Friday, October 26, 2007

The "Good Old Days"

When I was a kid, I would remember sometimes about how old people would talk about "the good old days." You probably know the stories... the ones where they had to walk barefoot in the snow 10 miles uphill (both ways) to get to school. But then again, they could go to the movies for 1 cent and with another penny they could buy a bag of candy or something outrageous like that?

There was a thread today on a bulletin board where people were talking about their version of "the good old days," using real examples that they remembered rather than the 10 miles in the snow uphill exaggeration, that made me think. There have been good old days in my family as well, and it's sad that they are gone. And it has nothing to do with money, or technology, or even safety. It's something that could be recreated today, but is probably gone forever, at least with my generation.

When I was a kid, we used to go to my grandma's house every Sunday. The grownups would sit around and watch 60 minutes, and us cousins would play. They were all there almost every week. All of my grandma's 4 children and their kids. Sometimes we'd ride these Big Wheel tricycles out in her backyard, or play house, or something else. Grandma always had lots of toys at her house (she still does).

Every July, we'd get together to watch boat races. We'd all draw little slips of paper to see who got what boat, and if your boat won you got some money. I remember one year we made homemade ice cream. Another year it was so hot that it was in the 100s and one of our bunnies died.

Every year, we'd go camping in August. Same place every year. The campground started getting popular, so we started showing up on Thursdays to get a good spot. The campground started getting even more popular, and I think we ended up going on Wednesdays toward the end.

Every Christmas, we'd all go to grandma's on Christmas Eve. "Santa Claus" would come and pass out present. One year Santa came drunk and pinched my Aunt's butt, and said "sure is *#*&ing hot in here"... something we still can laugh about. On Christmas day, we'd all get together again to open Christmas stockings and eat.

Obviously, people get old, and families get bigger as the kids grow up and get married. It would be okay if that was the end of the story. But unfortunately, that wasn't what happened. Everything started going downhill about the time I graduated from high school and went off to college.

My cousin got cancer at age 5. He died when he was 7. It really hurt my Uncle deeply. I'm sure that it hurt my Aunt as well, but she could at least still be kind. My Uncle started being sullen at family gatherings, and stopped talking to my mom. Then my mom got mad at him and doesn't like him any more. Uncle said some harsh words to my brother and they got upset with each other as well.

Then a different Aunt got a disease that makes you quite sick and remains with you for the rest of your life. Ended up getting a divorce with another Uncle of mine. That situation deteriorated as well. Now my Aunt is somewhat estranged from her own daughter because she wanted her daughter to choose which parent she liked better, and that's a mess.

Another Uncle of mine has always liked to drink, but it's catching up to him. Sometimes he can't remember what year it is any more. His own son took his food stamps from him one time and was laughing about it with another cousin of mine.

Two of my family members around my age are divorcing.

Since I live far away from my family, I haven't been able to go to our annual camping trip in several years, but I've heard that some people just don't show up any more. Those that do show up often fight, because half of them don't like each other any more.

It makes me so sad to see what has happened to my family. I still get along with all of them when I come up to visit, even though many of them don't get along with each other. I love them all. Since I live far away from all this, I have pretty much avoided the drama, and perhaps the days when we all used to get together and go camping, hanging around the campfire together, going hiking together... perhaps they seem more real to me and not as far off, because that's how everyone was when I moved away to get an education and see the world. A little like when the last time you see a child is when they're an infant, and the next time you see them they're 5 years old, and they seem to have grown up overnight. It's like that with me, perhaps.

I hear about the breakdown of the family, about Satan trying to attack the family, and this is what I think of. A family that used to be so close even 15 years ago, barely cares for each other any more. It's so sad to me. Because my daughter and son will never know how fun it is to have 8 cousins to play with, that we visit weekly.

While the 9-person extended family on my husband's side is pretty close, it's not the same. And perhaps we're the exception rather than the rule.

I miss the good old days at times. Not good old days of black and white TVs and 5 cents a gallon gas (not that I remember any of those days because they were before my time)... but I miss the good old days when my cousins, aunts, and uncles were all close, met together every week, and there was only 1 person out of the whole lot of them that had gotten a divorce.

No comments: