Ah… the glorious days of my youth. How much better things were back in the good old days, when children knew their manners, schools taught math the right way, and you could eat a peanut butter sandwich in public without a swarm of helicopter parents swooping down as though you were the Uni-bomber. So many memories…
- Sunday drives with the family. Curled up on the backseat with a pillow and a book (and no pesky seatbelt). Window cracked open a bit so the smoke from my parents’ cigarettes wouldn’t make my eyes water.
- Learning my ABCs and my 123s in the old-fashioned way, with spelling bees and times tables, and a sweet looking little old lady teacher who sat at a wooden desk. With a wooden ruler which she might occasionally swat across a set of knuckles.
- Dinner at home every evening. Eaten on TV trays in front of the television because tiny folding tables were supercool and TV time was unlimited as long as I got my homework done and didn’t sit too close. (Every mother knew that if you sat too close you would eventually go blind)
- Summer vacations at the beach. With no hat and no sunscreen so I usually spent the first couple of nights crying in the camper, beet-red and nauseous, covered in Noxzema ointment. And my friends and I would later find hours of amusement sitting on our beach towels, peeling strips of burnt flesh off each other’s backs.
Yes… it was indeed the best of times. No cyber-bullies in my youth. Just mean kids who pushed you around on the school bus, tripped you in the hallways, and sometimes slammed a locker door on your fingers. And no cell phones. Just a dime in your shoe and your mother’s instructions to ‘find a phone’ if you ran into any trouble.
We all have childhood memories and it is easy to fall victim to a sort of nostalgic dementia, where we forget all of the bad stuff and just remember bubble gum and popsicles and bicycles with banana seats and tassels on the handlebars. But when we put the good old days up on a pedestal, we risk turning into curmudgeons who suck the joy out of a room with endless complaining about “kids today” and “parents today” and “schools today” and basically “fill-in-the-blank today”.
Most of the good stuff we remember about childhood is still around. “Kids today” still chew gum and eat popsicles and ride bicycles, albeit sugar-free gum that doesn’t pull out fillings, and real-juice popsicles, and bicycling that includes helmets. And I think all of us old farts need to stop being so cranky and start enjoying THESE days because they are actually pretty darn good!