“A wonderful friend actually lives up to the fine quote I heard today”, thought I, while watching the televised Memorial Service for our 41st President of the United States: George, Herbert Walker Bush. The quote was recounted by a close, longtime friend of our late president. The past Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney quoted Bush as saying to him:
“There are wooden ships, there are sailing ships, there are ships that sail the sea/But, the best ships are friendships, and may they always be,,,”
This was a moving moment for me. A chord within was struck, and pretty much set the tone for the rest of the service and all the day. Thus, by the time I took off my mental mourning frock, and decided to chin up and cheer up, I was ripe for the inspiration to just write. I don’t know, the sweet words spoken and the triumphant crescendo of song at the end of the ceremony rather fired up my personal engine within.
This is what great words and music do. They instigate. They shake mighty oaks and can even move mountains on rare occasion — figuratively speaking of course. But, today, my true blue friend sent me pictures of a child in 1950’s England. What a simpler, more gentle time those photos tell. They are a symbolic view of an era gone by. One picture was of a father crouching down in his garden with his budding brood. The expression on his face, tells how he was quite proud of his offspring.
Still circa mid-century, other photos showed darling little girls dressed and prepared to play in the snow. The pair is outdoors amongst a snowfall that matches their tot-size height. They seem oblivious to the encroaching snowdrifts, ready to embark on unfettered play. But, the one snapshot of my friend when he was a wee laddie blowing bubbles with his bottle of liquid soap and blow ring posed before his lips, harkened me back to those sage words of calm and wisdom. This being a black and white photograph in a sense all its own, requested slow, thoughtful perusal. It also advertised a time of pure childhood. This little guy was quite involved with his bubble making, so much so, that to stop and smile at the camera would have been merely a grandstand. Not an option. This endearing depiction of impeccant childhood caught on camera managed to get me thinking….
We were pretty lucky when we grew up. Lucky because we lived in a somewhat blissful state of innocence. Sure, we knew about bombs, and we even practiced in schools and homes for any real disaster. But, the knowledge wasn’t splashed before us daily. We weren’t constantly reminded by all forms of media, of life’s impending perils — with no escape from it — as it seems to be nowadays.
Maybe everyone feels this way, but, I think our generation (his and mine), is the last to know of the “old ways”…decorum, respect, patience, self-effacement, kindness to others, honesty, do unto others by the Golden Rule, take little-give more, work to the point of thoroughness, listen and learn, don’t ever give up, face fear with bravery, hold no malice toward others, communicate thoughtfully, hold dear what objects you do have and be grateful for them, cheer others whenever possible, ignore rudeness, be an example, polish one’s shoes– no matter how humble those shoes are, seek interest, teach but also learn while teaching, respect the elderly, have reverence, love the little things as well as the enormous, and appreciate the natural world through practice, living, deed, saving and problem-solving.
We know what it’s like to get excited to see a double matinee or to smell dumplings & stew in a pot that has been on slow simmer all afternoon. We know firsthand what it is like to enjoy the comfort of a grandmotherly hug, a warm sofa cushion, and steamy delicious rice pudding. We felt moved when hearing a beautiful hymn emanating from a plain little chapel choir, or felt affirmation as we witnessed the combined reaction of an eyebrow with the smirk of a smile, when our parents opened our report card to see our good marks. (And it was a little cardstock card!) Just the expression made us feel special, because we knew we had pleased our mother and father. As young tots peering in the window, how amazed we could be by the glisten on the furry hair tips of a black fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar crawling on a windowsill. This is because we were taught to hold preciously things both great and small; best of all, those from family. Yes, pictures of an era gone by are a wonderful testament to a time quaint to the core, but deeply affecting.
We are the generation of The Beatles, Elvis, The Beach Boys, Dave Clark Five, The Hornets, The Rolling Stones. The Moodies, Mitch Miller, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Petula Clark, The Supremes, Lawrence Welk, Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops (for me anyway, not sure England knew about them), Burt Bacharach, Sonny and Cher, Streisand, Beverly Sills, Liberace etc. Too many to name…but our young ears grew up in a “garden of sound”.
First, we learned the budding singular notes. Then we noticed how the chords trellised across interlocking latticework creating musical patterns that grew the melodies we heard into diverse offshoots; sprouting motifs new. Once familiar with these tunes, our hearts and minds could tarry awhile in mental recline on a figurative rich carpeted tapestry design “colored in” with music! It seems to me that both our households immersed us in music of many forms and this paved the way to an enriched lifetime.
