Friday, February 27, 2009

“The Good Old Days”

I just heard a commercial on the radio extolling the greatness of a product that tasted “just like the good old days”. Ah, the good old days! That phrase used to summon up the memory of stories my mom told of her childhood. This commercial was not talking to my mom. The Greatest Generation is decimated these days and those who are still among us are very elderly. With a pang I realized that the good old days they spoke of belonged to my generation.

This was the second time recently that some variation of that thought struck home. The other day one of my kids commented that kids certainly weren’t the same as when they were young. When they were young? She’s twenty-eight… that’s not old. But it’s close to thirty, my heart whispered and that’s not so very young either. When did our kids suddenly become the adults… pushing us back a generation ready or not?

Most of us aren’t ready. The Baby Boomers are so accustomed to center stage that we are unlikely to bow off gracefully. When we entered our fifties, the AARP invited us to join. Many of us were aware of it because our parents were members. That was a group for OLD people! We weren’t ready to go there yet and ignored the organization. They rethought their strategy and renamed their magazine in an effort to appeal to the aging Baby Boomers. I don’t know if it helped.

More celebrities – especially women – are benefiting from being part of this generation. In the past the ingenues had it all. Anyone much older became a character actress if they wanted to continue a career. Actresses in their fifties still get leading roles these days because Baby Boomers see themselves as alive and vibrant yet… and that’s a good thing, because people are living longer and fifty or sixty (maybe even seventy) is way too early to give up on life.

While my mom had plenty of memories and saw a lot of transition in her lifetime, it occurs to me that we have too. I remember country roads on childhood summer vacations to visit my grandparents. I walked with my cousins barefoot to the store at the crossroads for Coca Colas and felt the warm dirt beneath my feet and between my toes. There are not many places like that now.

Not everything about those times was better. People were still crippled by polio and our generation had the benefit of immunization. While chicken pox can now be prevented, in those days many people felt that their children were safer if they had “childhood diseases” in early childhood. Accordingly, we were taken to visit a cousin who was contagious so that we could be infected and get it over with.

Teachers have always been a mixed bag but I was blessed with several that clearly considered it a calling. In those days they were allowed to hug a loving child if so inclined and they were better able to deal with children who were determined to act in a distinctly unlovable manner. They also knew that the administration, the school board, and most parents would back up any reasonable decisions involving discipline or requiring a child to repeat a year of school. These days children are often less educated than shepherded through a series of gates. It may assist them socially but those who failed to learn are all too likely to fail at life.

Computers and the Internet are the coolest new things added by Baby Boomer geniuses. I know… the previous generation invented computers… but we sent them home and put everyone in touch with the world. Since my first job involved one computer generation before the CRT, I have been fortunate enough to see lots of them as they got better and have enthusiastically greeted each new edition. There are not many people with my personality type out there according to the tests and I often felt lonely even with friends because there was a great deal going on in my head that I knew was of no interest to them. Then the Internet entered my world and I was in touch with a number of people who shared my interests. That is one of the greatest things about it. The other one is that information can be found in plentiful amounts on virtually anything. I love it!

So… they were talking about OUR good old days. Are those times worth remembering? Of course they are. Like all earlier generations, we are survivors… and not all of the old days were good. But they made us who we are. And, in ways never before dreamed of, we have linked the world. Now if we can all just figure out how to live in peace… That should give the next generation something great to work on.

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