geared toward the youth market, my aging cohorts still could not avoid those AARP cards that magically appeared in the mail when we began turning 50 last decade.
My friends and I joke about and discuss how much has changed since we were kids, how our bodies are slower, our minds cloudier. But that doesn’t stop us from getting a kick out of dabbling in all that new technology or taking part in the national pop culture obsession that became front and center over the last 10 years.
As I snapped photos of that Disney fireworks display with my film camera, I would never have dreamed that one day I would own something called iPhone that, had it existed then, would have been able to take digital photos and movies of the event. That I would have been able to e-mail those images immediately to friends and family back home. Or that someday I would be able to “Google” from that boat, to find out more information about the fireworks I was watching.
“Googling” is an especially welcome aid to this failing memory when I can’t think of the name of some movie star, politician or a TV show I used to watch in my youth.
There are other new innovations I am not so eager to embrace. Though I am mildly intrigued by Facebook because it connects me up with long-lost friends and schoolmates, I have no use for Twitter or texting. I just don’t get the concepts. One might call it a generational thing, but then again, I’m one of those boomers who digs youthful clothes and cars.
One of the most welcome results of the technology/communications boom to come out of the last decade is convenience and instant gratification. It still astounds me that anything I want, I can buy from the comfort of my own home via my laptop or iPhone. From home improvement items to hard to find cooking ingredients, I’m saving time and effort that can be better used for … Googling for more items that will give me even more time to do something else … well you get the picture.
And I certainly don’t miss dragging myself to the video store whenever I have a craving for a movie. Now, with the advent of Netflix, movies on demand and all those paid cable TV channels, I can just order up a movie from the comfort of my couch.
Little did I imagine 10 years ago that my lifelong cooking/food obsession would become an American pastime. That local chefs whom I admire such as Ming Tsai, Lydia Shire and Todd English would reach super star status. Or that a little cable show called Trading Spaces would usher in a public and personal obsession with do-it-yourself home projects.
The country’s adoption of “green” living over the last decade is nothing new to me. My household has been running that way for more than 20 years, but I called it frugal living. I still do.
It is almost impossible to comprehend that during this decade I will qualify for Social Security and be forced to endure more losses of friends and family.
In the meantime, as I welcomed in the new decade with the dear friend who almost died a couple of years before, I was struck that it is not the destination, but the journey and the wonderful friends with whom I am blessed to travel.
Sondra Shapiro is the executive editor of the Fifty Plus Advocate. Reach her at email@example.com.