Perhaps the phrase is a colloquialism, a new world nostalgia. Maybe we use old world charm to describe architecture, homey restaurants, or ethnic festivities. Whatever its use, the phrase holds space for reminiscing about what we left behind.
Not the easiest of prompts to play with, but writers followed its lead nonetheless. Some took us beyond old world traditions to new, and others reimagined places. We encounter different perspectives and some unexpected treatments of the prompt.
The following stories are based on the August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm.
PART I (10-minute read)
Mettle of Life by Donna Matthews
Shutting off the television after another Stranger Things binge-watching session, she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Not for the terrifying, family destroying monsters portrayed. And indeed not the fashion. Bright geometric patterns and splatter paint? Good heavens, what were we thinking in the 80s?
It is the mettle of life she misses. The 14-year-old girl she once was. Long afternoons with friends, secrets shared, dreams whispered. It was her age of becoming. She could be anything. Anything at all.
Silence falls heavy without the television. Unsure of what to do next, she ends up doing nothing at all.
Clouded (Part I) by D. Avery
Hope felt pride and belonging here, enjoyed seeing her last name on the neatly arranged stones, many flagged, indicating service as far back as the Revolution.
Hope’s mom stood at the edge of the woods, still and silent. Hope went down the slope and joined her.
Her eyes glistened. She placed one of her earrings on the tiny stone before walking with Hope toward the road.
“Who was she?”
“I don’t know Hope. Just a gypsy baby, abandoned they say, over a hundred years ago.”
Winding back through the family plots, Hope’s pride clouded over with questions.
Clouded (Part II) by D. Avery
“A gypsy baby? I didn’t know we had gypsies in Vermont. I thought gypsies were from long ago and far away, like Italy, or Romania, somewhere like that. Why is there a gypsy baby in our cemetery?”
Her mom stopped and turned, silently stared back down the slope at the isolated marker. Her long black hair veiled her face.
“Yes, Hope, ‘gypsy’ does sound Old World; European; maybe sounds more charming than other words they might have used for impoverished dark skinned people wandering homeless in their own homelands.” She sniffed. “Christianity’s an Old World idea too.”
Clouded (Part III) by D. Avery
Hope stood with her mother, looked down the slope at the little grave by itself just beyond the boundary of the old cemetery.
“It’s like she’s on the outside looking in.”
“Yes, it’s like that.” She spoke softly. “The story is, she was found around here and one man wanted to give her a decent burial but the others wouldn’t allow a heathen, a gypsy, amongst their own.”
“I still can’t imagine gypsies around here.”
“Can you imagine Abenaki families? Selling handcrafts, baskets and brooms?”
“Indians? That seems long ago and far away too, Mom.”
“Not so far, Hope.”
Saving Babies by Faith A. Colburn
We often think of culture as arts, but some cultural practices are so basic as to be essential to life. I haven’t used the prompt words “old world” from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community blog prompt in my text, but the meaning is there.
“It’s because we were midwives—from Scotland,” Grandma said.
“What’s that got to do with a family that doesn’t touch each other?”
“They didn’t want anybody slobbering over their babies.”
“They didn’t know about germs back then.”
“The experts didn’t know.” She gave me one of her now-think-about-this looks. “Women who took care of mommas and babies didn’t have microscopes, but they knew that boiling water and washing everything within an inch of its life resulted in more live babies. The fewer people handling babies, the more they lived.” She gave me another look. “Generations of observation.”
Days Gone By by Reena Saxeena
It was a busy day in office, as the Managing Director was visiting. The premises needed to be spotlessly clean, all reports ready and the housekeeping/secretarial staff on call.
I bumped against someone, speeding through the corridor in my new suit and high heels. The gentleman stopped, held my elbow till I regained balance, and spoke calmly.
“I should’ve been careful. Hope you are fine, young lady!”
That was the venerable MD himself.
Years later, I thought of him when the new MD walked in before 9 am, and cribbed that nobody bothered to wish him a good morning.
Gesture by Bill Engleson
Hopped the Number 3 bus one lonely summer Sunday recently.
At loose ends.
Feeling sorry for myself.
I get that way.
So, I’m sitting there when this young girl boards.
Pregnant, but oh so young.
The bus is full.
Loads of Sunday shoppers: a mob of middle-aged lavender matrons, crinkly codgers, me!
She looked like she was about to pop.
Christ, I thought, I’ll never get to where I’m going.
Wherever that is.
Then this ancient dude, foreign looking, old school-like, smiles at her, gets up, offers her his seat.
You just don’t see classy moves like that anymore!
