Monday, March 26, 2007

Then vs. Now

Toxic materials when I was in grade school didn't include mercury, DDT, and many more that I was, naturally, not aware of, being too young to care. A kid named Chris brought a vial of mercury to school one day and we had fun polishing quarters with it and rolling it around in our hands and watching how the blobs came together, sorta like the cop in The Terminator movie. One summer my family went on a vacation and left our dog at home in the care of neighbors. When we returned a week later, the carpet was hopping with fleas, so Dad set-off a DDT bomb in the living room and wiped 'em out. No big deal. The auditorium in my elementary school had an asbestos curtain, the latest, most wonderful innovation to contain an onstage fire. During heavy rain storms our street flooded and all the neighborhood kids would wade through the water and beg drivers to go fast so that we'd be splashed from head to toe. Never entered our minds that we could be struck by lightning or a car. My sibs and I regularly took off on our bikes for parts to be explored. Not once did we encounter a rabid animal or child molester. Our parents made sure we were up to date on our tetanus vaccinations, so no rusty nails nor splinters stopped us on our quests. Life was so free and simple then. The Cold War was something grown-ups discussed and we, school kids learned to deal with by ducking and covering under our desks. Tornadoes were possible, too and we learned to gather in the auditorium and line-up against the wall with the windows; the theory being that if the windows blew in, the broken glass would safely sail over our heads. Television, computers, cellphones, and other electronic devises, most of which I do not understand, have become de rigueur in so many lives. Hardly anyone under the age of 50 even takes a walk without being plugged in to a phone or music that obliterates all other sounds around them. How sad to miss the sound of a baby's giggle, or a mocking bird, or one my favorites -- the sound of wind through trees. My generation may suffer ill-effects from our early years, but I wouldn't trade those years for anything modern life has to offer. Imagination, quiet, enjoying the sweet sap from honeysuckle flowers on a hot, lazy summer afternoon, basking in the shade of a huge elm tree -- now THAT'S the good life!

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