If I had been in a coma for 2 years and walked in to the grocery store-which would be a feat in itself-I would immediately know August was here along with the impending start of a new school year striking dread in the hearts of teachers and students alike. There are school supplies, supply lists, lunch and snack items scattered in virtually every aisle.
I was surrounded by the first day of school as a kid. Our dad was the high school principal and we usually spent time at the high school during the summer. I don’t know if the school actually needed every single textbook counted but that was the job my little sister and I were tasked with when we spent the day at G.W.H.S., out of Mother’s hair and under Daddy’s feet.
At the start of August, Mother sized our clothes from the previous year. We’d worn flip-flops and shorts all summer long when we weren’t in swimsuits. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, girls did not wear jeans to school. It was dresses only.
With 3 girls of widely varied proportions, she often just took apart and started over with the material. Mother would pick apart the seams on my older sister’s skirt, iron it and then it might be cut it and sewn to serve as the bodice for my new dress and the pockets on my younger sister’s skirt. When there wasn’t sufficient material, we would troop to the dry goods store in Beeville to buy what was lacking. For special occasion dresses, the family would load into the car and drive to Corpus Christi where we got to shop and lunch at Lichtenstein’s. That was high living for the Coleman girls.
There wasn’t a question about the length of time we were going to school: it was 16 years. High school graduation was just a comma, not a period, to our education. That was the reality in our household. Since our parents were the same age as most of our classmates’ grandparents, it still amazes me that they were able to save for 3 girls’ college educations and retirement. Day to day frugality was not deprivation; it was just normal.
Were those the good old days? I certainly have fond memories of them. Would I want to go back to those times? As a woman who feels blessed to have a computer and internet access, I’d have to give that a reserved no.
- As mentioned, I love having a computer and search access. With Google power, I can be a near expert on a multitude of subjects.
- I like medical advancements.
- I love having 159 channels on my TV even if I only watch the same 5-6 channels. I have the power to watch more channels.
- I love color TV’s! Our family was the last family in town, I swear, to get color. And I’ll be the last family in my county to get a flat screen TV if Bob moves in to the 21st century before me.
- It’s great to text people I love who might live in Virginia or around the block especially when I’m in a work meeting and nobody’s looking.
- I love central air conditioning. I know that it existed in the 60’s but we didn’t have it for much of my life and then we had window units. I was in high school before we had a vehicle that wasn’t airconditioned with 4-70. (Four windows open at 70 mph)
- I like guava, mango, kiwi, and papaya which were unheard of in the grocery stores 40 years ago. I am not a vegetarian, but I love easy access to Morningstar products.
- I like lipstick that doesn’t turn orange, mascara that doesn’t flake, and foundation that actually matches my skin.
- I love working in construction. Would I have been able to do that when I was a kid? Maybe, but only as a secretary. When I first started working in construction in the 70’s, NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) had secretaries, clerks, and bookkeepers for the construction contractors in the area. I attended a meeting and was depressed. I went as a guest to a meeting last year and there were women architects, engineers, project managers, and company owners. There were still secretaries (spelled administrative assistants) and bookkeepers, but things have improved.
- I am grateful for environmental controls. You might not hear that often, but I am of the opinion that God gifted us with earth, our island home, and I am thankful when we cherish that gift by taking care of our resources.
- There’s a lot of controversy over the God thing. I am thankful when people are given the freedom to worship or not worship the God of their undertanding. Atheists? Agnostics? God still loves them even if they don’t know it. Will hating them help? Nope, but it might hurt me.
- I am grateful that people who love one another can make a life commitment through marriage even if they are not the traditional Adam and Eve designation. Life is way too short and much too complicated for me to spend energy worrying about other people’s sexual preference.
Do I miss anything about the good old days? There are things that I miss, but those things aren’t things at all. The people. I’d love to be able to hug our mom, be able to smell the mixture of cigarette smoke and Blue Grass perfume on her hair. I’d like to be able to hear our dad’s “Aw, Mawg. Don’t be silly.” There was something wonderful about clean, line dried sheets on the bed in a room with both my sisters close by. There was something just right about believing that the world was good even when we had nuclear attack drills at school. The old days represent the belief that people are generally kind and that parents can fix anything.
Three years ago, Jack moved out of the house and in with his girl friend. I was mad and sad and worried every night, every morning, and all hours in between. It lasted about 5 weeks. He called and asked if I’d come get him. When he got in the car, he slumped down in the seat and said in a quiet voice, “This growing up stuff is hard, Mom.” (“It is that, Jack. Even if you are 50, this growing up stuff is hard.”)