By: Amanda K. Fox
I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter before she flew the coop to start he new life. I admit, I was at a loss for what kind of wisdom I was supposed to impart on her so I rehashed much of what I was told when I was her age and hoped it would resonate on some level. It was a good talk when I got it and it brought back memories of the good old days. I was a little surprised that her response to my “Go grab the world by the horns” pep talk only garnered a response of “Mom, your good old days weren’t all that good and mine don’t look much better.”
Looking back over my life, time has drowned out so many things. Perhaps it is due to my not wanting to remember everything. Maybe life seemed simpler and more local for lack of a better word. Whatever it is, it made me realize that maybe she was right; the good old days weren’t always so cheery and what applied to me when I was 18 may not really apply to her, or anyone that is her age now.
I was raised by parents of the depression era. They lived in a way that prized saving and operated on cash. Credit was something you only really needed for a house in their eyes. They believed in enjoying life, but within their means and excess for the sake of excess was frowned upon. They believed in earning everything. The only entitlements they believed in were the those that concerned the right to work, be compensated for what you did and to be treated decently.
I grew up with my earliest memories being those of tuning in to the TV every night to see and hear things about a bunch of Army men. I didn’t know where Vietnam was then, but I knew most nights my parents seemed pleased by the what they saw or maybe it was really by what they didn’t see. Some nights they were completely depressed by what they did or didn’t see. They talked about it with people I knew of in a way that seemed very normal to me at that time which my daughter could never seem to grasp in the way I did.
There was Jason Da Nang, Tommy Khe Sang, Felix Berlin, Ed Normandy, Steve Midway, Carl Iwo Jima, Bob Normandy and Walt Baatan death march – that one always seemed out of place to me. It wasn’t until I was about eight and finally asked my dad why I sometimes heard people called him “Joe Korea” that many men of those times identified each other by where they fought battles for their country. They never talked about it, but it was a part of their identity and people seemed to hold them in some esteem for it.
There was the gas shortage and Iran hostage crisis. Someone tried to kill the president to impress a girl and another did kill John Lennon just when he was starting to make sense to me. It was the cold war era and we had bomb raid drills in school, which in retrospect would have done little to nothing to save us. We lived in an era where nuclear missiles were pointed everywhere, the Berlin wall was still standing and communism was a threat to not just our happiness but life. Televangelists could heal you every Sunday morning (Seemingly only when the TV cameras were rolling), we were told to “Just say no” not only to drugs but almost everything and there was disease called AIDS that no one understood aside from it killed basically everyone that contracted it.
We grew up hearing of evil and injustices everywhere we turned. There was the famous “line in the sand”, people swearing Cuba was a threat to our national security and there seemed to be only two types of world leaders – the good guys and bad guys. In case we ever got too happy we had singers reminding us that we needed to “Feed the world”, there were kids who were so oppressed and poor they didn’t know it was Christmastime at all and no one was going to play Sun City due to Apartheid issues. They were all good causes, but it seemed like quite a load for a kid to have on their mind. There was so much we HAD to do to change the world and no real power.
Looking back it seems amazing we didn’t all drop from the stress, but it wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t really any different than it is now. Most of the names of the good guys and bad guys have changed and we are friends with nations we held at an arms length then and enemies of others we embraced. Politics is as big a mess as it ever was, but thanks to the Internet and 800 channels on TV we are reminded of it non-stop in great detail.
The good old days were good, to me at least. It doesn’t mean there weren’t terrible things occurring in the world, it just means we lived through them and still had enough of a degree of innocence to not understand how awful some things were. It’s the beauty of youth, the gift actually, because if we did understand the full scope of the horrors the world holds . . .
But we made it. We reveled in seeing King Tut’s sarcophagus on display, the advent of Cable TV and MTV, compact discs, home computers, the Walkman and advances in medicine that made it possible for us to hold onto our loved ones just a little longer. We took pleasure in the good and did what we had to in order to get through the bad the same as our parents and their parent’s before them more generations back than anyone will ever know.
Now when kid number two flies the coop I know what to say – you will survive like I and your grandparents did and thrive if you work hard. Maybe by the time our fourth and final child embarks on his journey to adulthood it will be more inspiring and just as true.
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