In April 18 IssueRussell County NewsBy Debbie Bell, Columnist
I am not a creature of change.
I believe most of us tend to look back on our childhood with nostalgia and view it as a better, more wholesome, a simpler life. I have seen many great changes in our country during my life — such as changes in civil rights laws, medical breakthroughs and improvements in social issues — but I believe we have taken a huge step backwards when it comes to family life and the raising of our children.
As I grow older I spend more time thinking back on my childhood. I view it as a slow-paced (family oriented, black-&-white) sort of Ozzie & Harried lifestyle.
My parents may remember it differently but I don’t recall ever feeling poor or underprivileged.
The first home I remember is what we fondly called “the little house at the end of the holler.” The walls were covered with that pasty wallpaper that would come tumbling down every so often, and every room had a bucket or pan in it to catch the rainwater from the various leaks in the roof.
But I didn’t know we were poor. We were just like everyone else. Besides, wanting to keep their children carefree and innocent, parents did not discuss their finances or personal problems with them. In fact, having a two-seater outhouse (which was rare and quire up-scale for those days) made me feel rather well-to-do. I always felt like royalty on the throne.
My mother would always fix us a wholesome home-cooked breakfast before we left for school. For several years I went to a two-room school where the older children helped teach the lower grades. I probably learned more there than I did anywhere else I’ve ever been.
We would ride the school bus home, to always find our mom waiting, with a snack. Then we would always get our homework finished and she’d check it.
It was mandatory for everyone to gather at the kitchen table for supper, to partake in conversation and family chaos. We always had to sit there until every last bite on our plate was eaten. Many a time I saw the sun rise sitting alone at that table, especially on liver night, ugh! I still to this day ca not eat that stuff.
Bath time was a chore. Since we had to pump the water by hand, heat it and fill that big old tin tub. We only took complete baths on Sunday and Wednesdays.
The worst part though was that I had to share the same water with my brother. He would go first on Sunday nights, right before Bonanza and he would purposefully stay in the tub until the water was ice cold. Then he would slowly climb out with that smug “I peed in the water” smile on his face. Oh how I couldn’t wait until Wednesday (right before Lost In Space). You know what they say — “What goes around comes around.”
Bedtimes were always at the exact same time, maybe a little later on weekends, and punishments were consistent and doled our with a loving but iron fist.
Holidays were magical, especially Christmas. I can actually still smell the aroma of cakes, candies and pine that permeated that little house. Our Dad would always take to what I remembered as the deepest recesses of the forest to chop down the perfect Christmas tree. Then we would take it home for Mom to decorate.
Each of us kids had our own special ornament. Mine was a gingerbread man that I still have to this day. It doesn’t look the same, he’s lost a limb or two, but I so lovingly hang him on my own tree each and every year.
Another night was set aside to go look at the lights and go caroling on a hay wagon. My brother and I never slept a wink on Christmas Eve night. We would so rush up on Christmas morning, as early as our Dad would allow and rush into the living room to get our meager, but cherished, gifts.
I have never forgotten my favorite doll. During on of his many temper-tantrums my brother, ever so spitefully, ripped my beloved doll’s head off. I carried that poor rag-filled torso around for many years.
We didn’t get T.V. until I was 9, nor a phone until I was 12. So, we children had to come up with other things to occupy our time, such as playing outside.
We spent hours playing hide & seek, tag, red Rosie or Simon says. We had the makings of future chefs, with our mud pie creations. We caught fireflies, searched for four-leaved clovers to make necklaces and filled cans with minnows from the creek. My Dad took us on ant-infested picnics, showed me how to skip rocks and taught me the fine art of snipe hunting.
We would sit outside at my Granny’s waiting for the train to go by. The conductor would always throw out the daily newspaper for Granny and a pack of gum or candy for us.
Before we got T.V., I had read every book I could get my hands on. If all else failed we could always play “doctor.” I learned a lot about anatomy. I could probably have enroll in medical school right out of high school.
Quality time spent with family and relatives was the most important aspects of that bygone era.
Friday evenings were “game nights.” My Dad and I would team up against my Mom and brother for endless hours of board games, such as Sorry or Aggravation.
Saturdays were “music day.” We would spend the entire day, unless UK played, taking turns choosing a different album to listen to. My Dad would always pick Bluegrass or Doc Boggs, with his mournful songs of death. Mom would then choose Jazz, Big band or fold music. My brother always wanted country and I preferred Elvis, the Beatles or something more contemporary.
Sundays were almost always “family day.” Aunts, uncles, cousins and an occasional stray would congregate at my Granny’s home for on of those scrumptious meals that only that generation could do. Relatives would visit and then we would play hours and hours of rummy. Sometimes we would visit my aunt and uncle. They lived in an actual bona-fide chicken coop, minus the chickens. They had long since flown the coop for better parts, or at least to the nearest frying pan!
It may have been a simple life but these are memories I will cherish and hold dear in my heart for the rest of my life.
I look at this generation and I see a fast-paced, me oriented, colorized sort of Ozzie and Sharon (Osbourne that is) sort of lifestyle. We don’t look at the person anymore we so put more value on the status symbols such as or name brand clothes, what kind of car they drive and how many bathrooms they have in our homes.
Children today grab a cold Pop-tart on the way to school, They come home to an empty house and are left to their own devices. Meals are often eaten on the run or in their own rooms, with their own T.V.’s. There’s no time to help with or check homework so children are failing in school. They sit their own bedtime hours and now-a-days parents are afraid to punish or discipline their kids. Kids today have way too much and yet still come up with a Christmas list a mile long. Then they don’t need or appreciate what they receive. I have found presents from Christmases long abot, still unused or unwrapped in my children’s rooms.
We put up artificial trees and so hurry to get Christmas over so we can get to our favorite part, the day-after-Christmas sales. We rush out there and kill each other buying more stuff we don’t need. Ask a kid today if they want to ride around and see the lights and see what reaction you get.
Most of this generation doesn’t even know what the outside is. My grandson stares out the windows and looks as if to say, “What is that out there, Nana?”
Kids just sit inside and watch T.V. or play game systems, 24/7. They’ve been dumbed-down so by T.V. that they have no imagination. Most kids don’t read today and they all have cellphones by the time they’re in grade school. They don’t know how to communicate or have an actual one-on-one, eye to eye, conversation with a person. The only way they communicate is by texting or by Facebook or MySpace.
At least they have strong dexterous fingers but they are so lacking in social skills.
True quality family time is almost non-existent these days. With our busy lives our closest relative could live right across the road from us and we would only see them at Christmas or Thanksgiving, if that.
Instead of visiting relatives when they are alive, we hold family gatherings at funerals where we catch up with everyone and talk about how well the relative looks dead!
Parents are working 2 and 3 jobs to try to give their children a better life than they had. But I think we are raising a generation of greedy, materialistic, un-communicative, un-imaginative and lazy individuals.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a parent as “any organism that produces another.” Anything or any can be a “parent.” The more important issue is how do we “parent?”
Till next time…