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HOW DID WE SURVIVE??
Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as
we have. As children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or
air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was
always a special treat. Our baby cribs were painted with bright
colored lead based paint. We often chewed on the crib, ingesting
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or
cabinets, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets. We drank
water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would leave
home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back
when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all
day. We played dodge ball and sometimes the ball would really
hurt. We played with toy guns, cowboys and indians, army, cops
and robbers, and used our fingers to simulate guns when the toy
ones or the BB gun was not available.
We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda, but we
were never over weight; we were always outside playing. Little
League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who
didn't, had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students
weren't as smart as others or didn't work hard so they failed a
grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. That
generation produced some of the greatest risk-takers and problem
solvers. We had the freedom, failure, success and responsibility,
and we learned how to deal with it all.
Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake
instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), the term cell
phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager
was the school PA system.
We all took gym, not PE... and risked permanent injury with a
pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having
cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in
light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries but they must have
happened because they tell us how much safer we are now. Flunking
gym was not an option... even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be
much harder than gym. Every year, someone taught the whole school
a lesson by running in the halls with leather soles on linoleum
tile and hitting the wet spot.
How much better off would we be today if we only knew we could
have sued the school system. Speaking of school, we all said
prayers and the pledge (amazing we aren't all brain dead from
that), and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of
negative attention for about the next two weeks. We must have had
horribly damaged psyches. Schools didn't offer14 year olds an
abortion or condoms (we wouldn't have known what either was
anyway) but they did give us a couple of baby aspirin and cough
syrup if we started getting the sniffles. What an archaic health
system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and
I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I
was allowed to be proud of myself. I just can't recall how bored
we were without computers, PlayStation, Nintendo, X-box or 270
digital cable stations. I must be repressing that memory as I try
to rationalize through the denial of the dangers could have
befallen us as we trekked off each day about a mile down the road
to some guy's vacant 20, built forts out of branches and pieces
of plywood, made trails, and fought over who got to be the Lone
What was that property owner thinking, letting us play on that
lot. He should have been locked up for not putting up a fence
around the property, complete with a self-closing gate and an
infrared intruder alarm. Oh yeah... and where was the Benadryl
and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have
been killed! We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left
on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, mom pulled out
the 48 cent bottle of mercurochrome and then we got butt-whooped.
Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose
of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then mom calls the attorney to
sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel
where it was such a threat.
We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either because if we
did, we got butt-whooped (physical abuse) there too... and then
we got butt-whooped again when we got home. Mom invited the door
to door salesman inside for coffee, kids choked down the dust
from the gravel driveway while playing with Tonka trucks
(remember why Tonka trucks were made tough... it wasn't so that
they could take the rough Berber in the family room), and Dad
drove a car with leaded gas.
Our music had to be left inside when we went out to play and I am
sure that I nearly exhausted my imagination a couple of times
when we went on two week vacations. I should probably sue the
folks now for the danger they put us in when we all slept in
campgrounds in the family tent. Summers were spent behind the
push lawnmower and I didn't even know that mowers came with
motors until I was 13 and we got one without an automatic
blade-stop or an auto-drive. How sick were my parents?
Of course my parents weren't the only psychos. I recall John
Davis from next door coming over and doing his tricks on the
front stoop just before he fell off. Little did his mom know that
she could have owned our house. Instead she picked him up and
swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run
amuck. To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been
told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we
possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and
anger management classes? We were obviously so duped by so many
societal ills, that we didn't even notice that the entire country
wasn't taking Prozac!
How did we survive?
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