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Mountain Echo

Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Letters from my room: Aging feels like a discrepancy

Makenzie Closson

I went to the grocery store the other day, which for me, is atypical. I went for two items: baby oranges and string cheese. And it was laughable how hard I had to look for the string cheese I wanted, which only made me realize how much I didn’t know about grocery shopping. 

But after strenuous searching, I found what I wanted. I walked to the checkout line, the oranges cradled in my right forearm like a literal baby, the cheese held in my left hand down by my side and a measly 10 bucks crinkled between my pointer and middle finger. 

In front of me was an older lady, I guessed that she was in her mid-sixties. Her cart was full of fruits, ingredients for meal preparation, paper towels, two heads of lettuce, detergent and a wide variety of cereals. Her hair was a silky gray, but it looked platinum and well taken care of. I looked down at her hands. They were coated with enormous chunky rings, vibrantly colored. Her nails were a rich cherry wine color, her lips were also painted the same red. I thought to myself, she looks expensive.

It wasn’t even a minute of me standing behind her before she noticed me and smiled. I smiled back, but it was one of those awkward half-smiles you’ll give to anyone who you make eye contact with in a public space. She gestured to my items. Looking back at me she said, “If that’s all you’re getting, you can get in front of me.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” I replied, shuffling around her. I readjusted the string cheese that I could feel getting slippery within my hand due to my sweaty palms. Man, the person in front of me was taking a very long time to check out.

“Do you go grocery shopping often?” the lady asked me abruptly. Thinking our small interaction was over by this point, I was startled she was still engaging in conversation with me. I turned to face her. “Oh no,” I laughed. “My mom does the shopping for us. I’m never the one who goes out. I couldn’t even find the string cheese.”

She chuckled at my response. “Let me give you a tip, then,” she responded. She grazed her hand over the head of lettuce in her cart. “When you’re shopping for lettuce, flip it over and sniff the bottom. You’d be surprised at how many times I’ve accidentally bought spoiled lettuce because I didn’t check.” 

I grinned back at her. “I will definitely keep that in mind,” I responded. I turned to check on the status of the man before me. I realized he was getting various Visa gift cards, each amount being 100 dollars. The cashier was manually putting each charge on each card—I was going to be standing here for a while.

My conversation with the stranger behind me didn’t end, and normally I would’ve been annoyed. But I wasn’t. We talked about her hobbies, she knits blankets for her friends’ grandchildren who are in college. She makes them with the colors of their schools. “You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find the right gold—sunglow, it’s called. Nearly impossible,” she said to me. She was in high demand for Pitt University blankets. 

She asked me if I was in college. I told her I was headed that way in September. “That’s lovely,” she said. “A complete reset for you. A completely new experience.” I nodded at that. When college gets brought up, I can’t help but nervously spit: “Exciting, but also super nerve-racking.” 

She exhaled a knowing sigh at my nervous banter and responded:

“You’ve got more time than you think.”

​​The fear of aging has been instilled since the day we all were born. The first cries of a newborn baby are followed by the final breaths of someone else—the vigorous cycle of life and death, what we do with what we were given and how we follow the paths our circumstances laid out for us. We are all living vicariously through each other’s experiences, grasping onto whatever reasoning we can find that makes us believe we’re all essentially the same. However different we all are, we’re still headed to the same place: becoming a wrinkly, gray-haired mess.

But the idea that getting older is “ugly” or “fearful” isn’t completely true, and I’ve noticed a more prominent effort in the youth to prevent the phenomenon of aging. There are six-year-olds in Sephora buying colorful, kid-targeted skincare products when they don’t even realize that they aren’t old enough to get a singular pimple yet. In the same Sephora, there are 10-year-olds buying retinol products because they saw someone online tell them that getting older is “bad.”

But why? I’m 17 in a grocery store line in front of someone years and years older than me, but I don’t feel scared to become that. The perspective of different generations can sway different opinions because, sure, some boomers are so cranky they can’t look youthful anymore. Still, there’s also another percentage who decided to embrace the wisdom they’ve gained over all these years of being here. Rather, I find it fascinating to hear the stories of people who have lived through things we, as the younger generation, cannot fathom. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

I’ve had my fair share of interactions with people older than me. Some of them were negative, but some, like the grocery store encounter, were extremely positive. It was able to shift my perspective from, “I can’t get old, ugly and miserable,” to “When I get older, I’m going to be full of so much wisdom.” 

I seriously hope that one day I will be able to stand in a grocery store line and tell another teenager how to preserve their lettuce and cut their strawberries right. 

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About the Contributor
Makenzie Closson
Makenzie Closson, Associate Editor
My name is Makenzie Closson. I am a second year member of the Mountain Echo and Horseshoe yearbook staffs. Last year, I became a PSPA finalist and even won first in the state for yearbook copy writing. Besides just being involved in the publications, I'm a competitive dancer. I also enjoy playing my guitar, creating art and film making. After high school, I plan to attend a film school to become a director.

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