In Times of Crisis, Turn to Grandma
Mémé. Nonna. Yiayia. Bibi. Mormor. Lao lao. Abuela. The word for grandmother is rounded and soft in every language, a padded cushion to bury your head into and forget, just for a moment, the multitude of problems around the world.
Mali Desha via Unsplash
Statistics point to our late 60s and early 70s as the age we’re happiest and most at peace with ourselves. Grandparents - as both a cultural symbol and a lived relationship - are seen as beacons of pure love and stability. You can have issues with your parents (who doesn’t), but grandparents are placidly there, sagely dispensing wisdom in a non-confrontational manner, always ready to envelop you in a scented hug. Even when they’re not our own, snow-haired, slightly stooped elders still retain this special energy that we want to be close to.
There’s the ongoing photo series on Instagram, Chinatown Pretty, which chronicles the sartorial choices of elderly Asian men and women. Other accounts such as PastaGrannies and Granddishes both look at the inextricable relationship between grandmothers and food - after all, sixty years of making the same dishes ensure gastronomical success. Grandpa Chan and Grandma Marina are a 78-year-old Korean couple who draw stories for their grandchildren. Interspersed between their watercolor paintings are health tips and relationship advice, dispensed to 400,000 followers, most of whom have no relation to the pair.
Modern Western society has tended to place a premium on youth, particularly that of women. Why the shift towards our elders? The immense instability of a global pandemic and quarantine has made us yearn for our grandparents even more, in both a physical and spiritual sense. When the entire world is spinning out of control, and our perceived reality is totally upended, it’s easy to feel like a child again. The parental figures in our life - the politicians and presidents - have proven themselves largely underwhelming. The feeling of safety and comfort our grandparents give us is needed more than ever.