I adore Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep, and Sarah’s mother, Barb, who keeps me company on the frigid playground while we wait for the school buses to arrive. And I can’t wait to be an old woman with long, grey, wild hair and strong opinions. I’ve never used any kind of age-hiding beauty treatment – mainly because I don’t know how. But all of this is to say, I think old women rock.
So it worries me that I rejected an illustrator’s rendition of an archeologist because…she was too old. She looked like a grandmother. And without thinking too much about it, I fired off an email requesting someone different. Someone younger. Someone that would appeal to the 12- to 15-year-olds that we’re hoping will read this book.
Four days later, I’m still worried.
It’s too late. The illustrator is off and running, pages and pages of comic book style drawings are coming my way via dropbox. And they’re fantastic. They’re funny, and engaging, and the characters are multicultural and cute. And the archeologist, the adult, isn’t too adult. She’s youngish with red hair. Not a grandmotherly wisp around her.
I am one of those people who feel righteously appalled when I hear about an older woman who’s been fired, asked to step down, called out for her age, made fun of, dismissed, excused, or belittled. I love older women. I think they’re smarter than me and have better ideas. I even think they’re cool. And I look forward to being one, if I’m lucky. So why did I reject the grandmotherly archeologist? Me, who has been taught very specific lessons about fairness by my three young sons (because kids are the experts in fair)?
Should I let it go?
Like I said, it’s too late for this particular Granny. She’s gone, her brief life as a sketch over. The redhead who took her place is vibrant and fun and readers will want to follow her all over the world.
But I think it’s important to keep the grannies in mind. To remember that not only do we have an obligation to learn from our elders, but also to teach the younger generations of their enduring importance. Maybe the next book will have a granny.