I listen often to younger people born since 1980 who can’t believe how the older generation lived. Of course, they’re referring obliquely to me as a sagging version of the man I once was, one who has lived on this planet for more than 65 years. How awful it must have been, they say.
Many of us from the older generation lived in homes where both parents smoked — and that was in the house. In fact, I survived being born to a mother who smoked all the way through her pregnancy. Of course, this habit is one of the major no-no’s directed toward prospective mothers nowadays.
When we were young, none of us seniors ever had car seats to ride in, nor did we have booster seats. Seat belts were unheard of until later in our lives. Sometimes we rode in the back of trucks that had bald tires. We certainly didn’t know anything about air bags, and I remember one of my Dad’s trucks didn’t have much in the way of brakes.
It must have been terrible to have lived then, my young friends declare. But you know, I say — I can’t ever remember anyone getting injured or killed because we didn’t have today’s standard safeguards. In fact, riding in the back of a pick-up truck was one of the great joys of my youth.
Carbohydrates and fat-based foods were standard fare, and dessert was a featured part of the meal. There was always pie or home-made pudding. We ate cupcakes with loads of chocolate icing and white bread hot from the oven layered with spoonfuls of butter. My mother never cut the fat off of roasts and servings of meat, and pork-cracklings were a treat my brothers and I delighted in. We drank Kool-aid made with extra helpings of real sugar.
Nowadays in our household when the entire family is visiting, about 30 glasses and cups end up strewn across the cupboard by day’s end. Our kids never share, and they refuse to keep track of one glass for an entire day.
In contrast, my mother put one glass beside the kitchen sink, and if we wanted a drink, we rinsed off that glass and drank from it throughout the day. We never knew anything about plastic bottles of water. Even on hiking trips, we always drank from available streams, cupping the water with our hands. On my uncle’s farm, we drank from a community dipper that sat in the nearby water pail. We never thought about germs or disease as we took turns — and it wasn’t awful.
I can’t remember any of my friends being overweight — despite the type of foods we ate. That’s because we were always outside playing games of various types, games as simple as “You’re It, Red Rover, Anti-Eye-Over, and Kick the Can.” If we didn’t have equipment for some of the sports we were interested in, we improvised — catalogues and newspapers for hockey shin-pads, for example.
Nowadays, we elderly folk have come up with a term for young parents. They’re known as helicopter parents, mostly because they are forever hovering around their kids. They fear something might happen if they aren’t forever on the alert.
My mother never worried about us. In the springtime and during the summer, we left home early in the morning, rambling through fields and along creeks, and playing wherever we chose. We rarely got into trouble, and we returned at supper time or when it got dark. No one was able to reach us all day, and my parents never even asked me where I was. And I was OKAY.