31 May 2011

Running With Scissors

Robert Doisneau
Every year at this time I think back to what it felt like as a child to know that summer vacation was about to start and the next few months would be one long, lazy and idyllic landscape of playing whiffle ball in the street at night after supper; riding my bike up to the Schultz's house to play; sitting on the Coca-Cola cooler in Jimmy's Market, legs dangling, drinking a Gold Nugget soda; reading the latest Nancy Drew or Happy Hollister book in the crook of a tree in Frank Duffly's yard; or chasing the ice-cream truck down the street  for a "Drumstick".  (The sound of our screen door slammming -- a kind of low squeak, followed by a sturdy thud -- is a sound that I hope never, ever falls through a crack in my memory bank.)  

All those memories came flooding back recently when I received an insightful essay in my email (author unknown) about what it meant to survive growing up in my day.  (You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.)  So here's a shout out for growing up on the edge, 50s style, with a tip of my old baseball cap to the author, whoever you might be.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. 

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints. 

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps on our heads, not helmets. 
As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.
Riding in the back of a station wagon was routine, but bouncing around in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.   

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.  

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died.   

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon.  

We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. Why? Because we were always outside playing.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.  No one was able to reach us all day.  And, we were okay.  

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.  After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.   

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes.  There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms.  Instead we had friends, and we went outside and found  them.
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. 

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping pong paddles, or just a bare hand and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.  
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.  

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.  Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.  Imagine.

And the idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.  They actually sided with the law. 

The 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.  The past 70+ years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.  We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

(Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?)

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