I’ve been thinking about doing this blog entry for quite a while and it’s time to finally commit it to paper, er... computer screen.
Just that distinction is actually the crux of what I’m writing about. In the old days (I was born during World War II) we actually wrote or typed letters and put them in the mail. We were perfectly happy when the letters took a couple days or even a week to be delivered. Now, of course, email provides practically instantaneous delivery. Even if we still create a letter to mail via the post office today, we most often compose it on a computer – it’s so easy to spell-check it and make changes, and print it out nice and clean. We don’t have to worry about bad handwriting.
This brings up what I’m writing about – changes in thinking and changes in how we do things as we pass from youth to middle age to old age. Most of this blog relates to my own experience, but some of you may have passed through the same – as my mother called them – “stages.”
When I was a kid up through my thirties, I used to laugh at homeowners who put so much work and energy into maintaining their pristine lawns – lawns that were as well maintained as golf greens. What a waste of time and energy, I thought. They were conforming to some useless standard, I thought. They were trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Now (the big “now”), I actually find pleasure in mowing my lawn and seeing it all neat and even (however, I still don’t see the need for edging). I have an ongoing war against dandelions hiding out in the grass, and I’ve declared victory. I carefully set my automatic sprinkler system to match the weather, making sure I’m watering enough. Once or twice a year I apply fertilizer, and instantly the grass looks greener and healthier. I’ve been known to put out a sign discouraging dog owners from using the lawn as a solid disposal site.
Next example. I can remember when I was a kid, my parents would urge me to stand up straight as we walked to church. “Who cares,” I thought. Now, on my morning walks I consciously work to keep myself walking erect, trying to forestall the bent-over posture that many old folks get (like my father did).
Oh yes, and museums. God, my parents loved museums. When in grade school, my brothers and sisters and I would get dragged to them. Bor-ing, unless the museum displayed airplanes or space capsules. Now, I think I could find myself interested in just about any old museum. I’d go to a museum displaying someone’s matchbook collection, or the history of steam pipe fittings. In fact, I volunteered to serve on a committee of our local historical society to look for some museum space here in town.
Every Sunday when I was a kid, my parents had their noses buried in the Sunday paper. It was their habit, but I wouldn’t touch those fat folds of newsprint with their advertising inserts, except maybe to read the comics. TV and comic books were much more interesting. Now, hey, now I get both the Vacaville Reporter and the Sacramento Bee Sunday papers and I’m an expert at skimming through them. I would really miss my Sunday papers – yes, including the comics.
And eating. Once I left home to go to college, there was no longer anyone to administer food to me. I will give my parents credit for introducing me to many different foods (and I would eat most of them) but there was a point after I came to California where I seemed to subsist on cheap fruit-filled pies – the kind you can probably still buy in wrappers. Those and things like apple fritters. I was young, thin, and never gained any weight. But boy, those fun foods sure made me fart. Now, I’m kind of a health addict and eat pretty well, ‘cause I want to live to be 100. For example, over the years I’ve switched from eating milk chocolate to about the darkest 90%-cocoa chocolate you can find.
After I left home, I moved frequently (I attended five colleges in all). It didn’t bother me much. I was single, didn’t accumulate much paraphernalia, and shared places with roommates. But when I got married in ’80 and we later managed to buy a house, all that began to change. Now I really hate to move. One thing is that now I do have “stuff”: books, a ham radio setup, a garden I’ve invested a lot of time in, photographic archives, diaries, and on and on. I’m very happy to stay right here in the same nice house in Dixon.
There’s one final thing to write about, and perhaps you’ll find it the most interesting.
Growing up in a Scottish-heritage Protestant-religion family where my parents rarely drank alcohol and never swore, I was a pretty straight-laced, shy kid who didn’t even kiss a girl until college. At the first college I attended (a large state university) I was always distracted by all the extracurricular cultural activities. One I visited to try out was called Orchesis, and it offered modern dance. The first night I attended (in my levis, of all things – you wouldn’t find me in tights!) our teacher as an exercise encouraged us to just let go and freely move our bodies, while responding and relating to other girls and guys moving their bodies nearby. Embarrassed and scared out of my wits, I didn’t return for any more Orchesis.
This was at the beginning of the 1960s. As the 60s moved on (and I had moved to California) I did actually loosen up a bit. There was the twist, the dance that anyone could do. I even got to the point where I visited a nude beach or two sans clothing. By the end of the decade, nudity wasn’t a real big deal – to be nude in public was to make a statement about freedom.
Earlier today I was looking through my photo archives from the 1960s and 1970s, working on what will be a Web site of these photos, and found myself self-censoring, avoiding selecting any photos of public nudity from back then. So I had virtually come full-circle, from tight kid, to open in my youth, to back being a tight adult! I decided, what the heck, show some of these photos. Because that’s part of what the 60s were all about.
Yes, things do surely change with time.