Date Night at Hungarian Village by Annette Rochelle Aben
We loved the non-descript store front, because the fewer people who knew about this place, the easier it was to get a seat. Authentic Hungarian food was all they served and when what had been cooked every morning was gone, they locked the doors.
On the patched vinyl cushioned chairs, we sat patiently, at a faded, red Formica table. Soon, a woman, whose age could be determined by counting the wrinkles on her face, delivered our plates. She wiped gnarled fingers on a food stained, white apron and smiled. Then, she handed us each a fork and said: Eat!
Polka Pantomine by priorhouse
I saw her dancing, again, this Sunday
polka played from the radio
cabbage and meat aroma filled the air
the low heels of her shoes
clicked with certain moves
the dress, that covered most of her body, barely moved
while her shoulders sometimes grooved
soft face wrinkles
with eyes that twinkled
as her feet stepped side to side
doing some sorta polka slide –
and I, barely 13, stayed back
watching from the shadow
curious about this old grandmother of mine
as she traveled back in time
doing the Polka pantomime
High Tea by Di @pensitivity101
The room was lit with yellow light from tired bulbs, heavy brocade curtains hung at the windows and doors.
A fire burned merrily in the hearth, the smell of fresh bread and home made jam wafting across the room to tease my nostrils and make my mouth water.
Tea and scones sat on a table with a heavy cloth topped with a circlet of hand woven lace.
Cakes on a three tier stand stood centre stage, thick cream in a jug alongside.
Tea was always a nostalgic trip going back 50 years when my great aunt and uncle were newlyweds.
Old World Charms by Anita Dawes
Here in England
We used to have afternoon tea dances
In ballrooms across the country.
Those were the days when a gentleman
Enjoyed dancing with his lady
Holding open the door to let her through first
Pulling her chair out to help her sit
There are so many old-world charms we have lost
Writing love letters, eagerly waiting for the postman
To deliver those words you long to read
Taking pen and paper to reciprocate
A gentleman would also lift his hat when passing a church
I still I cross myself whenever a funeral goes by.
Those golden days…
Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills
A blonde quartet of girls dressed in blue dances. They twirl, holding hands. Singing, they remake the lyrics of Finland’s midsummer. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA. With old world charm, they brighten the backyard of a house owned by the Calumet Mining Company. New life for Finns.
Aunt Jo kneads the dough until it stretches smooth. She slices parsnips and carrots thin the way her neighbor instructed. “Thin layers keep ‘em hot longer in the mines,” she told Jo.
Jo smiles at the children Suomi dancing under maples trees. “Supper,” she calls. “Time for pasties, hey!”
Recipes Passed Down by Susan Zutautas
Every year at Christmastime Meg’s grandmother who was from Paisley Scotland would make shortbread.
Shortbread was an expensive luxury at one time and was usually only made for special occasions.
It is said that these rich delicious biscuits date back to the 12th century.
Meg would watch intently as her grandmother carefully measured out flour, icing sugar, and of course the butter. Into a big bowl, the ingredients would go, and the hand beating with force would begin.
Ever since her grandmothers passing Meg has carried on with her traditional recipe and bakes many batches of them at Christmas.
Melanie by Padmini
He squinted at the braided girl in brown hair with his half-blind eyes. The first time he saw her, she was dancing to the same tune. Has it been 60 years? They were married the next year and she had passed away a year after their marriage. She was back now, wearing the same dress. “Melanie’, he whispered weakly. Melanie, for the first time in her traditional attire, danced exuberantly. She looked at him and sensed that something was wrong. She hurried over to him. ‘Grandpa’, she shook him. His limp body fell to the ground with a thud.
Olde World, New Light by Ritu Bhatal
Jackie picked up the lantern and held it up against the shop light.
It was exquisite, the intricacy of the cast iron frame, twisted into patterns.
“That would look amazing, hanging outside our front door, wouldn’t it, Dave?” She turned to her husband, who stood impatiently, tapping foot, waiting for her to make a decision so they could leave. He had a beer at home with his name on it.
“It has such an olde worlde charm. Yes,” she smiled as she clasped it to her chest. “This is the one. Let’s go and pay.”
“Thank God,” mumbled Dave.
La Florentine Torrone by JulesPaige
Nonna always has old world treats in her pockets those special nugget candies that have nuts, and come individually wrapped in their own boxes. So when the children visit they all run to her.
Nonna used cook, back in the day when standing in the hot kitchen over her famous red sauces and homemade pastas could be found for supper any day of the week.
