We dressed up for the occasion. Not to the nines, but close. My husband wore a suit and tie, a white shirt with cuff links, a black felt fedora, and a gray wool coat. I wore black: black pants, shirt, boots, coat, gloves, and a wide-brimmed red hat.
We stood out at Logan Airport, for sure. In a sea of denim and down, there we were, like extras from the set of “Madmen.”
Which is exactly what we’d set out to be. Our kids had given us a night at the TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport in New York to celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary. It’s a retro hotel built where the TWA terminal used to be, more “Star Wars” than Disney, with its stark white walls and red carpet. But it’s a nod to the days when travel meant luxury and comfort. It will be a trip back in time, our kids promised us. So off we went, decked out in our old-fashioned finest.
The funny thing? No one gave us a second look. Chalk this up to living in 2020 instead of the 1960s. You can be different now and not raise an eyebrow. This is progress.
At the airport, we walked through security (bootless and with our pockets empty), strolled to the JetBlue gate (where a woman was pumping breast milk — more progress), scanned our own tickets (gate agents used to do this — not progress), boarded the packed plane, found our seats, and with not even a sideway’s glance from anyone, up, up, and away we flew, back to the 1960s.
It wasn’t so long ago, I said to my husband.
But then he said, “It was 60 years ago. That’s a long time, Bev. Imagine the years between 1860 and 1920? It’s the same thing.”
I did the math. And was stunned. I could see clearly changes in the world between 1860 and 1920. I could see because I’ve witnessed them from a distance. I’ve read about the Civil War, the First World War, assassinations, inventions, epidemics, suffrage, lifestyles, fashion. I’ve looked at these years in pictures, in history classes, in books, and in movies with a bird’s-eye view and I am sure that if Rip Van Winkle had nodded off to sleep in 1860 and awakened in 1920, he wouldn’t have recognized the world.
But 1960 to 2020? I’ve been in the thick of these years, not a witness but a participant, immersed in the day-to-day. Has there been as much change in the past 60 years? If I had fallen asleep in 1960 would I recognize the world today?
I read a book last year, “Thank You for Being Late,” by Thomas L. Friedman, in which I learned that since 2007, when Apple invented the iPhone, we have seen more changes in technology than ever before.
But what about all the other changes, I wondered?
I took out my phone and, flying high in the sky, Googled “history and innovations from 1960 to 2020.” (Google another change. WiFi on planes yet another.) And, among the many changes listed: Space stations. Sequencing of the human gene. The building of the Berlin Wall. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The collapse of the Soviet Union. The assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. Vietnam. Watergate. Birth control pills. The Civil Right’s Act of 1964. AIDS. September 11.
I lived through these events. I probably noted them in journals I’ve kept. But the changes that happened because of them? Tighter security. Desegregation. Women’s rights. What else?
Change happens the way that children grow. You don’t see the day to day. You’re there watching but you don’t see.
“I’ll FaceTime you,” I said to my granddaughter the other day. FaceTime. It’s right out of “The Jetsons.” The car I just bought? It applies the brakes if I’m about to back into something (which I’ve been known to do). DNA sequencing. Organ transplants.
WiFi in the sky. Air travel to places that in the past airplanes didn’t go.
My husband and I headed back to the 1960s for a day. And the day didn’t disappoint. But I would not want to stay in the past. I like the present. I like all the choices on TV even if I can’t figure out the remotes. I like being able to borrow a library book without leaving my house. I like that women and people of color and a gay man are running for president. I like the diversity, openness, acceptance, inclusion, and world view the last 60 years have brought.
If I were Rip van Winkle, asleep for the past 60 years, and woke up today? I may not recognize the world. But I’d definitely want to stay in it.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at email@example.com.