When was the last time you thought about – much less enjoyed – such forgotten but wonderful items as a letter opener, cufflinks, map, saddle shoes, bed jacket, souvenir viewfinder camera, fountain pen, wisecrack, bookplate, cloth handkerchief, double feature, picture postcard, grandfather clock, divinity, ringlets on little girls, or a proverb (“A fool and his money are soon parted.”)?
These are among the “chic, useful, curious, and otherwise commendable things from times gone by” that Lesley M.M. Blume pays tribute to in a slim, enchanting volume called “Let’s Bring Back” (Chronicle Books, 2010), that I am giving to my favorite Luddites for Christmas.
Ms. Blume (http://www.lesleymmblume.com/ ) also includes values she’d like to revive, including discretion, attention spans, the kindness of strangers, and dressing for your shape – she quotes the late stylist Edith Head, who seemed to win an Oscar for costume design every year in her heyday, and who said, “Fit the dress to the girl, not the girl to the dress.” More seriously, Blume would like us to respect privacy, refrain from bellowing into our cell phones in public, and cherish FDR’s Four Essential Freedoms – of speech, to worship, from want, and from war – as outlined to Congress in war-torn 1941. The author also longs for a new version of those great evening news sign-off lines: Edward Murrow’s “Good night and good luck,” and Walter Cronkite’s “That’s the way it was.”
I was startled to discover on her list how many archaic items I still employ; milk toast for a queasy tummy, card parties, evening strolls (surely a more ladylike route to fitness than a stripper pole), luncheon as opposed to lunch, patron saints to supplicate in a pinch, kitten heels, cold cream, diaries, reporters’ notebooks, hats, seamed stockings, wordplay, red lipstick, limericks, polka dots, impracticality, pianos, and typewriters – though I confess my piano is out of tune and the typewriter is for show, since I can’t find the right ribbon.
Among items that aren’t in the book but that I’d like to revive are clever lyrics. Consider the contrast between the Gershwins’ “You’ve made my life so glamorous/You can’t blame me for feeling amorous” and the Kelly Clarkson hit, “My life would suck without you.” I’d also bring back Central Park’s pricey, over the top Tavern on the Green with its latticework and blowsy floral décor, which has been turned into a visitor center, for pity’s sake. Next they’ll be turning the Louvre into a snooty boutique hotel!
While we’re at it, let’s quit calling funerals “end of life celebrations” and send the departed off with a hearty boo-hoo. My mother, sister and I used to love to gather around the RCA with our hair in pink foam rollers gorging on malted milk balls when the movie “Imitation of Life” aired on television. Our favorite scene was when the ungrateful daughter returns for her self-sacrificing mother’s funeral. She breaks through a crowd to fling herself on the white casket – blanketed in white flowers in a hearse drawn by horses and accompanied by a mournful band -- hysterically sobbing, “Mama, Mama! I didn’t mean it!” Now, THAT was an end of life celebration. Get out your embroidered hankie and watch this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmohArXQX_0.
I’d also like to revive lazy susans twirling their offerings of green olives and pickled herring, French twists (stylish from 19 to 99), diaper services, practical jokes, “Look” magazine, roadhouses, menus with no prices for the lady (sexist but sexy), wedge salads, layettes for babies, lacy slips, and revenge: Enough of this forgiveness twaddle – don’t get mad, get quietly and elegantly even!
For good measure, let’s bring back the courtesy of addressing old folk with a title and their surnames unless they invite us to do otherwise. Most of all, in today’s tell-all world where I, for one, have had quite enough of Mr. Favre’s not-so-private privates, let’s bring back mystery!
Readers, what would you like to bring back?
This post originally appeared in the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa, where Christian is a Saturday columnist.