The other adults debate on whether she knows too much or doesn’t grasp the modern world enough. I think that my Nona, she’s just fine the way she is. I am her secret supplier.
Just Up from the Compleat Angler by TN Kerr
In the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the visitor will find an agreeable climate, a magnificent bridge, delightful restaurants, and river walks. At the top of the High Street sits Albion House, where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived. In this house, Mary Shelley finished her Gothic novel.
It’s a lovely old home; painted white. It features floors of hardwood and terracotta tiles. French doors open to a small garden off the ground floor, and the entire structure glows with the patina brought by old age and meticulous care. A simple, small brass plaque marks its literary significance.
Host with the Most! by Anurag Bakhshi
Rhonda and Steve were awestruck as they stared unblinking at the magnificent interiors of the Airbnb.
The walls were covered with such grand paintings that it looked like they were in the Louvre.
Add Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing in the background, and they felt as if they’d been transported to another century.
“We simply love it,” Rhonda cried out, ecstatically, “I don’t ever want to leave this place, Doctor.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged, my dear,” replied their host with an indulgent smile, a picture of old world charm, just like his home, “And please call me Hannibal.”
PART II (10-minute read)
Old-World Charm by Jim “Quincy” Borden
In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, wrote one of the first published descriptions of double-entry bookkeeping. He described journals, ledgers, year-end closing entries, and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. He warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement, respectively. These terms are still used today. Who knew there was a certain old-world charm to what I teach.
So Last Century by Norah Colvin
“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”
“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”
“We didn’t even have computers.”
“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”
Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”
“Wow! What did you do then?”
“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”
“Can we play a game?”
“Of course, love.”
Old World by FloridaBorne
“AnnaLisa,” My granddaughter said. “Join us for chocolate cake!”
“Haha u,” She chuckled. “Old.”
“In my day, no child refused this lusciousness!”
“2020?” She chuckled. “Virtual eat. No hydrolos.”
“Can you translate?” I asked my granddaughter.
“Language is now thoughts. Words are a second language to her.”
“Translation: I have a program installed. I can taste the cake as if I’m eating it, but there’s no calories, it’s not 2020, Great Grandma.”
“Whatever happened to tradition?”
“Two words,” My granddaughter said. “Artificial intelligence. She can’t keep up in school without it.”
“Robots by any other name,” I grumbled.
Lost by Allison Maruska
I settle onto the flat boulder overlooking the valley. The verdant field and trees welcome the rare visitor, promising a breath of nature and a taste of old-world charm. A world that existed before technology ruled. The afternoon sun bathes it in warm light.
“Daddy, what are you looking at?”
Twisting around, I wave my boy over. He wiggles next to me, his legs stopping at my knees.
“This is the land our ancestors saw,” I say.
He tilts his head. “Can we go home now?”
I laugh. “In a little bit.” After I figure out where we are.
That’s One Old Building by Susan Sleggs
While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”
So Much for Old World Charm by Margaret G. Hanna
“Bodicote is a dump!”
Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.
I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, which he had rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.
I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.
Trip to the New World by H.R.R. Gorman
The old world had been good, but not perfect.
What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.
Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.
She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.
And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.
Olde Worlde Charm by LizHusebye Hartmann
“You’re certain this will work?” The charm, clasped in the Anna’s smooth young hand, was redolent of rose hips, cinnamon, and sweet basil…and something exotic from the far southern lands. Eyes shining with hopeful, as yet unshed tears, she clasped the woven bag to her breast.
“Do your part, with an open heart. Your prayer will be answered, anon.”
Molly accepted the girl’s hug; then shooed her away with a smile. It was a gig—keen observation and a little theater kept ‘em coming back. She’d seen the two to-be-lovers together; why did women always doubt their own power?
The Old World by Chris Hewitt
Disembarking from the ship she was utterly overwhelmed. The old world was more than she had ever imagined, an assault on her senses. The air was thick, pungent, with the promise of culinary adventure. Countless bustling stalls, nestled in the shadows of the old brick buildings that lined the dock. And oh my it was so bright, so vivid, the green of the trees, the blue sky, everything!
She stumbled and fell from the gangplank onto hard cobbles.
“Whoops, are you ok?”, a helping hand reached down, “First time on Earth? Don’t worry we all trip the first time.”
Just Lousy with Charm by Doug Jacquier
In my old world, nits were removed with kerosene, visits to the spider infested outhouse were completed with newspaper squares, mothers bored into your ears to stop the potatoes growing in there and rubbed at your face with their spit on a handkerchief, fathers twisted your ears as they dragged you to the scene of your latest sin, teachers clipped your ears to instill learning and the local copper handled juvenile delinquency with the toe of his boot. Charming. I tell my grandson but he just scratches his head. Now where did I put that kerosene?
