Back in my day…
Why that isn’t a complaint but rather an expression of amazement
When I was growing up, my father would often precede some homily or words of wisdom with, “As my father used to say…” I grew to hate that expression, and swore that if I ever had children, I would never use it on my own kids.
That is a promise I have kept for over 6 years.
What they have heard more times than I care to admit is, “You know what your grandfather would say about that?”
But what I hated even more was, “Back when I was your age….” This usually preceded some comment about how I shouldn’t complain about the vagaries of life.
My own version of this — and I always use it humorously, is “You kids today don’t know how lucky you are. Why, when I was your age, we didn’t have MTV or iPods or iPhones or YouTube and streaming videos. No, we had to take drugs and go to concerts!”
When I say, “Back in my day,” I am envious
I bought my first computer a year before IBM introduced the Personal Computer. Back then, the term was a brand name: “the IBM Personal Computer®.” Now it’s a generic term used for any home or office computer.
When I tried to get my 300 baud modem to connect to the University of Alaska’s mainframe, I learned the truth of what the system administrator told me: “The hardest thing you will ever do with two computers is to get them to talk to each other.” After a week of trial and error, I finally succeeded.
Getting our office’s IBM’s and Macintoshes networked involved buying special network cards…and days of work.
Nowadays, your laptop or desktop comes equipped to connect to the Internet automagically. Even that tiny pocket computer — your mobile phone — does it with no trouble at all.
Gone are the days of waiting overnight for a program to be delivered to you. Nowadays, the longest I’ve had to wait for a download to complete is under 5 minutes.
So yeah, I’m envious.
My first computer — a Kaypro 2X — had 64 kilobytes of RAM, and two floppy drives of 390Kb each.
My laptop? 8 Gigabytes of RAM and just over 1 terabyte of hard disk. My external drive has 3 terabytes.
All of this cost me less than that Kaypro.
So year, I’m envious. And amazed.
“When I was your age, we had to walk 7 miles to get to school. Uphill. In the snow. Both ways!”
Nowadays, mom is your school bus.
When I point out something from my past, it isn’t necessarily to show how much better you have it today, and so you’d better quit yer bitchin’. Rather its to express how far we’ve come in so little time.
My grandmother was born before the Wright brothers flew, and she lived to see people walking on the moon. Her ice box was replaced by a refrigerator, and her coal-burning furnace was replaced by an oil-burning central heating system. Even now, I can remember being terrified to go into her basement, because of the dark, frightening hole that used to be the coal bin.
But whenever she reminisced about growing up, it was never to complain but rather to express wonder and amazement about the changes she had seen in her lifetime.
You kids today…
When I say that, I am expressing that same wonder and amazement about things I’ve seen in my own lifetime: our first color television. Our first microwave. Our first automatic dishwasher.
Funny thing about that dishwasher: even though my brothers and I no longer fought over whose turn it was to wash or dry the dishes, we fought about who had to load the dishwasher.
How quickly we forgot.
But the biggest thing I remember from my childhood was that October night when I was 7 years old, and the whole neighborhood stood in the middle of Kingsland Avenue in the Bronx, watching in fear and terror as the Russian satellite — Sputnik I — passed by overhead.
Or at least the adults watched in fear. Me, I thought it was amazing! And while I hadn’t learned the expression yet, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread (another innovation in Grandma’s lifetime).
My stories share many motivations
When I’m writing to younger generations, it’s not out of envy. My stories are meant to convey awe, admiration, sometimes even joy. They’re also a way of communicating to my own daughters and grandsons some of the history of our family.
But mostly, they’re a way of reminding myself that just as Grandma witnessed so many changes in her lifetime, so have I.
And who knows? Maybe my grandsons will look back with the same awe and amazement at the things I’ve seen.
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