Mar 25 2013

Somehow we survive!

My father never owned a car.  We weren’t the only ones in our neighbourhood who didn’t have one?

Do you remember back to a time before everyone seemed to have a car?

Do you remember when we didn’t wear seatbelts when driving in a car?

My uncle used to pick us up in his old station wagon any time there was a gathering of sorts. The nine in our family and usually a few of his own that he brought for the ride would pack ourselves into the wagon as snug as a bug.  We raced to the sleek wood trimmed vehicle, hollering and fighting for the coveted place- a seat on the floor in the back cargo area. It was there where we rolled around like loose eggs in a box every time the car turned a corner, bouncing our heads off the windows; into each other and occasionally getting rug burn as our faces slid against the carpeted floor.

We had the time of our lives and it never occurred to us that our lives were in danger.  Somehow we all survived.

Remember when air conditioning in a home was almost unheard of.  The wealthier folk had these window units that hummed and dripped in the heat of the summer leaving a cool wet splat on the ground.   The rest of us adjusted to the 102 degree heat, drinking water from the garden hose out back when our mothers told us to stop coming in and out of the house “you’re letting all the bugs in.”  Sometimes if the tap outside was stripped and couldn’t be turned on, we stood under the humming box, letting the droplets trickle down our heads cooling them.

At night, we slept in our beds, on the upper level of the home, fully dressed in our two piece pajama set dripping wet with sweat. I’m certain the temperatures could rise to at least 110 degrees despite having every window and door in the house opened wide.

We never thought about someone breaking in. We never thought about a maniac massacring us in our beds.  We were too hot to care. Night after night, from June till August, we slept with windows and doors unlocked and wide open.

Somehow we all survived.

Remember when we laid in the sun or spent the day at the beach without a smidge of suntan lotion.  In fact, most of us slathered ourselves with baby oil to intensify the tan and more than likely the burn.

SPF ratings?  Never heard of them.

Somehow we survived.

Remember when our dogs ran loose on the street.  They were everyone’s pet.  No one talked about immunizations.  If a dog looked rabid, you didn’t pet him.  If he pooped on your lawn…. well…..you had dog poop on your lawn and you were careful not to step in it. That’s it.

It was grass for crying out loud, not gold.

Remember when we all rode our bikes without helmets or elbow and shin pads.

We fell off our bikes…..a lot. We crashed into each other….sometimes on purpose.  We got bloody knees and bloody noses.

We played road hockey and football, baseball and went ice skating without any protective gear.

Somehow we all survived.

Remember the teeter totter. You don’t see them in public parks anymore.  They were the big iron ones with the faded coloured seats.  One guy always jumped off while you were the one in the air, sending you crashing to the ground, your discs buckling with the impact. But you got up and stupidly enough got back on because your friend promised he wouldn’t do that anymore……which he always did.

And those hot metal slides. You knew it was going to hurt sliding down on a hot summer day wearing your culottes or swim trunks. You did it anyway, making an agonizing descent as pieces of your skin left a steaming trail behind.

Somehow we all survived.

Remember when we all ate peanut butter? And packed it in our lunches? Do you remember anyone in your class ever being allergic to it?

And twinkies?  They were a source of energy and fun nourishment.

How did we survive?

Remember when the kids with ADD were just the fun kids.

Remember when you didn’t pass a grade until you learned the curriculum.

Remember when the best tobogganing stories were the ones where you crashed into the tree. The mild concussion was hardly noticed as you pulled your sled back up to the top of the hill.

Somehow we all survived.

Remember when you barely washed your hands and barely got sick

The dirtiest kid at the end of the day clearly had the most fun.

Remember when you dropped that piece of gum on the ground or that ice cream, and you picked it up, flicked off the stones and dirt and kept eating it.

Or you shared your already chewed gum with your best friend.

Somehow we all survived.

We all had chicken pox, measles, strep throat, the croup, whooping-cough and a bundle of flu and gastro viruses. We pretty much vomited our way through childhood; from the viruses, eating too much Halloween candy in one night or those spinning rides that we couldn’t get enough of.

I vaguely remember some planes flying overhead spraying some type of pesticide in the 70’s. They flew low and were quite loud. We pleaded to go outside during the spray.

Our parents promised “only if you’re good!”

