Why was it Misha’s fate to be raised by a dear, but ancient grandmother when other people had cool young mothers? Those moms wore short shorts, had pink streaks in their hair, and their car radios blasted rap; they could easily be mistaken for their daughters’ slightly older sisters. Misha’s grandmother wore mom jeans and cardigans and big white sneakers with socks. Her car radio was apt to burble PBS in a genteel whisper.
Gran had taken her in after her parents had each gone off with other partners to lives that had no room for a little daughter. Misha had only a very dim idea of what it must have been like for Gran to suddenly be in charge of a six-year-old. All she knew was now that she was 16, Gran embarrassed her. Misha hated herself for it, but there it was.
True, Gran could absolutely be depended upon. If she said she’d be there, she was there. Misha was never one of the kids sitting glumly in the school’s front office waiting to be picked up. If Gran said she’d do it, it got done. Dinner was on the table and so was breakfast. Beds were fresh and laundry was always caught up. Misha’s friends complained about having to do those tasks themselves and said she was lucky. But still.
Misha was into retro. She explored the world of the 1960’s and thought it was definitely a better time than the present. She and her boyfriend, Jem, picked up some 60’s clothes at thrift stores and Misha found some in the attic. On Saturday nights, they’d dress up. She’d wear a bright micro-mini skirt, tease her hair into a giant bouffant, apply pale lipstick, black cat-eye liner and mascara and white nail polish. Jem would wear plaid bell bottoms, a turtleneck shirt and platform boots that he confessed killed his feet, but looked amazing.
They got acquainted with the music of those times on old 45-rpm records, introducing themselves to the Rolling Stones, Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets. With like-minded friends, they’d dance the Loco-motion and the Twist in somebody’s basement. Gran said at least the kids were supervised and safe.
Misha’s mild rebellion blossomed into a quest for freedom she thought teens enjoyed in those swingin’ 60’s. Gran had to say no too many times. It led to tearful scenes and a bedroom door slammed so hard it made the house echo.
“I know I should be grateful she took me in,” Misha sobbed to Jem, “and I do love her, but she’s just so old. She can’t possibly remember what it’s like to be young.”
“Talk to her, why don’t you, Misha?” Jem advised. “She’s not as uptight as a lot of parents.”
Misha tried. She waited until one night after supper when Gran was washing the dishes and Misha was drying. It was a ridiculously old-fashioned way to clean up, but Gran would often say, “Oh, there are so few dishes, let’s just wash them instead of using the dishwasher.” Misha had learned sharing this activity was the perfect time for conversation.
“So, Gran, I was wondering what you’d say if I got a chance to go downtown to see a Rolling Stones tribute band. They’ll be playing at the Apollo and Jem and I could go on the bus.” Misha knew very well that the Apollo was in a part of town that made Gran start shaking her head at the very mention.
But Gran surprised her. She smiled into the dishwater and said in a reminiscent voice, “The Rolling Stones! I used to love them when I was your age.”
“You did? You did?”
“Oh, yes. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and that drummer, what was his name?”
“That’s right. Oh, they were bad boys.”
“And you liked them?”
“Yes, and my mother thought they were awful. I saw them in person once, on their first U.S. tour in 1964. There were thousands of people there, but I wormed my way to the front under the stage, and I thought Jagger looked right at me and winked.”
“Gran! You never told me. Do you still like the Stones?”
“Well, Mick Jagger always makes me smile when I see him on TV, so I guess I do.”
“Why is that, Gran?”
“It’s just that he has all those wrinkles, but he keeps dancing and singing and jumping around like a kid, even after heart surgery. He’s my age, you know. We were born the same year.”
Misha felt her jaw drop; she had to sit down. Jagger and Gran were contemporaries? Could it be that her old-fashioned Gran had been a groovy 60’s chick? The micro-mini skirt from the attic, had Gran worn it to the Stones concert where she caught Mick Jagger’s eye? That one incident bestowed coolness that no amount of pink streaks or short shorts could match. It put a whole different spin on things.
Misha couldn’t wait to tell Jem: “Mick Jagger winked at Gran back in the day, and he still makes her smile.”