If you are a Gen X’er, then you are a product of the “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” era rubbing shoulders with the Vaping in the Transgendered Restroom generation (Rick Taylor, comedian).” It’s funny and it’s incredibly true.
Our generation moved from Sesame Street to Hill Street Blues; from Bruce Jenner-decathalete on a Wheaties box to Kaitlyn Jenner in an evening gown; from the end of the Sexual Revolution to Sex in the City (I still wouldn’t know about Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik save for Sara Jessica Parker and Oprah’s Favorite Things list). We went from Terry Bradshaw to Carrie Bradshaw; from drinking OJ for breakfast to knowing O.J. as a convicted murderer….make that a felon. For that matter we’ve gone from drinking straws to vilifying them.
We’ve grown up and away from Count Cocula each Fall to looking forward to everything Starbucks pumpkin latte. And although Boo Berry and Frankenberry also made their annual appearances I, for one, stand with the Count …that dude endures the generations!
And finally, we 50 somethings remember when Bam Bam was simply the Flintstone’s cartoon neighbor and not a reference to cocaine a la Talladega Nights…”help me Tom Cruise….help me Oprah Winfrey!”
In a little over two weeks, God willing, Thaedra and I will be flying home from Dublin with my two best buddies, Tim and Kevin and their wives. We will have celebrated my 50th birthday together both on the continent, around the U.K. and in Ireland along with some of my other favorite and cherished friends, Noel, Eileen, Nancy & Gayle (I’m still hoping) joining us along the way. It’s really an amazing thing to consider that until in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh completed the first successful transatlantic flight this type of travel was not feasible. Lindbergh flew only 41 years before we 50 year olds were born! Jumping on and off airliners is now typical travel protocol.
(My heart & soul…Alex, Pierce, and the unmistakable, lovely lady who loves me despite myself, Thaedra. You three are the biggest blessings of my life.)
(Tim and Kevin…these two guys are the older….much, much older brothers I never had. I cannot verbalize the blessing, dimension and richness of these two men and these friendships bring to life…simply priceless!)
It remains true and becomes increasing reality that humanity’s progress moves faster now than at any other time in history. The best description of this truth I read recently in the first few chapters of Dan Brown’s book, Origin. He includes two intriguing paragraphs.
“It took early humans over a million years to progress from discovering fire to inventing the wheel. Then it took only a few thousand to get to the printing press. Then it took only a couple hundred years to build a telescope. In the centuries that followed, in ever-shortening spans, we bounded from the steam engine, to gas-powered automobiles, to the Space Shuttle! And then, it took only two decades for us to start modifying our own DNA.”
“We measure scientific progress in months…advancing at a mind boggling pace. It will not be long before today’s supercomputer looks like an abacus; today’s most advanced surgical methods will seem barbaric; and today’s energy sources will seem as quaint to us as using a candle to light a room. The Greeks had to look back centuries to study ancient culture, but we need to look back only a single generation to find those who lived without the technologies we take for granted today. The time line for human development is compressing; the space separating ancient and modern is shrinking to nothing at all”
This book made me consider the some of the advances in the last fifty years. Think about what stands out to you as marked advances during our place in time.
The “What had happened was…”
In the very early 70’s I vividly recall my maternal great grandmother’s farmhouse on Hwy. 216 in Cherryville, NC. She had wood burning stoves not only to heat her house, but also as a source for cooking. At the same time microwave technology was being introduced to the consumer marketplace. The Sears Kenmore microwave daddy brought home was as big as a TV set. My wife says she remembers a door to door microwave salesman coming to her home….I have to laugh at the visual this conjures up…some poor guy toting a microwave through the neighborhood. As kids we could see technology and times changing before our eyes and didn’t even know.
(This is the house when I drove by it 2 weeks ago. It’s remodeled and looking good even though great granddaddy built it well over 100 years ago. My maternal grandparents married in the front parlor here on December 22, 1934.)
Speaking of time, how many of my Charlotte friends remember dialing: 375-6711? If you’re from around here, then you remember Joe King’s “Home Federal Saving & Loan time is: ____o’clock; the temperature is ___ degrees.” By chance did you dial this number on a rotary phone?
Remember when food was simply food? I was always jealous of the kids who’s moms brought cupcakes to school for their birthdays. What, pre tel, did you have to do to make this happen? Does this still happen? Between the gluten free and the vegan considerations I’m not sure it’s any longer permitted, let alone politically correct, to serve cupcakes to school kids. We even have gluten free communion (there’s a Jesus, disciples and an upper room joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave it to your imagination).
