Times Past

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I still remember the things my parents did for me that my children or the kids in my neighborhood will most likely never experience. Sometimes that realization makes me sad. Some of this disconnect from my past stems from where we currently reside but some of it is due to the change in times. It seems strange to me how so much of the innocence I experienced of 50 years ago is gone and seems unlikely to return. Things like:

My father standing out in the bitter cold, night after night, pouring water over a homemade ice skating rink. Sliding the water here and there to make sure that the surface was even in thickness and perfectly smooth like glass. Then after several days of hard freeze he would lace up my skates while my wobbly ankles would cross precariously as I put one foot in front of the other, my blades slowly carving up his masterpiece.

Watching our black and white television where killers or carve-them-ups were not allowed to enter our household. Cuss words were unheard of too. The only things on television back then were shows which presented people trying to do their best and to help one another. In short, they showcased families/individuals who loved each other and the positive in life.

My parents pulling us through the streets on sleds to see the Christmas lights that decorated each set of eaves as the snow fell over them; creating a colorful shimmer that I remember to this day. Then, should we complain of cold (which we always did), my mother would magically pull out a thermos of hot chocolate to warm our bodies and our hearts. Such a simple way to show love and concern.

My grandmother making homemade mittens and scarves while my aunt sewed us outfits for Christmas. In addition, my mother always sewed my halloween costume (once out of old drapes) whereas I have yet to sew one. Most kids today have never experienced the thrill and the patience while waiting for the perfect outfit to emerge out of odds and ends that litter the sewing machine table.

Most of today’s kids will never hold an ice cream social, a play, and sell trinkets to earn money for charity. Back in the day, my mother would gather the squirmy and oh-so-hyper six-year-old neighborhood kids together for rehearsal everyday for the entire week prior to the performance. Then we would sell tickets to the big event to all the neighbors. Afterwards, my mother would load all the thespians into our dark blue Rambler station wagon and off we would go to the charity of choice to deliver the money we had collected. Being that this was in the days before digital photography I have grainy superimposed pictures to remind me of these times but I do remember the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt for doing something to help others. It’s something that appears to be lacking from the experience of many kids these days.

Crisp fall days during which my parents took us to the Franklin Cider Mill where we watched the apples being pulverized by the turning of the water wheel and where we ate fresh hot powdered cinnamon donuts on picnic benches while the cool wind blew the sticky sugar off our treats.

Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the grocery aisle was a real treat. I remember picking my breakfast cereal not for taste but for the records by teen heartthrobs David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman or the Monkees that were on the back of the boxes. How glorious the sound after taking the time to carefully punch out 45’s from the cardboard box. Decoder rings and invisible pens were also prized possessions.

Once upon a time science was  new and exciting and at the forefront of our lives. When discoveries were made it was a time for everyone to rejoice along with renew our sense of national pride. In 1969 when I was just a kid I remember my mother waking me up to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.It was really late and our black and white television was fuzzy with the pictures being beamed back to earth. Now big discoveries are so common place that it seems as if the breath-taking excitement just isn’t there anymore.

Riding our bikes within a five block radius and exploring the world like children are suppose to be able to do without fear of injury or death. No wonder so many kids these days are afraid of failing…they never got the chance to try the little things that instill confidence.

Knowing all the people at the stores where we shopped. Back when I was a kid there was the crooked old man (Mr. Banner) who ran the milk store where milk was kept in bottles not cartons. There was the butcher who always smiled at me as he wrapped my mothers picks in white butcher paper. I also knew the liquor store owners because they had a penny-candy section that upon occasion I was allowed to peruse. The Chinese couple (The Kims) at the cleaners were favorites as was the old French lady who made the sweetest potato bread I had ever tasted. These days, unless you live in Europe, those relationships are missing from our children’s lives and its such a shame because these are the people who taught me that people who were “different” than me and my family were loving, kind and interesting. It was they who inspired me to seek out individuals who might teach me a thing or two as I journeyed through life.

These and so many things shaped me as I grew up into the imperfect person that I am but without these experiences I am convinced that I would have thought that the world was a harsh and lonely place; a place that so many of today’s kids believe the world to be.  A life without happy, positive and inspiring memories is hardly a life at all. And that is why I worry about so many of our youth of today.

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