Somehow we all survived.

Remember when you wanted to talk to someone, you talked to them, you didn’t text them.  If it was urgent to speak to them right away, you picked up the one available phone in the house, which was most likely attached to the wall in the kitchen and you had your entire conversation in the presence of your entire family. If you needed privacy, you walked to their house or rode your bike over and yelled their name from outside on the porch until they came to the door.  It was called “calling on someone”.

Remember when you played in the park, with your friends.  There wasn’t a phone for miles. You’re parents didn’t feel the need to check in on you, they were glad that you weren’t underfoot for a few hours.

Aaand….. not once did I see anyone lurking behind the bushes waiting to kidnap us.

My father used to say:” if anyone ever tried to kidnap you kids, they’d bring ya back, you’re too damn loud.”

You always made it home in time for dinner too, like you could sense that the potatoes were boiling and the dinner table set. It was as if you knew by the movement of the trees and position of the sun.  Or because one of your parents was yelling out your name from the front porch calling you back home to eat.  Voices carried.

Remember hide and seek, red light green light, tag, red rover and dodge ball.

Remember when you barely watched any television at all during the day.  Well, maybe Saturday morning cartoons or the Sir Graves’s Ghastly show, if it was raining.

The rest of the time you couldn’t wait to be outside, doing anything even if it was “kick the can” or “don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your ________’s back. “

Remember when you wanted something and your parents said you had to work for it; that they weren’t made of money.

So….you shovelled snow or raked leaves or cut lawns or babysat until the time you could get a job.

And then, most of us were working by the time we were 14 or 15 at whatever job we could get.  And it was hard work.

Somehow we all survived.

Remember when at the end of high school, if you didn’t want to go to College or University, you automatically went looking for a full time job….any job….. It didn’t matter what you did as long as you got paid at the end of the week.

That alone commanded respect and admiration.

We looked for an apartment or got a mortgage with little idea of what we were doing and no long term plan of how we would pay for it. We just assumed that we could and we would.

We didn’t think too far into the future. We were so busy with today that we had little time for the past either.

We bought any form of transportation we could afford, rode bikes or walked.

It didn’t matter how we got there as long as we got there. 

Somehow we all survived.

Our apartments or homes were sparsely furnished with other peoples cast offs.  Old pop crates made for good shelving.

The glasses that filled your cupboard were the promotional ones that you got from some fast food joint or the gas station for filling up your tank.

You were fine with that….and somehow we all survived.

We weren’t as afraid to fall in love.  And we weren’t as afraid of the possibility of getting hurt.

We married young and started family’s way before we were financially comfortable.

And we didn’t worry about whether or not we were ready for the responsibility. It would never have occurred to us that we might not be.  We just went for it!

We weren’t afraid of struggle or not having enough.  How much you started with didn’t hold you back from starting your adult life. You just gathered what was available and began building it.

I don’t remember anyone telling us that we had to be better prepared or we needed to acquire this or that first.

We didn’t know the world of excess so how could we possibly know that what we had on any given day in front of us wasn’t enough.

We knew if we wanted something, we had to work for it. If something was broke, we spent the time trying to fix it or finding someone who could.  If it could no longer be used for what it was intended for, we salvaged what we could from it and tried to find another use for it.

The majority of us started with very little, made a lot of mistakes, struggled through all kinds of things, lived through difficult circumstances and yes, we still survived.

So when did everyone get so scared?

We live in a strange world.  The morning paper can be terrifying; keeping your window open at night can make you feel like you’re living on the edge. We have a steady IV drip of fear administered daily through the media. If you’ve missed the nightly news, you can be sure to hear it word of mouth.

We’re supposed to be afraid of loud noises and loud voices. We’re supposed to be afraid of the dark of night and of the sun.  We’ve been groomed to be afraid of strangers and people from other countries. If that isn’t enough, we’re told   not to discount the dangers lurking in your own neighbourhood, because evil might be living right next door.

We’re supposed to be afraid of eating too much or eating too little.   We’re supposed to be afraid of eating meat, especially if it is smoked or barbequed. Fried food? French fries!  Forget it!

We’re afraid of exercising too little or overexerting ourselves.

We’re afraid of cold temperatures or heat and high humidity.

