"These are days you'll remember
Never before and never since
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it
You'll know it's true
That you are blessed and lucky."
What is it about the "good old days" that makes us long for them? I'm not a time lord, so no phone box will allow me to pop off to another era that some say was so much better. Recently, a discussion among some friends (OK, it was Facebook, but all those who commented were real-life people, most from here in town) awoke a bit of a controversy over the good old days, how it was, what is different now, and who's to blame for it all. Sometimes I use a social media post as a kind of journal entry. Then I can go back in a year or so and see what was happening at a particular time. This post wasn't meant to be one of those; it was intended to be funny.
I had taken the very unusual step of pulling my couch out from the wall and cleaning under it. The exact details of everything that was under there should remain unexplained, but it was a treasure trove of spare change, Legos, hair ties and silverware. It was like the mythical graveyard of cutlery. There may have been some bowls too. That is when the wheels came off the Electrolux, and the debate began.
While a few of my friends could relate, in just a few comments it became clear that my habits as a housekeeper and a mother were the cause of all the evils of our modern society. My children and their milk-slopping, Cheerio-chomping, snack-snogging little faces were devoid of manners, and I had let it happen, right under my nose. Sad! Apparently, some of my friends have traveled further along the road of life than I have, and they remembered when mothers stayed at home, served the family meals around a table, and nary a speck of food had ever been near their couches. Well, I remember those days too. I was a little kid in the late 60s, the Mad Men era of little boxes, on the hillside. It wasn't all Dick Van Dyke, tripping over the ottoman while Laura made a roast and Richie was conveniently in his room. There were workaholic fathers who drank too much, and mothers who often smoked like chimneys or nipped at the cooking sherry in the pantry. There was a war on, and it played on the television every night. Citizens were sprayed with fire hoses or pelted with rocks for the vicious crime of trying to vote or go to school. Good times, right?
Maybe it's just a Kelley thing, and I come by lackadaisical food rules the same way I got my red hair and my attitude? Our house did not look like a Ladies' Home Journal spread. My mother was much more Peg Bundy than Laura Petrie, which was probably difficult for her at the time, but she was always a rebel; it was likely deliberate on her part. The one fact most of my friends agreed on though, was that the family has changed. That's because time has marched on and change is necessary. There are blended families, single-parent families, families with two moms, or two dads. Parents work more; social research has shown that. Children are busier, not playing kick the can or tag, but club soccer and lacrosse. There is, sadly, still a war on, and there isn't a day that goes by that the news doesn't show a bombing, a shooting or a violent protest. We all know there are still parents who drink too much or suffer in silence but put on a good face.
What does any of that have to do with my nonexistent vacuuming skills? Nothing. That's the point. While some contended that the previous generation of stay at home mommies and societal expectations was the better way to live, I'm not buying that, not entirely. Rather than looking at a specific decade, we should turn our attention instead to who we are now, rather than who someone else was back in the day. The truth is, our recollections of the past are not always infallible. The brain processes memories every day. There are thousands of minutes and hours of experience, and not everything is retained. We forget because the mind needs to do that to make room for new minutes and hours of what is to come. We can't be fully present in our lives today if we are still looking back at what used to be.
I read somewhere that there is a reason the windshield of a car is usually larger than the rear window. And my father, a member of "The Greatest Generation," always told me "Don't look backward, you're not going that way. Also, you'll fall on your arse." Was this discussion a come to Jesus moment? Am I going to suddenly turn into a hybrid of Martha Stewart and June Cleaver and keep a home worthy of a magazine layout after witnessing my living room landfill? No. Not even close. Are the kids banned from morning cereal on the couch and late-night snacks in the recliner? No. The days gone by hold a lot of sweet memories for me, but they are over. These are the days, and despite it all, we are blessed and lucky.