Category Archives: Nostalgia

Adolescence

From the moment I heard Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind play on Little Rock’s KAAY 1090 AM station in 1967, I was in love. Seriously in love. I was 14 at the time and knew I had seen my future, all wrapped up in the person of Glen Campbell.

I decorated all of my notebooks, my textbooks, and my clipboard with beautifully flowing script lettering: Mrs. Glen Campbell, Mrs. Debbie Campbell, Mrs. Debra Campbell, all written inside hearts.

I don’t remember, but very likely I went around singing: Glen and Debbie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

That memory makes me laugh. But I wasn’t laughing much in 1967. I was young, naïve, and eager to grow up and enter the adult world, though I had no clue how to go about it.

In fact, I didn’t have a clue about most things. Why was I still stick-thin and shapeless when my girlfriends had developed curves? Would I ever pass a driver’s test? What possessed me to sign up for geometry? Would my complexion ever clear up?

Though I was a mostly-A student, I felt ignorant. I suspected that everyone else knew things I didn’t know and they weren’t about to tell me. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, and I didn’t know how to apply makeup. I was plagued with a constant fear that my period would sneak up on me and make its appearance on the back of my skirt.

Nobody understood me. I couldn’t blame them since I didn’t understand me either. Why did there have to be this middle part of life, this being no longer a child but not yet an adult?

My babyhood dream of growing into a beautiful princess dissolved the instant I looked into the mirror. No Prince Charming would claim this spotted-faced girl, even if the glass slipper fit perfectly.

Was I meant to be doing something specific, something significant that would launch me into the grown-up world? If so, I wished someone would tell me what it was.

I survived my adolescent years the same way most people do. I stumbled my way through and got to the other side by the skin of my teeth.

I look at young teens today and wonder if they feel as awkward and unprepared for adulthood as I was.

The kids I see appear comfortable in the skin they are wearing. They go so far as to take selfies in order to preserve memories, for crying out loud! They do not seem self-conscious or fearful of making fools of themselves. In fact, they seem to be enjoying life.

Did people think the same thing about me when I was a teen? Did they assume I was a happy-go-lucky, glad-to-be-me girl enjoying the last of her free-wheeling years before entering adulthood? If they did, they were sorely wrong.

Adolescence was a graceless, humiliating time of life that I thought would never end. It was characterized by embarrassment, uncertainty, and the constant fear of failure.

In fact, I might not have survived adolescence at all had I not held on to one sure and certain fact: I was going to marry Glen Campbell.

 

Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936–August 8, 2017)

What’s the Difference?

Older people like me enjoy talking about when we were kids. We reminisce about playing outside until after dark and paying a nickel for a candy bar. Then often the conversation segues into a lamentation about how those days were better than these days.

Were those days better and if so, why were they better?

I have tried to compare my life as a child of America in the 1950s and ‘60s to the lives of children today. The comparison is not based on any documented research but rather on what I remember to be the facts of then and what I observe to be the facts of now.

I grew up in a rural setting, the oldest of four children, with a mostly stay-at-home mom, and a dad who went to work five or six days a week. We kids went to school just as kids today do, and we went to church three times a week. We rode bikes and played hopscotch, but rarely alone. We played with whatever kids showed up to play.

We had everything we needed and many of the things we wanted.

We had grandparents and aunts and uncles nearby, and any one of them was free to discipline us. We knew personally practically every person who crossed our paths on any given day. We also knew our boundaries and when we were expected home for meals and bedtime.

We watched television on Saturday mornings and on some evenings when it was too dark or too cold to play outside. We also read books, played card games, put together puzzles, and did some household chores.

We got new shoes and coats when we needed them. Clothes were passed around between siblings and cousins, and we thought nothing of it.

When it came to buying or giving us things, our parents’ motto was “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

With the exception of breakfast, which was staggered based on differing schedules, we ate 99% of our meals at home together at the table. We almost never ate at a restaurant.

We were unfamiliar with the term “fast food” and the drive-through window idea had not yet been conceived. The only “drive through” experience we were familiar with was when our Aunt Linda, when learning to drive, drove through our front yard fence.

We had one or at most two vehicles. When we went to church or anywhere else, all six of us rode in the same vehicle. I never had my own car.

In summer, the first thing our mother said after we were dressed and fed in the morning was, “Go outside and play.”

She did not say:

  1. “No electronic devices until after supper.” We had no electronic devices.
  2. “No lying around the house channel surfing.” We had two television channels.
  3. “No hanging out at the mall.” We didn’t know what a mall was.
  4. “No conversations with strangers.” Who was a stranger?
  5. “No spending your money on junk.” We had no money, and the general store sold nothing much except hog feed, groceries, and gas.

Without making any judgments, here are some differences between my world as a child and the world of the typical school-age child today as I perceive it.

  1. Most children do not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living nearby.
  2. Most children cannot safely play outside unsupervised.
  3. Most children have moms and dads who both work or parents who are separated or divorced.
  4. Most children are surrounded by strangers much of the time.
  5. Most children have many electronic toys designed to be played with alone.
  6. Most children have spending money.
  7. Most children don’t go to church. Those who do probably go once a week or less.

Are any of these differences important?

You tell me.