Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat. Our houses and baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!) We slept without flame retardant pajamas, without air conditioning, with doors and windows open. Our dogs did not have rabies shots, distemper shots, parvo shots, and we didn’t pour chemicals on them or on us to repel fleas and ticks and mosquitoes. We followed along in the big white clouds sprayed out by the city trucks to kill mosquitoes breathing in the wonderful smell of DDT. We raced around town without adults on Halloween collecting treats and eating them as we went along without having them x-rayed first.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day.
We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, fried fat back for breakfast along with biscuits made with pure lard, and drank sugar sodas, but we were never overweight… we were always outside playing. We played with cap pistols and toy rifles and rubber knives. We took snakes or frogs or lizards to school, but never guns.
We waded barefoot through muddy water in ditches catching tadpoles and crawdads. We cut the grass with push mowers, climbed trees, and walked along the top of fences like they were tight ropes. We petted stray dogs and cats and took them home to see if we could keep them. We shot off fireworks without supervision or safety precautions and without getting arrested. We made match guns out of clothes pins and shot flaming matches at each other and at passing cars.
We walked or rode our bicycles to and from school in the flaming heat, in the freezing cold, and in the pouring rain. We were not afraid to accept a ride home from a total stranger when it was raining. We knocked on strangers’ doors without fear when we were searching for our missing puppy or kitten. We left our bicycle lying in the middle of the front yard at night, and it would still be there in the morning.
There were tryouts for cheerleader and Little League, and not everyone made the teams. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren’t as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade as many times as necessary. We didn’t wear designer clothes to school or drive shinny new cars to high school. If we had a car to drive, we were happy with anything that would run no matter what it looked like. We had never even heard of seatbelts or airbags, which probably not done any good anyway with ten people packed into a Volkswagen.
That generation produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
And you’re one of them. Congratulations!