We are from the generation when health insurance was sold for the family and not for the dog. For that matter, remember when the dog’s dental care was not on par with yours? Maybe they had all of that when I was a kid and my parents were just cheap.
On the back seats of bus 337 riding to Bruns Avenue Elementary School (4th grade for the sake of full disclosure) we listened to homemade compilation cassettes. Our music included Car Wash by Rose Royce, Le Freak by Chic, Big Shot by Billy Joel…and on and on. Daddy’s black plastic battery operated (6 D-cell batteries) cassette machine made those monotone recordings from radio jams sound awesome, just phenomenal! Hey, it’s what we had.
Techy people say an iPhone X will hold more than 30,000 songs. I’ll get back to you on that one. It is ironic to think about music media evolution. My wife’s late God parents left Thaedra and her brother, Greg, an operating Victrola in their home. We listened to it…skreetchy, scratchy swing band and gospel melodies. I bet you $10 I could plunder through my dad’s junk and find an old Buck Owens or Porter Wagner & Dolly Parton 8-Track tape. For anyone who doesn’t know what an 8-track is; Google it, they definitely played an important role in media evolution. For anyone who doesn’t know who Buck Owens and Porter Wagner are take my word for it, move on.
Remember when Peanuts were either a great cartoon or a healthy snack and not some lethal keep it off the plane killer? Those pathetic little pretzel packs American Airlines tries to pass off don’t measure up. If you’re lucky and get a good flight, then you might get a pack of those Biscoff cookie crackers. I’ll knock you down for those…consider yourself warned.
Like many kids I grew up on the tail end of my daddy’s belt. It’s Biblical…loosely based on Proverbs 13:24. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Dancing around that swinging belt I would have sworn it was child abuse. It was, in fact, the kind of parenting that yielded disciplined and accountable children. Somebody should have told my grandmother, however, making a kid pick his Hickory stick off the shrub before a good butt “whoppin’” was not Biblical. Incidentally, Apple Pages did not recognize whoopin’ as a word. Clearly, the programmers are not Southern.
I’m rather certain my boys have never cracked this thing called an encyclopedia. We’ve gone from World Book to Wikipedia, from Britannica to Bing. If we couldn’t find it in the latest printed edition of the encyclopedia, then we could go to the library and look up subject matter in this archaic card catalog. Thanks to Mr. Dewey and his decimal system it worked rather well.
My youngest son is preparing for his Eagle Scout board of review. It’s an awesome skill: scouting teaches youth to orient a map. I, however, rely on Google maps. If it’s a really adventurous day, then it’s Waze with the Elvis voice prompts…”thank you very much!”
Actually, a lot of what is now bygone reality helped the fifty something generation turn out well. I’m talking about things like beginning elementary school days with the Pledge of Allegiance; getting a filthy dirty when we played outside: mud, scabbed up knees, sweat, and gum ball fights. Robyn Withrow, I’ll never forgive you for making the whole street gang up on me. Lest we forget that our generation may be one of the last to learn grammar…we are from the day when teachers actually taught English. Want to stump a teenager? Ask him or her to conjugate: “to drink” or to differentiate and conjugate “to lay and to lie.” This list could go for days.
People complain about getting older. Some of the most awesome people I know are in their 50s. And like they, I plan to have the time of my life. Sometimes you hear 50 is new 30. I hope not! 30 year olds can keep diaper changes and career climbing; newly arrived 50 year olds keep the AARP cards. If Alex Tribec tries to sell me $15k of guaranteed life insurance for only $39.00 a month, then I swear I’m going to boycott Jeopardy!
The point: a lot changes our life’s time-space and comfort perception. Except for human nature and omnipotent God, things never stay the same. Life is short and getting shorter every day. My theory: take the trip, eat the cupcake (gluten allergies beware, I know), laugh loud, love passionately, forgive, and don’t expect other people to invest in you as you might in them (you get your feelings hurt…really badly!). People who say they have no regrets have neither learned anything nor ventured very far from a comfort zone. Old age will happen as soon as you invite it, either by inaction or attitude, to sit beside you. Work hard, play harder, pray harder . Evidently, living this way scares the crap out of people. I’d rather live full throttle and soak up the adventures ahead than to sit safely inside the confines of a stereotyped convention. We do, after all, only live once.
May our choices reflect our hopes and not our fears. Nelson Mandela