A while ago, I wrote about my legacy or, my lack of same. I have been and will continue to write about my life growing up in the middle part of the last century. I will tell you more about my family. My father, my mother and my children and others that have influenced me and cared for me and for whom I have cared.
I can’t remember who said this or even if I’m misquoting or not but, it goes something like this, “We only pass this way but once.”* I’m sure there was more but that was the important line. We only pass this way but once. Think about that if you will. What a huge responsibility that is to place upon mere mortals such as we. I guess if we don’t get it right this time, there are no do-overs. We simply have to accept our failures as we accept our successes. With enough grace and humility to continue on till the end of our time here on earth. All we can hope for is that we will leave this place a little better than when we got here. As it says in the Hippocratic oath, “First of all, do no harm.” You need not be a physician to follow that directive.
In looking back on my youth and comparing it to the youth of today, I feel some what sorry for them. Oh technology is on their side and things are happening at an alarmingly fast pace. But they are missing some of the true wonders that their parents aren’t bothering to even tell them about. Things so simple like a train passing. As I’ve said in more than one of my stories, I would wait for hours just to see a train pass and hear the whistle blow. I could sit for hours on a trestle and watch the water flow under my feet. Like the train, I would wonder where the water was going. What wondrous things would it be passing. What kids feet, down river, would the water flow under next. It was almost Huck Finn-ish. It was simple yet beautiful.
I could lay in a field and look at the sky. Watch the clouds form ships with their cloud sails billowing and changing with the currents. Fields of tall grass waving lazily in the afternoon breeze or skimming stones across a glassy pond. A little like Little House on the Prairie? Maybe so but can you feel the peace in those settings. Can you feel the pace slow, not to a stop but to a pace where everything isn’t just a blur. Where the sights and sounds and smells don’t get all mixed up together into one big mess. And, it is a mess. A terrible, jumbled, crazy, out of control mess.
The youth of today are stuck in technology and yes, I know it is necessary. I know that in order to keep up with tomorrow they have to stay tuned in to today but, at what price? As technology takes a bigger bite of the apple, a little more of the human spirit goes with it. We are slowly but surely becoming ever more reliant on electronic gadgets much more than we are on ourselves and our ability to adapt when things go awry.
We are all guilty of that, myself included but, I still take time to smell the roses, so-to-speak. It’s important that we all take the time. We owe it to ourselves and our children and friends and family. Most of all, we owe it to ourselves. We have to work on making ourselves better people not automatons. We have to remember our roots not sweep them under the rug like so much dust on the floor.
I’m not saying that we all need to commune with nature, go hug a tree or hike in the forest. You could go out on your patio or front stoop without your Blackberry or laptop, of course. Turn off your iPod, your stereo or your TV and just listen to your surroundings. The little things you miss everyday by rushing from one perceived crisis to another. The world isn’t going to miss you for a half hour now and then and if you truly think it will, take a whole hour. Prove to yourself that you are really not that indispensable after-all. The world won’t fall apart without you standing guard over it.
I guess I’m luckier than most. I think about my youth like it was yesterday. I enjoy writing about it and sharing it with others. I grew up in a time when people were decent to one another. Yes, there were crooks and criminals then too. No time is ever totally free of that element but the good people stood out over the rest. And, thank God for that.
This was a time when you could leave not only your back door unlocked but your front door as well. You could leave the keys in your car and be pretty darn sure it would be there when you came back. When strangers would go out of their way to help each other and not expect anything in return. When the simple pleasures included picnics and fairs, going to a show on Friday or Saturday nights, taking walks around the neighborhood and talking to those neighbors along the way. If you were to ask yourself, right now, how many of my neighbors do I know? What would your answer be? One, none? I thought so.
Back in the forties, fifties, and most of the sixties, up to about the time of Woodstock in ’69, neighbors wouldn’t let someone who just moved in next door or down the street go one day without someone bringing a welcome to the neighborhood pie or cake. They would make coffee, sit and eat a piece of pie or cake and by the time the coffee was done, they would have a new friend. Wives would meet each other and they would introduce their husband to the neighbors husband and so it would go. Now, we’re to busy for those kinds of niceties. If we can’t text it, twitter it or e-mail it we don’t have time for it at all. A truly sad state of affairs.
I enjoy telling the stories of my youth to you and, hopefully, the youth of today, if they wish to take the time, just so they can see what they missed. I truly want them to be able to live a little of my life and times through my stories, if that is at all possible. The middle of the twentieth century wasn’t that long ago. Remembering fifty years ago is like yesterday to me. Yesterday, however, is like a hundred years in the future. Not nearly as important as what I can remember of yesterday and relate to you.
My life, like everyone’s, is passing at it’s own rate. Counting down to the finish does no good what-so-ever for we know not when the end of our time might be. I can only hope that I can complete my stories for my girls before I’m gone and for anyone else who is curious about what it was like before technology took over. It was a glorious time to grow up. It was my time and now, I want to share it with all of you.
*The actual quote:
“I expect to pass through this world but once,
Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness
I can show to any fellow creature,
Let me do it now.
Let me not defer nor neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again.”
Stephan Grellet (1773-1855)
A Quaker missionary who is generally credited for the quotation.