Today I received an email from a friend that reminded me of the things I didn't have when I was growing up. It reminded me of the things that my kids and my grand kids have now. And it made me start to think and ponder this question. Are we really better off today than we were when I was growing up?
One of the things we didn't have when I was growing up was money. Not a lot of it anyway. And sometimes there just wasn't enough of it. But my mom always made do with what she had.
I can remember many Saturday nights that we had popcorn and milk for supper. Now I can just hear a lot of you saying "ewwww". But it was good. And popcorn was cheap. Mom would pop a big tub of popcorn and we all got a tall, cold glass of milk (I later learned that it was Carnation powdered milk, which I wouldn't drink today if you paid me) and that was supper. Because popcorn was cheap and you could fill up a kid's stomach with it.
Another memory I have of suppers when I was growing up was the Sunday night regular. Mom bought ice cream in half-gallon sizes,it then came as a brick wrapped in cardboard, and she cut that brick into five slices. If she could,she made a cake and would serve it up with the ice cream. I can't think of a kid alive that wouldn't want to have ice cream and cake for supper. Many years later...after I had kids of my own....my mom told me that the reason for those kinds of suppers was to keep us from knowing how bad things were. And it did! I didn't even know we were poor folk for many a year.
For most of my life we didn't have a phone at my house, or we had one and then lost it when we couldn't pay the bill. But who needed a phone when Grandma lived across the street and all our friends lived in the same neighbor hood as we did.We didn't call people and they didn't call us. And if we took a trip, which was rare, we didn't worry about what would happen if we broke down on the road. Someone would come along and help us. We trusted people more back in those days. And people helped each other. Now there is hardly anyone who doesn't have a cell phone on them at all times. And people can be in constant contact with text messaging. I haven't learned yet how to do that. In fact, we had it blocked on our phones. I don't need that kind of contact with anyone.
We also didn't have computers back then. Heck, they weren't even invented yet. Can you imagine that? If we wanted to communicate with someone we wrote a letter. No emails. No instant messaging. And if we wanted to look something up we went to the Public Library. I loved that place. I could have stayed there everyday. I still remember exactly what the children's department looked like. And the room where all the magazines were kept. A while back I ventured into our public library and do you know what I found......lots of people there on the library's computer. Go figure. And I can still feel the fear that a frown from the librarian would send down my spine if she looked my way and said "shh"
I wouldn't part with my computer for anything, but I do feel it is sad that my kids and their kids don't know the library the way I did.
Something else we didn't have much of was new clothes. Lots of hand me downs. Or even worse than that was the homemade clothes. Ewww...Always in late summer or early fall mom would take down the Sears Catalog and order our shoes, socks, underwear and a new winter coat if one of the hand me downs didn't fit.Those had to last until the next year when she ordered again. God forbid if you had a growth spurt and out grew something. I remember how much my sister and I hated those black and white saddle oxfords that mom ordered for us every year. They would last a whole year, that is why she liked them. They were ugly, that is why we hated them. One year the dog chewed mine up and I got to wear my canvass P.E. shoes the rest of the year. My sister was so upset that she threw hers away at school and wore her P.E. shoes home and told mom that someone had stolen her shoes during P.E. class. Looking back, I can't believe my mom fell for that story. Who would have been stupid enough to steal those ugly shoes.
Do you remember drinking from the garden hose? I sure do. And no one told us it might kill us. This was our source of water most of the time when we played outside. No plastic water bottles back in my day. We did buy our pop in glass bottles and paid a deposit on the bottle. The deposit was returned when we took the empty bottle back to the store. Think how many plastic bottles wouldn't be in the land fills today if we paid a deposit and returned them to the store.
And speaking of playing outside.....whatever happened to that? I can drive around my town on any given day and never see a kid outside. We headed out in the morning after chores were done and didn't come back until mom whistled for us to come home. We always had to be in by dark. And she didn't drive us to where we needed to go. Or stay with us while we were there. Or pick us up when it was time to come home. And no one snatched me off a street corner or jumped from behind a tree to molest me. We didn't have video games or Ipods. We played hide and go seek and jacks or baseball. We played tag or Red Rover or just hung out with other groups of kids. Ah the good old days.
Our cars were not equipped with seat belts. And we didn't put our babies in child safety seats. And all of us survived. I often wonder if seat belts and car seats really save that many lives or are they making someone, somewhere pretty rich. Not to mention more government involvement in our lives. I wear a seat belt everyday but only because I am too cheap to pay the fine. I still have not figured out why the government has the right to tell me that I have to wear one. Who am I going to kill if I don't have my seat belt on? Too much government isn't always a good thing, is it?
I do not know if I missed out on anything when I was younger. I had a pretty decent life. My kids had a pretty decent life. And my grand kids will have a decent life too. And new things will come along and good things will go by the way side. And somewhere, sometime, someone will talk about "The Good Old Days".