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♫Because the "good old days" weren't always good....♫ - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
♫Because the "good old days" weren't always good....♫

I've been more nostalgic than usual here in recent days, and that will continue with some later reflections about today being my late sister's birthday. But there's this meme going round that I just can't get completely behind.  There are regional and even neighborhood variations of it, so I don't understand all the references but can extrapolate to my own experiences. It's coming from people who I like, if not love, and there doesn't seem to be a mean bone in it- or them. But it's what it doesn't say that you have to keep in mind when you start trying to turn back time.

Here's what it says:

I grew up [name of neighborhood in town in state- and I've seen these from all over], during a time when everyone treated each other like family. We went outside to play, we got dirty and we ate whatever our mom cooked....We played Mother May I? Red Light-Green Light, What time is it Mr. Fox, kickball, tetherball, Tag and freeze-tag, rode bikes all over, Roller skated, hide and seek, and played til dark. We played soccer and softball at the school. We weren't AFRAID OF ANYTHING BUT STRAY DOGS (and most of them knew us, and left us alone). If someone had a fight, that's what it was, a fist Fight, then made up the next day. We did pretend to play cops and robbers; cowboys and Indians. We knew where our friends were by where all the bikes were "parked". The street lights were our reminder to "get your butt to the front of the house you lived in so you can hear your mama when she yells your name to come in for the night". School was mandatory and we rode the bus there and back unless we had after school activities. We watched our mouths around our elders because we knew If you DISRESPECTED any grown up, you're gonna get HIT with whatever's close by. Re-post with your block if you're proud that you came from a close knit community and will never forget where you came from!

So, yeah. All of that is true.  I was in a rougher neighborhood where it was "WOLF what time is it?" and we literally played a game called "Kill the Guy," and we climbed to the top of child-eating sets of monkey bars on concrete-padded playgrounds- but we all lived, give or take a stitch here and there.  Also, yes to the interchangeable backyards and communal supervision.  Just be careful about defining it in terms of "close knit community," because that's where the nostalgia starts to break down.

Here's what it doesn't say:

Everyone treated each other like family unless they were different. If some kid was physically disabled, he or she was a "cripple," and if they were developmentally disabled they'd be shouted down constantly as being a "retard." I remember a family coming to our church when I was maybe eight, bringing a daughter into our Sunday School class who had cerebral palsy.  She wanted so hard to belong, to be accepted, to show us she could be one of us- but she was shamed and beaten down with chants of "retard!" that the spineless adult teachers either couldn't stop or just didn't care to. That girl never came back. I remember her name to this very day, because she very proudly wrote it on the blackboard. Thanks to the internet, I now know that she died in 1971, perhaps four years after I watched her being emotionally assaulted by a band of eight-year-old so-called "Christians."

If you had all your functions but you were different in some other way, you'd be out of the club, too.  If you were a boy who couldn't run fast or throw a ball very far or very accurately, you were a "fag." We had gym teachers who openly encouraged this sort of treatment, letting the biggest jocks captain the teams and choose up sides until the fags and the cripples and the retards were left, staring at their own feet, before begrudgingly being assigned to mop-up duty on one side or the other.  I know. I was one of them.

And it goes without saying that every. Single. ONE of the kids in these stories was white, native-born and unaccented-English speaking.  If your skin was even slightly off, or your last name implied a different heritage, you had an epithet waiting for you that you would never shake.  We had one African-American kid in the entire seven years I spent in my elementary school.  I don't need to tell you what the "close knit community" called HIM.

All of that is true, as well.  That is the America that this past week's angry mob in Cleveland wants to go back to.

Was it all bad? Of course not.  I maintain friendships with dozens of people from those years to varying degrees, and have reconnected with others who also remember the good parts.  Almost all of them accept and apologize for the bad.  Nor are the present world's differences necessarily better, either: I despise "participation trophies" and helicopter parenting and any notion that a kid, properly raised and minimally supervised, needs to be programmed and controlled 24 hours a day.  I can tell you this, though: our daughter would never have done, witnessed or tolerated any of the words or actions that I experienced when I was of comparable age back in the "good old days."

So treasure the good memories you have. Just be mindful that treasure, like all valuable things, comes with a price.

2 comments or Leave a comment
oxymoron67 From: oxymoron67 Date: July 24th, 2016 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I was a fat, intellectually-minded, deeply closeted, profoundly un-athletic kid being raised by a single mom in the 70s in a mill town.

I am not going to say that my life was Dickensian, it wasn't, but I was unhappy a good bit of the time. Lots of my my fellow kids had it worse than me, mostly because I would throw down: I've been sharp-toungued my entire life.

For me, it wasn't. My friends... the ones I consider family, all date from college or later.

I see things like what you quoted appear on my Facebook feed, and it's always from someone I grew up with. I just shake my head.
greenquotebook From: greenquotebook Date: July 24th, 2016 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of the best things that James got from our year up north was the experience of a diverse group of friends, where everyone belonged because nobody did. He misses that.
2 comments or Leave a comment