“Back when I was your age…”

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Now and then my kids like to be regaled with stories from my childhood. They gasp at what they consider my “backwards” youth and I feel like a dinosaur, but its good family fun so I indulge them.

To their disbelief, there was once a time when people didn’t have to wear seatbelts. If this weren’t shocking enough to them, I include that when my mom drove our station wagon, she would fold down the back seat and my brothers and I would just free float around back there. If we wanted our window down we had to roll it manually, which was preferable because she and just about every other adult smoked – in the car, at home, in restaurants, while pregnant. We ingested as much second hand smoke as our beloved Jiffy Pop popcorn.

Speaking of cars, our “minivan” was the classic variety with big square picture windows, curtains, a table in the back and a little fridge. There was no built in DVD player though, so car trip entertainment was limited to cards, books, license plate bingo and tormenting siblings by drawing an imaginary line they couldn’t cross (some pleasures stand the test of time.)

Our phones were attached to the wall with a long curly cord and the privacy of a conversation was limited to how far the cord could stretch around the corner. No caller ID and no answering machine made avoiding people you didn’t want to talk to impossible. Our cameras required film which you had to drop off at the Kodak photo hut in town. It was always a mystery what your pictures might turn out like since you couldn’t see them instantly, which made getting them back (a week later) kind of exciting.

No microwaves meant Mom had to wait for the oven to heat up or water to boil to make dinner – which we all ate together. Whole families often shared one bathroom. Only kids with really crooked teeth got braces. Nobody wore a helmet when they rode a bike, cartoons could only be watched on Saturday morning and nothing was open on Sunday.

These conversations are always a source of surprise and fascination for my kids – and remind me how different their own day to day life is. Of course, grandparents’ stories are even more entertaining, which usually follow a theme like walking barefoot in the snow to get to and from school (uphill both ways.)

I wonder what stories my kids will tell about their youth to amaze their children. It will be fun to hear their perspective. For now, my daughter’s shock when I tell her I got paid one dollar an hour to babysit is enough amusement for me.

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