Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When I Was Your Age...

I'm officially old.  I know this because the other day, I had to explain to my oldest son who Michael Jordan is.  From his 8-year old mindset, Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin are bona fide basketball stars.  Michael Jordan, on the other hand, is the unfortunate owner of the worst team in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats.  That's my son's one and only reference for the man (and he only knows this because he overheard his dad mention it recently.)  He had no idea that once upon a time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Michael Jordan sure could dunk.

But getting back to my original point, I started thinking about how things have changed since I was a kid growing up in the 1980s.  The very fact that I spend mental energy contemplating how different my boys' lives are compared to my childhood is a telltale sign of being old.  Because only old people utter sentences that begin with "When I was your age..."

So, lest I forget, here are 10 childhood memories that my own kids will never experience:

1. Mind-numbing boredom while traveling.  Kids today never have to endure a long flight or car ride without being entertained by at least three electronic devices. Back when I was a kid, I stared out the window and counted Volkswagen beetles.  For hours.

2. Candy cigarettes.  Before the Truth ads made kids equate smoking with a cancer patient talking through a stoma, I remember feeling rather sophisticated while pretending to inhale on a candy cigarette.  It now seems bizarre to sell kids sugar packaged like a tobacco product, but those were the '80s.  Crazy times.

3. Trapper Keepers.  When I was in elementary school, almost everyone carried one of these nifty contraptions to hold class notes, pencils, fruit scented erasers, and a Casio calculator.  All of the above have now been rendered obsolete by any and all products created by Steve Jobs.

4. Crank calling.  Okay, I was bored a lot growing up in the Midwest.  I spent the better part of third grade making crank calls with my best friend to boys in our class.  Of course, that was before everyone had caller ID, which has eliminated the anonymity required for this useless but nonetheless entertaining pastime.   

5. Life-endangering playground equipment. Remember those heavy aluminum seesaws (also called "teeter-totters") that would propel you up and up and then send you crashing down with a thud to the ground below?  Well, if you were born after 1990, you have no idea what I'm talking about because almost every seesaw in America was removed after an explosion of lawsuits in the 1980s.

6. Life-endangering car rides.  Before the mid-1980s, kids were not legally required to ride in car seats or wear seat belts.  So carpooling involved cramming as many kids into the back seat of a station wagon, all of whom were unbuckled and slid like dominoes to one side when the car turned.  Whee!!!

7. Saturday morning cartoons.  Back when there were only three channels, you couldn't wait to get up early on Saturday just to watch television.  No, seriously... it was the highlight of my weekends.

8. Living with limited options.  Remember the "Choose Your Adventure" books?  Innovative at the time, each book allowed readers to decide how the story developed. Of course, we were only given two or three alternatives, a far cry from the complexity of role-playing games today.

9. Lack of culinary sophistication.  Back when I was a kid, we had birthday parties at McDonald's and went "out" to eat at Pizza Hut on special occasions.  Now you can buy sushi at the grocery store and a decent Cobb Salad at Wendy's.
10. Unrestrained wanderlust.  After the school day, all of us "latchkey kids" rode our bikes or walked wherever we pleased without adult supervision.  We often explored the farmland that bordered my neighborhood.  Nowadays, the thought of 9-year old girls wandering into remote cornfields at dusk is plain unnerving.

Hmm... maybe I don't feel that nostalgic after all.

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