Writer/curator Maria Popova used the word “vintage” in a recent post on her delightfully fascinating website, Brain Pickings, referring to a children’s book published in 1971.
I love Brain Pickings (I love books, and art, and illustration, and it satisfies all three appetites), and I love Popova for her informed, whimsical style, but vintage? Vintage?
I was 15 years old in 1971, teetering on the cusp of high school. But yes, I know. That was, um, forty-three years ago, but I swear it only feels like 13. Maybe. So how can a book written in 1971 be vintage?
I mean, doesn’t that make me vintage, too? Since I’m … ah … even older?
When I think of something that fits the word “vintage,” I think of a really old bottle of wine. A vintage book, to me, is Moby Dick or The Last of the Mohicans. (A really vintage book might be anything by Plato). Vintage clothes, to me, come from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and a vintage car is Packard, not a ’68 Mustang (which I owned).
But maybe I’m looking at the whole concept of “vintage” too narrowly. If I think back to how I perceived life when I was 30 (that was about five years ago, memory-wise), I saw things that had happened or were made around 40-50 years before as “vintage.” Meaning, of course, “old,” but in a fond, venerable sort of way. Some of those events, like WWII and Hitler and the slaughter of the Jews were horrifying, tragic, and mind-shudderingly awful, but they were also safely “vintage” in my mind, lost in a past, in times, and in circumstances I felt sure we’d never, ever repeat.
So it shouldn’t really surprise me that Maria Popova sees the 1970s and earlier as “vintage.” She’s about 30 years old, bless her heart. My daughter is 32, and I know she thinks I’m rather old. Given how I felt at their ages, I guess I can forgive them both.
And maybe there’s nothing wrong with being of a “vintage” age and era. Vintage wines, after all, are the best. Of course, if they turn to vinegar they can also be the worst, but in real life, a little vinegar now and then keeps us humble and honest.
I’d have never believed that I’d ever be “vintage” when I was 15 years old and the world was a vast, inviting, dazzling playground, filled with dreams and adventures and spread out in front of me like a magic carpet, inviting me to take a ride, but here I am.
And you know what? I don’t mind a bit.