Days of Yore

I was recently having a conversation with a fellow Baby Boomer, and she began the all-too-familiar story about how she would leave her house in the morning during the summer and show up again when the street lights went on at night. Baby Boomers all tell the same story, even if it isn’t exactly true (at least for me, because even at age 7, I wasn’t about to miss a meal).

Still, the concept of playing outside all day long rings true. I always attributed it to living in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, but this particular friend grew up in the Bronx. Endless summertime outdoor play was a universal truth.

As I watch my grandkids and great grand-nieces and nephews with their technology, and their parents’ nonstop efforts to monitor the usage, I can’t help but compare their free time with mine. What exactly did we do with our time in the summer when we had seemingly endless freedom?

Well, I know we played with our neighborhood friends, many of whom went to St. Bonaventure Elementary School, as did the Gloor kids. We played tag; we played dress-up; we splashed in our little backyard plastic pools; we played with our dolls. Heck, I recall considerable time laying on our backs in the thick green grass of our back yard, chewing on a blade of that grass, looking at the blue sky, trying to make out animal shapes from the ever-changing clouds…..

Three neighborhood buddies swimming in a backyard pool. I’m the bathing beauty in the middle.

Jen’s granddaughter just got an American Girl doll. Kaiya and Mylee both had American Girl dolls. I can’t speak for Lilly, but I don’t think either Kaiya or Mylee spent much time with those dolls, or any other dolls. Kaiya would rather write or draw and Mylee would prefer Legos any day of the week. I don’t recall ever seeing Addie, Dagny or Maggie Faith with a doll either. In fact, the one doll we gave Addie when she was very small was one we purchased on our first cruise to the Caribbean Islands. It was a rag doll, and she took one look at it and literally tossed it over her shoulder in disgust. I’m pretty sure she rolled her two-year-old eyes.

I, however, loved playing with my dolls. I had several Tiny Tears dolls, because I would wear one out. She didn’t talk or walk, but if you gave her a bottle, she cried tears. Or at least was supposed to do so. I loved her, though admittedly, when I look at her now, she seems pretty scary. She can now be purchased on Etsy for a mere $245…..

I remember secret meetings behind our garage with my best neighborhood friend Kathy. She coached me as I wrote Kris+Mike forever with permanent marker on the garage wall. I was in first or second grade. Alas, while the  ink was permanent, Kris and Mike were not, not the least because he never even knew I liked him. Young love.

As I approached what they now call Tweens, my free time was spent shopping with my best school friend. I would walk 15 minutes downtown without a single complaint so that she and I could walk through the stores, thumbing through the hanging clothes, unfolding the shirts and pants, and probably driving the sales ladies insane. Because, of course, we never, ever bought a single thing and they had to fix our mess. At some point in our shopping, we would take the mandatory ride on the only downtown elevator located at Schweser’s Department Store. Our shopping always ended with a couple of fountain Cokes at Woolworth’s or Tooley’s Drug Store.

I don’t know if the Olden Days were any better because POLIO and SCORCHING HOT SLIPPERY SLIDES. Still, I don’t think I would exchange my childhood for my grandkids’ what with their play dates and iPads.

The Season is Upon Us

At some point on Thanksgiving Day, Court said (as I think I have heard him say every Thanksgiving Day since he became an adult), “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s no stress about presents and decorations and outdoor lights. It’s just food and family.”

And as I have every year when he has said it, I silently agreed.

But when and why did Christmas become so stressful?

Oh, who am I kidding? Christmas has always been stressful, at least as long as I have lived. It’s true I didn’t find Christmas terribly stressful when I was a child, but I would bet my mother did. With four children for whom to shop, and having no sisters around to help her prepare Christmas Eve dinner or the Christmas Day turkey dinner, I’m sure she was stressed as well.

And Christmas season at the bakery was incredibly hectic, what with Christmas sugar cookies, candy, and butter braid added to the already busy mix. Now we didn’t just close up the bread bags. We added curly ribbon.

What I do know about my childhood Christmases is that the season started later, and the now-seemingly-unending marketing campaign wasn’t nearly as prevalent back then. And, of course, there wasn’t the Elf-on-the-Shelf to worry about as well. (I wrote about the Elf last year. Trouble-maker. Tattletale. All-around pain the in the behind.)

One of the main differences, I think, is that there is just so much more AVAILABLE these days. When I was little, I had a Tiny Tears doll (who was remarkable because she cried “real” tears after you fed her water in a bottle), a bride doll (who did nothing but sit on my bed as a decoration), and when I was a bit older, a doll that I called my big doll (she was maybe two feet tall) and who accompanied me to the hospital when I had surgery at age 7. I just don’t think there were that many options available.

Nowadays the number of available dolls is nearly endless. I won’t even try to name them all. However, Jen bought her granddaughter Lilly a Baby Alive doll when she was in AZ recently, and it was a complete FAIL. Two-year-old Lilly immediately shoved all of the so-called food into Baby Alive’s mouth, and Baby Alive – whose sole function, I believe, is to poop out that food – didn’t. To Walmart’s credit, they accepted Baby Alive (who by then should have been called Baby Puke because food was coming out of her mouth as opposed to, well, you know) no questions asked. Jen replaced her with a dolly with plastic hair, and Lilly seemed to like her every bit as well.

As is true with almost everything, however, we can make Christmas season as simple or as stressful as we choose. This year as Bill and I put up our Christmas lights outside, I made a decision that next year I was going to forgo the lights in favor of simply setting up angels or a Santa and reindeer that do nothing but sit on my front yard and light up. I won’t like it quite as well (I am embarrassed to tell you just how much I love to see my colored lights on my front bushes), but it will be infinitely easier.

But the real answer, I think, is that we just need to consciously make our holiday simpler. In the past few days, I have mentioned my angel tree that we keep in our living room in front of the window. For years, I also put up a Christmas tree in our family room with all the ornaments I collected over the years. A few years ago, I decided that was too much work because we take down all of our Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve so our house is neutralized before we leave for AZ on Christmas Day. But last year, I decided that I missed those lights in the room in which we actually spend time, so I went out and bought a little tabletop tree. I can put it up myself in about a minute-and-a-half.  It makes me very happy as I put on my favorite ornaments that I’ve collected over the years….


Despite all I’ve said above, I admit that I love all of the festivities surrounding Christmas. I will, therefore, bake Christmas cookies as usual. I will sing along with my Christmas music. And I will enjoy my days with my loved ones. I will just make a bit more of an effort to remember why we celebrate Christmas at all.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.