My kids think I am old.
They asked me recently, “Mom, were there cars when you were growing up?”
“Yes, there were cars,” I said.
“Oh right, but not seat belts,” they said.
“No, we had seat belts,” I replied, laughing.
“Oh right, but not telephones,” they said.
The list went on, including things like refrigerators, ovens and televisions. They were shocked that we did have all of those things when I was a child, although refrigerators have gotten a lot sleeker, making ice and pouring water and saying hello to you in the morning; and ovens these days can clean themselves and cook two things at once on different temperature. The television I grew up with was a big box with a black and white picture and a knob that changed the channels because there weren’t remote controls.
They think everything was different when I grew up. And sometimes, I agree.
When I was a kid, I came home from school and watched TV until my head hurt, and then I went outside. I rode my bike all over the neighborhood, all alone, and I climbed rocks and trees and rolled around in sweet-smelling grass that was more like hay. Every day seemed long.
Every day it seemed like I had time for TV, time to play outside, hours before bedtime and the same thing to do tomorrow.
In the winter, I got myself bundled up and I went out into the snow. I liked to scoop the frozen crystals into a cup and add sugar and vanilla then eat it with a spoon like it was a snow cone. I loved sledding down the long, steep hill behind my house until it was dark and I was freezing.
I had a lot of freedom, and life was simple. Email didn’t come until later, the internet wasn’t really a part of my life until college, and I was in my late 20s before I ever had a smartphone.
Things have changed even more since my grandmother was born in 1911. That was before Scotch tape was invented in 1930, before non-leaking ballpoint pens were invented in 1935. She was 9 years old before Band-Aids were available, and 60 years old before bar codes were used in grocery stores. Chocolate chips and chocolate chip cookies weren’t even a thing until my grandmother was 20 years old.
If my life was simple, hers must have been unencumbered to the point of difficulty — just imagine, no pens! No chocolate chips! Not to mention a long list of inventions that were meant to make life more convenient. I imagine everyday tasks were a little harder, and took a little longer. I wonder what she would say her childhood was like.
The life my children live, 100 years after my grandmother was born, seems to be accommodated to the point of difficulty. They have pens and chocolate chips and televisions and computers and phones and internet they can hold in their hands. Things are so easy, it’s hard.1 comment on this story
They have car seats and dietary restrictions and limits on how long they should see screens and expectations of how much they should read books. They know more than I did when I was their age. They ask questions I never would have dreamed of, like, “Who are you texting, Mom?” And “Mom, ask Siri what’s the biggest whale in the world.”
Sometimes their questions make me laugh, like yesterday, when my daughter said, “How does the phrase, ‘kick the bucket’ have anything to do with death?”
I didn’t know the answer, but at least it’s something Fleeta, with her Scotch tape and Velcro; I, with my World Wide Web and old school email; and my kids, with their smartphones and Alexa can think about.
Maybe one day, my great-grandchildren, with their robots and flying cars, will ask the same.