I think we were fortunate to be brought up with variety and open-mindedness. I know, in 1979, as a starting out teacher, I didn’t need to “get on the multiculturalism band wagon”, I already had an affinity to any fine music, from wherever it hailed and the countries/peoples that claimed their style. Is it any wonder why he, his wife, his siblings, and myself, as well, are only too happy to have a listen to a balalaika, a sitar, a mandolin, a harpsichord, and pealing cathedral bells? I don’t see this same level of interest in the generations after us. They seem too busy defending their own cultures, taking their own corner, preparing for the next “dukes up” moment.
We didn’t grown up that way. We grew up paying homage to history, tradition and custom. We grew up swallowing pride in order to make peace and let others be wrong, especially if in truth it was something petty or trivial in the vast scheme of things.
We grew up knowing duty means dutifulness and that means doing, until done well. We understood why this was important. We embraced hope in our hearts every day, because hope makes might and might makes right and right casts a shine on Good.
Anyway, our generation saw many things. We sent man to the moon, we trolled the depths of the ocean, and we even communed with the gorillas in the jungles to learn more about humanity. Our generation fought and protested wars; but we still gave men and sacrifice. We tackled prejudice with boldfaced determination. We even legislated against it. Our generation embraced the environment and was really the first generation to begin pro-actively taking on environmental concerns. Through education we matured from “Love, Love Me Do”, to “Imagine”. Not too shabby of a metamorphosis, I’d say!
But, all in all, our generation while in our youth, was still allowed to be innocent. Blowing bubbles was a magical joy that I’m afraid today’s kids might not even get a thrill from or just get the chance to even experience. We liked our Etch-a Sketches, our Erector Set building kits, play dough, and our simplistic card games. We found zeal in watching a slinky “crawl” and flip down a flight of stairs, or when we made imprints of the newspaper comics with our Silly Puddy.
Our physical skill commandeered our frisbees and skateboards. It powered us down our streets bicycling with a mission. We made abundant use of hoolah hoops and roller skates.
How fortunate are we to be the first generation to sit before the television. We coveted our transistor radios, harmonicas and kazoos. We loved to dress-up and become gypsies, kings and queens, doctors and drum majors. Our playhouses in our backyards were court houses, general stores and classrooms. We solved “crimes” like Sherlock Holmes did and while engaged in undercover detective sleuthing, we clandestinely utilized our snap-shut pocket binoculars.
When ill, we stayed in bed and painted by number and drew pictures. We wrote in diaries and read books. We cut-out paper dolls and told tales to our stuffed bears. Imaginatively, we hid our plastic horses in under the coverlet caves and made them gallop over rolling hills on our quilts and pillows.
On rainy days we built and hid beneath makeshift blanketed forts. We competed in Chinese Checkers, Parchesi, Clue, Monopoly and let our Ougi Board do the telling. Sometimes we found ourselves devising folded paper riddle tricks, creating scavenger hunts, practicing sewing and knitting.
In sunny weather we climbed trees and held secret clubs up high in our tree house, if we were lucky to have one. We even fashioned tin-can telephones and flew kites high into the wind. The thrill of a bike ride, making a cannonball off the diving board and a jump rope marathon sent our spirits soaring, too. Such was our childhood.!!!
These things are not flashy, fancy or requiring multi-tasking. All were pastimes of action and attentiveness, with an ounce of ingenuity on our part. Some needed imagination and a good listening ear. Others warranted motor control, long-lasting determination and seriousness of industry. But, mostly, they required a 3D world.
Today’s kids receive very little of the above mentioned. Oh sure, their fingering fandango devices have all kinds of digital bells and whistles. But, they experience so much within a touchscreen realm, sending physical reality into the periphery- not to be picked up and held, tasted, felt or smelled. A rose on a tablet is not the rose beckoning the bees on a bush under the beaming sunshine!
Of course there are some young parents who recognize the old-fashioned value. Yet, are there enough? And now with schools all day online–what is to become of explorative play, of dreams begotten by gazing up into the clouds or conjured from a quiet respite on the couch whilst the music enticingly plays on..?
Okay, I didn’t set out to write an essay…just some reactions to such old-time, +10 on the “Richter Scale of Cuteness” photographs.
Glad my friend across the pond comes from the same cloth.