When I was a child my family loved to spend time with our cousins in the Netherlands, the Brauns.
The Brauns were a fun clan—they always sent my brother and me chocolate at Christmas!–made even more special by the fact that they were my father’s only remaining family in Europe.
(My father came to this country in 1920 when he was almost two years old. Most of his relatives either immigrated to the U.S. or died in the Holocaust. The Brauns were hidden by Catholics throughout the Nazi occupation of Holland and in fact eventually converted from Judaism to Catholicism.)
During one memorable visit the Brauns took us to see a fascinating social experiment—a planned community that featured rows of apartments. The buildings were two stories high.
Elders lived in the lower stories. Families with children lived in the upper stories.
The rationale was that both older people and very young people benefit from being in frequent contact with each other.
I don’t know whether this community still exists. I hope it does.
I was reminded of it this week when I saw an example of the magic of intergenerational contact.
My mother is still recovering from her most recent infection, and she tends to be sleepy and a little confused.
On Tuesday, however, she got back a little of her customary focus when our delightful friend Joan Sutton came to visit.
Joan works with seniors and has a definite way with them. In the year or so that we have known her she has recommended doctors, therapists, and aides for Taffy.
She is clearly interested in older people, and they respond to her vivacity with enthusiasm. She tends to get more memories and more smiles out of my mother than just about anyone else we know.
This week Joan outdid herself in terms of stimulation by bringing along her two-month-old baby, Wyatt.
My mother couldn’t take her eyes off the baby.
She told him how good he was, examined his perfect little toes, held him, and generally had a wonderful time.
Even Truffle found the baby fascinating. As for me, I’m a sucker for anyone small and cute—and they don’t come much smaller or cuter than Wyatt.
Our friend Susan has promised to bring her baby Joshua to visit when we get back to Massachusetts so my mother can have another dose of baby magic.
If we could just bottle the feeling she gets when she’s with the very young, it would be a lot more effective for curing what ails her than most of the pills she takes.