Memories of a Gen-Xer

custom van Every generation blames the one before…no wait…that’s a song.

Let’s try again:

About every 20 years, another generation is born. Or at least, that’s been the schedule up until couples decided they were making too much money and having too much fun by themselves to have kids. I guess now, a lot of people are waiting 30-35 years, so maybe the generation schedule is widening.

Anyway, what with my decrepitude rearing its ugly head again, I’ve been thinking more about getting old. But not in a morose kinda way, but more in a kinda, “How things have changed” kinda way. A few days ago, some of my more enlightened readers and I discussed a bit how parenting has changed and while there is fodder there for at least a week’s worth of blogs, I’m gonna give it a break for a bit.

So today, I’m offering my Top Five list of things that have changed since I was a child in the 70s and 80s. If you’d like to play along, feel free to offer up your top picks via a comment.

Here Goes! The TOP FIVE Things that Have Changed Since Gen-Xers were kids!


5. Water used to cost .0000143 cents per gallon: Do you remember when you could turn on the Slip n’ Slide in the morning and the only thing that got you off the thing in the afternoon was either dinner, or someone sliding into an anthill, or catching a nipple on a hidden rock? These days, water is so scarce here in the Atlanta area that we can’t even wash our cars. I suspect that in certain demographics, this is causing quite a social uproar. I remember when the big thing was washing your car in the afternoon so you could go cruising for doughnuts chics later that night!

4. There are no quotable movies anymore!: Just this morning I heard part of “Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail” on my Sirius radio. It was the bit about burning witches, “…and so, if the witch weighs as much as a duck…then she must be made of wood!” It got me thinking about how movies today, while visually stunning, lack a certain wit that we all grew up with. I mean, how many different quotes can the average Gen-Xer offer from Star Wars, or CaddyShack or any of the National Lampoon series? Nowadays, the best kids can do is offer, “Lucky” (Napoleon Dynamite) or “Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.” (Ok, that one is actually a GREAT movie, but it was really geared more towards us older folk rather than the kids)

3. Cars suck!: On more than one occasion, I’ve lamented the lack of customized vans today! Oh, do you remember those? We had a blue GMC something or other, with a beautiful airbrushed picture of an old sailboat out on the open sea painted on our van. It had a refrigerator, a huge raised bed in the back (it never occurred to me what that was probably used for when I was a kid), and the BEST! captain’s chairs you ever sat in. Oh, and the windows were tinted so dark, that even if they’d had seat belt laws back then, you could have flaunted them while parading around in your skivvies in the back while driving up I-10! Oh, the good old days!

2. Lack of open space: This is one of those things you hear quite frequently from Gen-X’ers; “When we were kids, mom used to kick us outta the house in the morning and we wouldn’t return till dinner time.” And this was when we were like six years old! Nowadays, if a six year old is seen walking around the neighborhood alone, you can count the minutes before Child Services is knocking on doors trying to figure out who to blame. The problem is not that the kids are out without their parents, its that they are out in plain sight! When we left the house, we disappeared man! We hit the woods, or the drainage tunnels, or the big fields with the massive water ditches. You could stand out on our deck and look out over the back of the neighborhood and all you’d see every now and then is a head pop up out of the sand, or a pine-cone bomb being lobbed towards the enemies’ fort!

And the #1 Change is:

1. Weekend activities expectations: Do you remember what you did on an “average” Saturday? I bet it was something like this:

  •  Get up before 8 a.m.
  •  Eat some cereal while watching some cartoons (but not too   many, “We have things to do young man!”)
  • Do chores for the next hour and a half
  • Eat lunch
  • Maybe go grocery shopping with mom, or get some new shoes. Or maybe dad had you hold the flashlight while he worked on the car, or in the attic or something
  • Free play time till dinner
  • Help mom cook dinner (well, I did this anyway)
  • Maybe watch a movie in front of the TV if dad is feeling magnanimous. A Disney special perhaps, or maybe “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” ( sponsored by: Mutual of Omaha, is people…you can count on, when the going’s rough…)
  • Do the dishes
  • Take a bath/ brush your teeth
  • Off to bed

Nowadays, by 7:30 a.m., my kids are asking, “What are we going to do today?”

What are we going to do? I want to say, “We’re going to catch up on all the daddy chores that we didn’t get done this week because we were too busy working in the day, and playing with you kids at night.” But what really happens is that we parents end up dragging our kids from one activity to the next in a vain attempt at wearing their little butts out so they’ll go to bed early, so that we parents can have a few minutes alone that doesn’t cost $15 p/hour in babysitting fees!

So this was probably waaaay too long of a post, but I hope you at least scanned for the good parts. And I’d love to hear your Top 5 or Top 10 changes. It’d be interesting to compare childhoods!

3 thoughts on “Memories of a Gen-Xer

  1. Cartoons, riding bikes, running through the sprinkler, making forts out of some sheets and the clothesline outside, and good TV on at 7pm we could watch as a family (like M*A*S*H).

    Also, I tagged you for a meme. Ping me tomorrow re: today’s work announcements…

  2. Sweet pic of the shaggin’ wagon at the top of your post.

    You nailed most of what growing up was like for me, too. I would disappear on my bike for hours and could go all over town without having to worry – and without my parents having to worry.

    Our Saturdays were definitely not programmed with outings and day trips. It was chores and yardwork for me. After the yard was done, Dad and I had grocery duty on Saturday afternoons.

    And speaking of vans, my parents bought a Toyota minivan in ’85 that had miniblinds in the back.

    RE: Miniblinds eh? Excellent!
    I’ve tried to find pics of our old van, but haven’t found any.
    My bike was my best friend. I had a black transister radio that used almost zero batteries. I hung it on my handle bars and just dissapeared! Great stuff!

  3. 1. Being dropped off at the city pool for the entire day with just enough money to buy an ice cream cone at the Tastee Freez and chick-o-sticks at the concession stand.
    2. The special treat of having my dad buy me a Mountain Dew and a candybar on a Friday night.
    3. The many adventures of walking/bicycling to school…uphill 5 miles in the rain, of course. (In my case, it was just a mile…and sometimes my mom would pick me up if it was raining hard.)
    4. Afterschool specials on ABC.

    RE: I thought “Tastee Freeze” was a figment of John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s imagination!
    I walked to school for a while too. Can you imagine our kids doing that today? I can only guess at what the other parents would say! Gasp!

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