— Sophia Loren
(b. Sept. 20, 1934)
During a brief followup visit in my office the other day with a long-lost friend whom I hadn’t seen in 12 years, at least until a couple of weeks ago, the subject of age came up.
I considered using, as a self-descriptor, one of my all-time favorite lines from Indiana Jones: “It ain’t the years honey; it’s the mileage.”
But I didn’t. Instead, I quoted from last week’s column that was dedicated to my former co-worker and confidante, and to our reunion which came about thanks to Black History Month.
“Mattie,” I sighed from my wheeled chair, “Like I wrote last week, I’m just a tired, old, cranky, white guy.”
She wasn’t buying.
Mattie Benton, an associate pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and with whom I had worked at the former Maytag Cleveland Cooking Products plant in the late ’90s, just shook her head which was conspicuously topped with a bright red hat ... one of her longstanding trademarks when going public.
Those colorful bonnets often led to more than a few laughs during our work together back in the day.
She didn’t dispute the “tired,” “cranky” and “white” part of my soliloquy. But Mattie, an African-American wife, mom and grandmother who hasn’t aged a day since high school graduation, did enlighten me, “Rick, you ain’t old.”
Her disclaimer probably came because she’s my elder, by a little bit. So if I say I’m old, she’s probably wondering what that makes her. And yes, my inclusion of the latter will likely lead to her third visit to this office in the not-too-distant future. Whether she will be donning another bright top hat, I cannot say. But a rolling pin in her right hand, I can promise.
It reminds me of the first time I ever riled her at Maytag. With pursed lips and menacing eyes, I believe her threat went something like, “Rick, I’m gonna lay you out!”
In the interest of not being flattened like a biscuit, perhaps I will be away from the office on the date of that next visit.
But this isn’t another column about Mattie. She’s just a fitting, and convenient, prelude to another line of thought. It, too, is about age. And I think Cleveland Daily Banner readers will like it.
When I returned to newspaper work almost three years ago after a 21-year hiatus from the industry, I joined a newsroom that was filled with experience and laced in years. In short, we were old. Some of us still are. Some are even older.
But the fortunate have retired and are now basking in the glow of part-time work to supplement their Social Security, or are relishing the calm of a full-time presence on the backyard deck watching the sun set in the evening or walking the mall in the early morn. They’ve earned the right. They’ve put in the time. This is their moment.
In their place, our newsroom is bringing in a new wave of journalists. They are vibrant. Each is spirited. All are talented. Each young lady is a recent Lee University graduate.
Among them are Joyanna Webber, our county government reporter; Delaney Walker, a special assignments and news beat writer; Christy Armstrong, a business and features reporter; and most recently we have added Saralyn Norkus, a sports writer, and Sara Dawson, a part-time Lifestyles writer.
Some might view them as our baby brigade. I just call them “youngsters” who are delightfully entertaining, while being mindful that I, too, was once that young.
They don’t believe it.
When stepping into my office, I fear they see Noah in a necktie. My cluttered desk is their Ark. And they are the future.
It’s probably true. And that brings me to my point.
The other day I hinted of my interest in them becoming youthful columnists for this Editorial Page; however, I had no time to discuss it then in detail. Noah had work to do.
The next day a couple of them came bounding into my office with smiles as big as the moon. In sync, they asked, “Did you say something about ‘column’ yesterday?”
I couldn’t help but smile. I felt even older, yet oddly alive.
Reporters love to write. But offer them a column, especially in such tender years, and suddenly the sky’s the limit.
Saralyn already writes a creative sports column, “A League of Her Own.” And I’ve had some fun with her recent views on the International Olympic Committee. Seems like I remember the term “idiocy” regarding the IOC’s recent wisdom in wrestling. Good word.
As a part-timer, Sara D. stays busy pounding the Lifestyles pavement. She has little time for news.
But the other three — Joyanna, Delaney and Christy — well, you folks in readerland can expect to see these friendly faces, new views and fresh writing styles on our Editorial Page sometime soon. We’re still working the details. Noah has much to plan.
But if the creek “don’t” rise, we’ll be crossing that bridge mighty soon.