Thursday, November 7, 2013

Life As We Know It

     My kids are always asking me about what my life was like growing up, and I think I've figured out why. It is impossible for them to envision my life as a child. To them, it's like a storybook tale, as it would be for anyone trying to envision how things really were before they were born.
     I remember pestering my own parents to talk about their childhoods. My dad, for example, would go to the movies every Saturday and pay a dime to watch B-grade westerns all day. I couldn't imagine paying just ten cents for a movie.
     My mother was raised in a rural home without access to electricity or running water.  She took a bath in a tub that was hand-filled with water hauled from a nearby spring. She used an outhouse, and when her family went to church, they did so using a horse and buggy. It all sounded very pioneering to me. To her, it was just her life.
     My dad's family, meanwhile, had a car. And, while my dad enjoyed the conveniences of living "in town," his house was heated by a coal-burning stove. The sewage from the indoor plumbing went into a cesspool in the back yard. He could read by electric light, but he didn't have a television because those appliances did not come into common use until he was an adult.
     So, even though I get mildly annoyed when my children ask whether cars were invented when I was a kid, I understand their curiosity. The fact is most of things they use daily were not around when I was their age.
     The cars I rode in did not have seat belts, much less car seats. The TV I watched (the only one in the house) was in a big brown box that showed two or three fuzzy black and white channels. I didn't realize then that there would come a day when my perfectly serviceable square TV screen would seem antiquated next to all the cool, high-definition, rectangular displays.
     And I'm pretty sure my kids find it difficult to imagine a world without streaming media or big screen televisions. They have never experienced a situation where they had to look things up in an encyclopedia rather than looking them up on a phone.  They also never knew a time when people didn't carry their phones with them everywhere they went.
     Soon, my kids may not be able to remember broadcast or cable television. We have cut the cord in our house and now watch TV almost exclusively over the Internet.  In that sense, life, as we know it, has changed in a fairly dramatic way. But I don't think the kids even noticed.