I LOVE this series. I saw the most recent, 56 Up, tonight.
I fell in love with these people as children, and it’s so wonderful to be able to catch up with them once in a while. Here are some thoughts on some of my favorites.
Look at this face:
Ugh, so cute. He reminds me so much of my brother when he was a kid. Neil (shown here at age 7) was so sweet and happy and adorable. He had a lot of spirit. “I’d like to be an astronaut, but if I can’t be an astronaut, I’d like to be a coach driver.” “We don’t do much fighting in school because…because we think it’s horrible, and it hurts.” “We pretend we’ve got swords and we make the noises with the swords fighting and when somebody stabs us, we go ‘ahhhh!!'”
When we see him next, at 14, he’s been away at boarding school, and my heart just breaks for him. It’s like something broke inside of him. I think that the atmosphere at that type of school can be good for some people, and some people can thrive in it, but for some people, it’s just crushing. I think that’s what happened with Neil. He talks about how important the sense of competition at his school is, but his face is filled with such sadness and distress.
I think he needed an environment that was more supportive and encouraging. He has always been very competent, intelligent, and sensitive, and with the right atmosphere, he could have found a place for himself and felt successful and secure and happy. Unfortunately, I think he has seen his lack of successes as faults in himself (mental defects, unpreparedness for the real world, inability to move toward positive action, etc.), when I think it was rather a fault in his nurturing and environment. After years of floating from one uncertainty and sadness to another, by the time of the 56 taping, he had carved out a bit of a home for himself. He lives in a town that he likes, has social connections, and does work that seems somewhat fulfilling. But I just still feel for him. He still seems to be unhappy with himself, or with who he has or had been at various points in time. I just wish for him that one day he could feel at peace with his whole being and with his place in the world.
Nick. So cute. When asked about girls: “I don’t want to answer that…I doo-on’t answer those kind of questions.” Talking about what he wants to do when he grows up: “I’d like to find out all about the moon and all that.” One of the cutest was when he was SO DELIGHTED talking about city people, “They’d like to come out for a holiday in the country when we’d like-when I’D like to have a holiday in the town!” Yeah Nick! Also, a little side-note thing that gives me a kick, he’s the kind of person who finishes a word, and then finishes it again. I find this to be a pattern among really studious, intellectual people. It’s mostly noticeable when he’s asked about fighting, and he says, “I have quite a lot of fun when I fight- [takes a breath]-ight.” I think it’s so adorable.
Then we see him at 14, looking all hipster-y and shy.
He goes on to do very impressive science-y things, and works as a professor in Wisconsin! And he married a woman (possibly the most beautiful woman in the world?) who works in Minneapolis! Super cool! He’s always really endearing, self-deprecating, and sensible. Very likable.
I’ve always liked John (the one on the left), though most people I’ve heard from haven’t liked him. They find him to be a stuffy know-it-all or something. He’s the one who said (at the age of 7), “I read the Observer and the Times.” He has always had a lot to say, and I found it charming at age 7, and impressive as he got older. He does sound at first blush like one of those out-of-touch, “I say old chap” kind of fellows, but if you listen to what he’s saying, he makes a lot of good sense. And he’s refreshingly honest. At 14, when asked what he’s ambitious for, he replies, “Fame…and power” with this smirk that says “I know how bad that sounds, but it’s the truth.” He has the same knowing smirk when he says that if he had the political power, he “wouldn’t allow any strikes.” When his friend, Andrew, points out how difficult it would be to get elected into parliament with that stance, John says, “You can always decide on your policy once you’re in.” How true! I just love that he knows exactly who he is, he knows exactly how others might perceive him, and he doesn’t allow that to change him. And he’s damn smart.
I was soooo happy to see that Paul and Symon are happy. (These two:)
There were times in their earlier interviews (7 and 14) that they just looked so sad, lost, and lonely.
Ya just want to give all of them a big hug (but you can’t, because you remember that this all happened 50 years ago!). I feel like a mother, brimming with pride and happiness as I watch them blossom and create their lives in this little snow-globe of a view that I’m given. My little kids are all grown up.