Celebration by Kerry E.B. Black
With a pomp of woodwinds, the children joined the parade about town, welcoming everyone to join. Ribbons swirled from braids in the little girls’ hair. Embroidered flowers festooned hems and lines of traditional garb. Traditional foods perfumed the air, available for the sampling. The celebration swept everyone up with its joy. The world bloomed, the earth produced, and people created beauty to compliment nature. Peace, not protest. Harmony, not war. For the brief span of an afternoon, the community embraced the simplicity of existence. Unity in expression, inclusion of all. People paused to admire the beauty in one another.
The Gift of Water by Anne Goodwin
Our forefathers took time and trouble to appease the elements. Didn’t they rely on sun and rain for their daily bread? In summer they’d decorate the springs with gleanings from nature’s pantry, and thank the Lord for that cool clear liquid that enabled the crops to grow. In our pick-and-mix culture, we shed their superstitions but kept their art: village competing with village for the best display. For five long days we’d diligently press petals, seeds and berries into a clay-covered board until the design took shape. Now our great-grandchildren fight wars for water. The village wells are dry.
Cinnamon Roll by Kelley Farrell
“It has that old world charm.”
“It smells like death.”
Anise inhaled the bitter air. Remains of buildings, and their citizens, dusted the ground in an ashen snow storm. In the distance an alarm still blared, signaling catastrophe. Something sweet and savory mingled with the distinct smell of smoldering wood.
“Do you smell that?”
The sweet smell pulled Clove and Anise forward. In the center of the destruction a small bakery’s ovens hummed away. An old woman pointed her cane at the creatures.
“You. Are you responsible for this? Have a cinnamon roll, I fucking hated this place.”
The Charm Bracelet by Sally Cronin
Keira stood in line with the other teenagers. Dressed in plain cotton overalls, the queue stretched back for miles.
Above them, lining the cliff edges, were their families, held back by a tall fence. She looked down at the silver charm bracelet her mother had placed around her wrist as she had said her tearful goodbyes.
‘This will remind you of the old world my daughter, and our love.’
Keira finally reached the head of the line and was called forward by the guardians.
Placing her hand over the bracelet, she stepped through the portal, into the new world.
The New World by Joanne Fisher
“What happened to the original inhabitants of this planet?” my daughter asked.
“We left the Old World after it became too polluted and when we arrived at this New World it was a verdant paradise with an indigenous population. They helped us survive the first few years by providing food and shelter. Once we built up our settlements we took their lands, as we needed the resources. We moved their survivors onto reserves where they mostly died out from sickness and disease. They’re gone now.”
We both looked out onto the now crowded skyline of skyscrapers and hazy skies.
Old Earth: Sketch of a Bygone Dream by Saifun Hassam
In that far away long-ago dream, there was a deep azure lake with tall evergreens along the shores. Towering snowy peaks glowed in the early morning sunlight. Light and shadow drifted with the mist swirling over the lake. From the shores, stone steps led to a garden of goldenrod and delphiniums and a cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney. Old Earth. Swept away millennia ago.
Who was the artist? Who was the astronaut from Earth? Millennia ago someone had left signatures of Old Earth, artwork in the derelict digital libraries of Earth-like planets in the deep reaches of space.
Holding On by Jo Hawk
The sand flew right out the window. It left me frozen, asleep for a thousand years. The one thing I craved, I never found. Solid ground. I slipped, descending the slope, my fate was sealed.
Sentenced, I watch your world from total darkness. Longing for sweet sun to kiss my face, I promise to try harder, even if it never matters. My once dark doors are open wide, my soul laid bare. Will you be there? Will you reach for my hand? Judge me, forgive me, save me?
Please, answer my prayers for the charms of my old world.
Old World Customs by Chelsea Owens
Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.
A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.
He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.
The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?
A Call Fer Art by D. Avery
“Pal, where yer folks hail from?”
“Hail if I know, Kid. I jist got made up right here at this ranch.”
“But the real folks that come through here, they’s from all over the world!”
“Thet’s right, Kid.”
“I been thinkin’ on Pepe Le’Gume’s idea fer a Buckaroo Nation totem pole. It’s a great idea, if’n we had artists ta make it take shape. A carvin’ ta honor all a us.”
“Reckon the first thing would be ta have folks jist tell what symbolizes their home place.”
“Prob’ly a beaver fer our Vermonter.”
“Thet’s one critter. Speak up, ya’ll.”