Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nostalgia at the dinner table

Sunday supper is a big deal around here. It's a tradition that's been revived in our family and generally ends in apple crisp or pie of some sort. It's the same thing every week and we don't plan to get anything else accomplished between 3 and 9pm - from coffee and getting supper ready to clearing the table and pouring more coffee. Conversation is always a big part. Things slow down while we sit and enjoy each other's company.

My sister loves to flip through my mother's latest arrivals in the catalogue department. The Sears WishBook has already shown it's face and before the school year has begun! Good gravy. Didn't it sneak onto the porch somewhere in late September, early October when I was a kid? Things move faster and we plan farther and farther ahead. I'm aware that perception of the passage of time is skewed by perspective but the world has ramped up its rotation, as well. Instant gratification rules the world. If you disagree, consider Twitter.... Who has time to keep up with technology? ( By the time I mastered "predictive text" on my cellular telephone, it had been replaced with a qwerty keyboard that slides out. Or a touch screen that should almost be called a "touchy" screen. Sometimes one feels they need to split an atom to come down on the right letter.)

And the rules we knew before change. Things we were taught in school as facts are no longer true. Flipping through the catalogue, my sister discovered a ceiling mounted light fixture shaped like the sun with eight planets "and one dwarf planet" surrounding it in their approximate astronomical positions. "Oh," she sighed, "poor little Pluto..." and my childhood heart sighed along with her.

We grew up in a world in a solar system with nine planets. It was a fact. There was even a clever mnemonic to remember them all and their order. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Kids today - their Very Educated Mothers Just Served Them Nothing!! (They probably grabbed an Easy Mac from the microwave. Their mums might be too busy trying to keep up with the frantic pace of the world that we are grown-ups in.)

There's a t-shirt that I saw somewhere online with a sad little planet-shaped cosmological body on it that reads, "It's okay, Pluto...I'm not a planet, either."

Photo found here.

Kids today won't grow up with the same nostalgic sympathy for Pluto. He'll just be a dog to them. :-(

I had a conversation with my cousin's son a few weeks ago at my aforementioned sister's wedding - another family dinner of sorts... He had a Blackberry in his hands and was deeply engaged in some sort of game. And that's when I broke out the hallmark phrase of relating nostalgia to someone much, much younger. "When I was YOUR age..... we didn't have cell phones. If you were expecting a call, you had to stay home! And there wasn't an easy way to tell if someone called you. None of this caller-ID nonsense...." He looked at me wide-eyed and, since he was clearly enthralled, I continued. "We didn't have remote controls either. I WAS the remote control. We literally TURNED the channel with a little dial. And (the kicker) we only had twelve channels; six of them were snow. " ( I left out the part where I walked to school barefoot eighteen miles uphill both ways....:-)

"Whoa...." he said. He's a sweet kid.

Now we can watch television on the go, downloaded to a cellphone, smaller than an 10-song eight-track cassette, itself holding more music that we could play on a road trip to Grandma's house.

Some things are better than we were kids and I don't miss the black and white Toshiba 6" thick "laptop" that was our first family computer. I don't miss "fixing" VHS cassettes by blowing really hard along the ribbon. I don't miss lugging a carton of tapes and a small fortune in batteries around with my giant walkman. I don't miss the very scratchy, dark pink bandages that left half its glue on your skin (for weeks) while still taking skin with it when it was yanked off your scabby, dirty knee.

But I am really glad that the most important things, like a lazy Sunday family supper, never change.

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