Have you ever woken up and wondered how you got to be so old? I’m going to be 58 this year, and although some people say it’s the new 38, that doesn’t change the reality that I’m among the last of the Baby Boomer generation.
Growing up in a middle class American family allowed me to acquire cherished memories of a life that kids today will never appreciate, nor fully understand. Many of the things that shaped our lives in years gone by, are now considered to be the dinosaurs of yesterday. Meanwhile, technology speeds us through life.
Are you old enough to remember the excitement of going to a drive-in movie? Back in the day, we’d get in our jammies, fill the car with pillows and blankets, bring homemade popcorn and drive into a big lot with a huge screen at the front of it. To hear the movie, we’d hang the speaker in the window and excitedly wait for the picture show to begin. But there wasn’t just one movie; we’d see a “double feature”—plus a brand-new cartoon as a prelude! This was when the cost of movie night rarely exceeded $12 and there was money left over!
On summer evenings, I remember going for rides in the family car, cruising along with no particular destination in mind. We’d crank the windows down, and let the wind caress our faces as we watched the world drift by. And of course, we’d stop for ice cream somewhere along the way. We’d arrive home, never concerned that we’d wasted a tank of gas, which was less than a $1 a gallon, or that we’d almost gotten lost at a time when a GPS system was unheard of. Even if we did get turned around on occasion, there was no anxiety; we savored the thrill of discovering a road less traveled.
In the 60’s and 70’s, there were no mobile or smart phones. All we had was a stupid wall phone mounted in the kitchen. It was covered with greasy hand prints and a cord that got so tightly tangled that it never stretched long enough to reach the privacy of a bedroom.
I don’t even have memories of wanting to call anyone until high school. Back then, if I needed privacy, I’d ride my bike to a phone booth with a pocketful of dimes. The phone booth has largely disappeared from our lives. Think fast, where and when did you last see one? I bet you can’t remember, can you?
As a child, I had a fondness for writing. In 1969, when I was 13, all I wanted for Christmas was an electric typewriter. Sure, my family owned a manual one, but having cerebral palsy made it difficult for me to use it. So I was thrilled that year when an electric typewriter appeared under the tree. Back then, it never occurred to me that the typewriter—electric or manual—would ever become extinct. The last typewriter I owned was in 1983. I donated it to Goodwill Industries and subsequently replaced it with a word processor—and then a computer!
Of course, these are only a few of the items that are no longer. There are other things that were equally important in shaping how I grew up, but I’m happy to live without them. I’m talking Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, fruit pies, snowballs, Thomas Guide Maps and transistor radios.
Remember Earth Shoes, Sting Ray bicycles and strapon roller skates? Crackerjack boxes with prizes were actually pretty cool, or lava lamps, which never actually cast enough light in a room to read by, but then who wanted to read when you could space out in a beanbag chair and daydream?
The only high I experienced growing up was from the sugar rush of M&Ms. I would separate the different colors and put them in empty pill bottles, as if they were prescription drugs. But the truth is, I stayed on the straight and narrow, focused on someday becoming an actress and a writer. As I compose this—having exceeded so many of my daydreams—I wonder if I could have accomplished as much if I’d been distracted by today’s constant pursuit of instant gratification. I probably could have, but never with the sweetness and innocence of growing up a Boomer.