I looked across the table at my daughter over dinner, and realized that she's 16. I thought about all the simple things in my life that she will never experience. I pondered how the convenience and high technology of the 21st century has sort of robbed our children of the ability to appreciate and be thankful. I figured I would share a few things that crossed my mind.
I miss how my grandpa could provide entertainment for our family simply by taking us for a drive on "Seven Hills Road." No high tech amusement park or virtual reality ride could take the place of THAT kind of fun. It left my stomach in my throat and an ear to ear grin on my face. The old yellow Chrysler with fins on the back was our roller coaster for a few minutes, and there were no hour-long waits to get on.
My mom used to make the most amazing enchiladas. The kind you'll never find in a Chevy's, anywhere... and we didn't have to get a pager and sit in a foyer for an hour to get them.
A console stereo, a big stack of pillows and several vinyl 33 rpm albums were my entertainment on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in the middle, during a Frankie Laine or Elvis record, grandma would sneak in with a glass of iced tea and some cookies and I thought the heavens had opened up. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the rainy days.
Did you ever take a little extra time on a roadtrip and drive the outer road? Some people don't realize that the outer roads of most highways WERE the highways at one time. Those smaller, mostly parallel roads remain so people who lived on them could still get home. I think it's those stretches of blacktopped nostalgia, where the old road wanders away from the interstate, that you'll find the neatest drive. You'll find some old dusty towns out there, some really neat farms and, every now and then, an old gas station, where you once could have had your tank filled with something called "Ethyl," the oil checked and the windshield washed by a guy in a uniform... all for the price of the gas, which was probably about 39 cents a gallon.
I remember cutting wood on weekends to heat our house. We didn't have a forced air furnace or baseboard heaters, we had to constantly stoke the fire. Better or worse, there is NO heat like that of a wood stove... it warms the heart as well as the hands.
And, I remember our weekly ritual of Friday night dinner at Howard Johnson's. It was such a treat to go "out to eat." Grandma would order fried chicken, Grandpa and I would have fried clams... and afterward we'd go to a store called Wild Woody's and see what was new. Today, Woody's has been replaced by Sam's Wholesale Club, where you pay a fee and need a card to enter. Howard Johnson's closed their last few restaurants this year.
Before you paint me as an old timer, understand that I appreciate technology, new roads and central heat. I like my life, I enjoy "today" and I know things change and progress. That's all good.
But sometimes I wish I could go back just for a visit. I wish I could hear Frankie Laine, taste that tea and watch the rain.
"There's a blacktop road, a faded yellow center line... it can take you back to the place, but it can't take you back in time."