Friday, January 21, 2011

Childhood and Growing Old and Somebody Drives the Zamboni and Dry Skin (coz that never goes away)

I’ve been thinking about childhood and growing old and driving the Zamboni and my inner world has filled up with virtual post-it thoughts and now it’s all turning phrases in the shower and I’ve decided to let them out, write it all down and see where I end up.
The dry skin section is the easy part. I often do my best thinking in the shower (maybe it’s the humidity) and then I need to get it writ down so I sit with my computer and get all pinchy for lack of moisturizer (also the heat’s on here in the north and WOW! I am thinking about dry skin and moisturizer really a lot, I mean I could use an attendant who just follows me around with shea butter but, I digress). This concludes the dry skin portion of our program.
“Note to self: focus.”
-The Tao of the Wonder Pets
I’m not even sure how the childhood and growing old and the Zamboni relate. Well, that’s not completey true, I know how they relate in the stew of post-its that is my thought process (even Arugula sandwiches fit in there- really) I’m just not sure that I can put it in words to paper (yeah, I still think in terms of paper even whilst I tap away at my lap top) in fewer than a squillion. (For the uninitiated squillion is a LOT of words.)
So, to childhood: recently we had a fairly lively discussion around the lunch table at work wherein various members spent no small amount of words and time mourning the passing of the ideal, urban-free, video game-less, safe and always secure, no crime, running through the trees, breathing only clean air, mom and dad at home, “ollie-ollie-oxen-free-oh!”, not worrying about the state of the planet childhood. The childhood they felt everyone should have and (most importantly) that they did, indeed, have. I found myself thinking: “wait-up here I think that a lovely childhood can be had in many different ways and  in many different times”. I also thought that maybe (just maybe) these people have their “hind-sight glasses” set to soft focus and their “what is this world coming to glasses” set to sharp focus.
This is not to say that these people did not have the wonderful childhood they recall and describe. I’m sure they did but that’s the point.  They were children and this was childhood and they are remembering the world in which they lived (and ran laughing and playing at break-neck speed) through the eyes of the children that they were. I’m also fairly certain that part of the wonder of childhood is that one does not really, clearly, see the adult world (in the moment or in memory- how could one? We were kids at the time.)
Thinking about the discussion (as I pondered my own run through the neighborhood, getting sun burnt, climbing trees, and sharing with 7 siblings childhood) I kept asking myself:  “Was life really safer back when? Were we really more secure, younger and carefree?”  I’m not so sure. I’m not saying we were not all those things I’m just not sure it was better. I think it was just, well what it was. We had uglier clothes and a little more space for sure but well was it so very better?
I know we worried. We didn’t worry about pollution (one of the lunch-roomers felt that today’s kids have been confronted with “being green and global warming” and that kids shouldn’t have to be faced with such large issues out of their control. He thought that maybe it robbed them of being kids…well, maybe but…). But maybe not… Us, well we worried about nuclear annihilation. WE DID! How could we not? We had drills in school. We ducked, we covered. We waited for the time the bomb would go off. (I remember wondering, even as a little kid, how the sweater pulled up over my head was gonna protect me if the boiler we were ducking next to blew up. Some kids were so scared that someone always threw up.) and yet we were still pretty carefree little kids coz the bomb was only really a problem during duck and cover. The generation of kids before us probably worried about world war and after us, well, I guess they got oil shortages and over population and these guys- they get global warming, the greenhouse effect and 911.
My point is: “t’was ever thus”.
I went to the census bureau site. Did you know that at the end of the 1920s there were 8.4 homicides per 100,000 people? At the end of the 1940s it was 6.4. In 1959: 4.9; 1969: 7.3; 1979: 9.7; 1989: 8.7, 1999: 5.7 and in 2008 it was 5.8. Did we really grow up in a safer world or do we just have our adult eyes on and read the paper (I don’t know about you but I didn’t much read the paper when was seven)? I guess you’d have to look at your own personal time and decide for your ownself.
So, here we are, at the bottom if not the end. We haven’t covered video games and TV and Orphan Annie on the radio but maybe we don’t need to. I guess (for me, my ownself) I’ve decided that the ideal childhood is not a finite or absolute set of carefree and out-of-doors with no electronics time but rather a combination being loved and taught and tickled and cherished. Whether it’s a woods, or beach or cornfield (poor Mr. Konnitzer, the hold out farmer in our post war suburban sprawl, he didn’t see his cornfield as the hide and seek playground that we did) or a city street or an urban hallway that one hurtles down and through with childish abandon well, that’s just the window dressing to what makes childhood ideal.
This (I’m sure you’ll agree) is way long enough. Aging and the Zamboni driver will just have to wait.

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