There was a time when families gathered together. We sat in living rooms around televisions. We used to watch shows. We watched the classic sitcoms and laughed as if nothing in the world could ever be this funny. We watched shows with actors and actresses. There was no such thing as reality stars. We called reality television “The news.” There was no such thing as reality television. At the most we had a show called Battle of the Network Stars. This aired for the last time in 1979, which I slightly remember.
I remember the times when my Father came home from work. He took his favorite spot on the couch. At best, The Old Man was home early enough to see me before my bedtime. At best, I was able to sit with him as The Old Man ate his dinner that was kept warm for him.
To be clear, I have very little memory of my young life. I don’t remember much of my childhood. However, I do remember the times we spent in the den. I remember the dogs. I remember where my Mother would sit and my Brother and me, the youngest—I remember where I would sit and how this would someday resonate in my mind’s eye.
There was no such thing as social media. There was no Facebook or Twitter. There was no Instagram or cell phones with cameras. There was no texting. Not at all. We used to talk back then. Our versions of new technology were a VCR and Cablevision. At best, we had a microwave. We had cassette tapes to take the place of antiquated 8-track players—and eventually, the cassettes gave way to discs and disc players, which took away the romance of creating mixed-tapes with different songs on them.
As a child, people would talk about the generations before mine; as if theirs came with a different level of dignity.
“You kids don’t know anything!” I remember hearing this.
I remember thinking what it was like to be raised on the cusp of so many changes. I was alive during the use of rotary phones. I remember when push-buttons phones came around. And hell, I remember how big of a deal it was to have a phone in my room. I remember this very well. I remember sleep-overs and blanket forts with my friends. I think about this and wonder if this is something kids do now. Do kids have phones in their room anymore? Why would they if people hardly use land-lines. Everything is cellular now.
I can remember when we had a gas crisis. I remember when The Old Man would complain about gas prices. I remember the cost of a pack of cigarettes was under a $1.00. Beer was cheap too. In fact, I remember the cheaper beers because in my teens, we would scrounge whatever we could to “Be cool” and stand outside one of the local stores. We would ask strangers who looked both young and old enough to see if they would buy booze for us.
I see empty playgrounds. I rarely see kids walking around the town. Or wait, no. I am thinking about a young couple. She was walking by his side. He was walking with an odd, awkward, expression. It was clear he was trying to court her. It was clear that she was his first girlfriend—or at least, I imagined her to be.
I remember when love was young. I remember talking on the phone for hours about nothing. Hell, I remember when Music Television actually played music. There was a different feel about the world. There was a different set of values and principles. And yet, here I am now.
I am certainly older—and as a friend of mine once said; I can understand the value of Velcro shoes. Come to think of it, I never thought I would be a person who yelled, “Hey you kids, get off of my goddamned lawn!” And I’m not saying that I have said this—but I can say that I do understand the sentiment.
As for music; hell, don’t even get me started. There’s no such thing as music anymore. The classics today are the songs that I grew up with—or come to think of it, the classics that I grew up with are considered to be golden oldies now. And I don’t want to be old but yet, I have to think about things like my blood pressure.
They say age is just a number. I suppose it is. I suppose the terms of being an old soul have changed. At least it seems this way. Our rules of interaction have changed. I suppose this is no different from the times when my Old Man would look at me and shake his head. He would tell me that my generation was confused. And I’d say, “That’s because you’re old, Pop.” But this is what kids say. And I get it now—kids are always looking to do something distant from adults.
There are things that I understand and things that baffle me. Let’s take the word “Hello” for example. Ever say hello to a young person in passing. Saying hello is nearly unheard of and as such; this is a greeting that often goes unreturned. Does anyone say hello anymore, or is this just something that us old people do?
Some things are the same though. They have to be. The need to feel. The urge to do something crazy. This has to exist, right?
I wonder what the memories of this generation will be. I wonder what their version of romance is. I say this because now that we live in a time where information is everywhere, I wonder if there is anything left to the imagination. I wonder if the information age is helpful. I wonder if the freedom to roam the internet is a good thing. You can see anything now with a click of a button. We didn’t have it that way. As a matter of fact, I remember how hard it was to be a kid and see my first Playboy magazine. We had to work for our information. These days, information is just a click away.
Maybe I’m just feeling nostalgic. Maybe I’m thinking about the way families used to gather together and watch funny television shows. I can see it now. I can see the den in my childhood home. I can see this exactly as it was. I can see the enormous box in the corner of the room. Keep in mind, there was no such thing as a flat-screens back then. I remember our first remote for the television. By the way, I remember my first computer. It was called a Commodore 64 which was mostly useless. And here I am, decades later, typing on a laptop and pressing send to keep in touch with you. It’s amazing.
Out of curiosity though, I wonder if kids today would think shows like Three’s Company is funny. I wonder how the show All In The Family would do in today’s climate. And M.A.S.H. Or what about Cheers? What about shows like The Facts of Life or Different Strokes? I wonder if shows like this would go over well? But more than anything, I wonder if kids today are fully aware of what they are missing. I wonder if their mind’s eye version of their youth will be as valuable as mine (or yours).
I hope so (for their sake).