I often think of the life I grew up in. We drank out of the garden hose in summer, ate cookies we dropped on the floor if we were quicker than the dog, ignored cuts and bruises, had no air conditioning (attic fan… with all the upstairs windows open it was like one giant ceiling fan).
We spent summer evenings chasing lightning bugs, playing kick the can till well past dark. We occasionally got into mischief, breaking into a neighbor’s paint shed and spattering the paint, catching someone’s goldfish out of a backyard pond or picking flowers from someone’s flower bed. When we got caught we got paddled.
We generally went to church on Sundays and ate a big dinner with family and friends after. Summer reading was Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss books in elementary school until we were assigned books. We pledged allegiance to the flag in the morning and had bomb drills where we got under our desks and laughed at how silly it was. We said our prayers at night with Mom or Dad and had a long list of people, dogs, friends we asked God to bless. We were allowed to go pretty much anywhere as long as our Moms knew generally where we were. We didn’t need secret passwords for school because we weren’t likely to be kidnapped and we were smart about strangers.
We knew enough to come inside out of a lightning storm and heard stories about people who got struck by lightning bolts. We ran barefoot almost all the time and our moms made sure tetanus shots were up to date. We told ghost stories, night or day and halfway believed them.
We had jobs cutting lawns or babysitting that paid 50 cents or a dollar an hour and we thought we were rich. An “allowance” meant an exception to punishment, not more money.
Almost everybody had a dog. Some had cats but if they didn’t have something they didn’t seem quite right. Arguments were settled with “am not!” “are too!” until we got distracted and forgot the fight altogether. We didn’t hold grudges.
Some families had televisions that took a while to warm up, then the picture disappeared to a dot of light when you turned it off. If you were sneaky you could watch really quietly until around 11 p.m. when the channel signed off with the national anthem, a flag waving, and then a test pattern with a really annoying monotone.
We didn’t have electronic games, PlayStations, Nintendo, iPhones or iPads. No computers. We relied on our energy and imaginations. We didn’t worry about hurting ourselves. We just ran until we either ran out of time or strength. Or both. We played fair and called out anyone who didn’t so they could make it right. We played by rules everybody agreed to and they shouldn’t be broken. Even as little kids we believed there was a right and wrong and we did our best to do things right and hold our friends accountable as they did us.
When did everything change, and why?