According to the news, there is danger lurking everywhere, from traffic on the daily commute to global warming; Tsunamis, and floods; super storms and droughts, meteors plummeting to earth and those sneaky sink holes- who knows when and where the next will surface.  There are killer bees, killer whales and killer mosquitoes. Not to mention those killer viruses just waiting on that door knob or your kitchen counter to wipe out the population.

We are afraid that if we don’t wear the right clothes or hang with the right people, our careers and reputation would be on the line. We’re afraid to be alone so we stay in bad situations; we’re afraid no one else will want us. We’re afraid to lead the way, just in case we’re wrong. We’re afraid to speak up and say how we really feel because someone will think we’re weird or won’t like us anymore.

We’re instructed on a daily basis to be on alert, watch your back,  watch what you eat, watch the skies, watch where you’re going, watch what you spend, watch your investments, watch your health and watch what you say.

And we bought into it.

And now it’s being fed to our children.

We bubble wrap them daily, fill their days with carefully monitored and organized activities because it’s much too dangerous to play in the park or ride their bikes down the street.  We’re terrified of hurting their feelings so when they do something wrong, we send them to their rooms where they have their own TV and game system to while away the hours – that’ll teach them.

In this day and age, our children are being raised amidst a culture dominated by fear and anxiety; where negativity is the norm. They receive the message through media and over the dinner table that there is no place that is safe, that they have little future to look forward to, marriages are bound to fall apart, diseases are rampant and that the chance of them getting a job and supporting themselves is slim to none.

And we wonder why they’re so stressed or depressed.

No wonder there is so much anxiety in the world today.

Maybe we all should start telling the truth again…..

…..Because we all know better.

There are plenty of safe places in the world. Otherwise we’d all be dead already.

Of course there is a future to look forward to, it hasn’t been written yet. No one knows what’s going to happen so why predict it would be a bad one. That’s dumb!

Marriages are not bound to fall apart.   Many of them work out quite wonderfully. I’m going to say a majority of them do.

Being married is hard sometimes but you figure it out.

Raising a family is hard sometimes but you figure it out.

Finding a job or paying your bills is hard sometimes but you figure it out.

Tough stuff happens in life sometimes but you figure it out.

Mostly you will meet great people. On occasion you get hurt.

Falling out of love or having someone fall out of love with you can feel horrible. It’ll hurt- terribly for as long as it needs to. Eventually it won’t hurt as much and you’ll move on. You might meet some new people. Or you will swear to live a life of celibacy although I doubt it. My point; hurt eventually burns itself out.

Loving is better than not loving.

The majority of people in the world are friendly and kind.

People in general want to help each other.

Most of our neighbours are just like us, wanting safety and comfort and love.

We all have gut instincts built in to steer us away from danger or steer us in a healthier direction. All you have to do is listen to yourself.

Leaving your window open at night doesn’t necessarily mean your life is in danger.  99.9 % of the time, you’ll fall asleep breathing in the summer air and wake up in the morning doing the same.  That’s all.

On occasion you’ll get a virus and cough or vomit whether you sanitized your door knob or counter top or not. In a few days you’ll feel better.

You might get hurt sometimes falling off your bike. That doesn’t mean you stop riding. Stuff just happens sometimes and you’ll survive.

Some days you’ll feel great. Other days you won’t.  Either way, you’ll figure it out.

Sometimes you’ll have money, sometimes you won’t.

There will be beautiful sunny days and there will be stormy days.  Expect both.  That’s just how it goes.

The killer bees are probably not coming.( I’ve been waiting since they announced their trek in my direction since the 70’s.)

Most mosquitoes are going to leave an itchy spot and that’s all.

If you took a stopwatch and timed the “something bad that happened” from the moment it started to the moment it ended- it’s usually a relatively short period of time.  Most times the event is under a couple of minutes.  The time before it happened (the minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months) was generally uneventful and maybe even pleasant. The same goes for the time afterward. We just make the bad thing that happened last longer in our heads.

Try not to worry about stuff before it happens. Most of the stuff you worry about doesn’t happen.

If something significant does happen, you’re never really prepared for it anyway. So enjoy your life and your friends and your family in the meantime.   You will figure out what to do and how to move forward when it happens.

Somehow you’ll survive.

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