Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Boredom

Next week, the kids here will get out of school for their summer break and I can hardly wait.

Actually, that is a lie I'm telling you there as I'm saying that in my most sarcastic, cynical tone of voice.


Easy! Because that means for the next three months a certain 17-year-old will camp either on the couch or I will have to fight her and Mandy too just for a crack at the computer to read my favorite blogs, check my e-mail and write a post now and then.

I should be used to this by now after seven years since she came to live here with her Dad when he and Mandy got married.

But it has always been something that really never ceases to amaze me and not just with her, but it seems to be a common thing with all kids these days.

How times have changed since my kids were growing and and even more so than since -back in those old dark ages they keep reminding me that has to be when I grew up.

But you know, from even before I started school, my neighbor's daughter and my lifelong friend and I were turned loose by our mothers to go out and play in the yard, unsupervised, no less!

Shocking news I suppose to many of today's parents who schedule play dates for their children now. Now there's a term my Mom would never have had a part of her vocabulary to be used for me!

I scheduled my own play dates from the time I was about five years old by simply asking "May I go outside and play?" Or, if I wanted permission to go beyond our yard -to the neighbors' place, my request would have been "May I go over to Kate's house?"

By the time I was six or seven, the conversation sometimes went "I'm going over to Kate's" if in fact I even bothered to tell her that, much less asking permission to go there.

Yeah, life was a whole lot different "back in the day" as I knew it.

Even the things we did -besides the traditional girl stuff like playing with dolls or scrounging old dresses that we knew our mothers never wore any more and playing "dress-up" in those rags.

We rode bicycles all over town -venturing a bit further with the bikes each passing year. We threw blankets on the ground and gathered a group of kids and played cards or sometimes, Monopoly or some other type of board game one of us might have had then.

Or, we drew lines on the sidewalks with chalk or simply drew the outline in the dirt on the path between our houses for some good old-fashioned games of hopscotch or marbles.

The boys in the neighborhood would often get together and play baseball in the spring and summer and change over to football in the fall. Either that or they were off trekking around in the woods in search of anything they could find that caught their fancy. Sometimes they even walked a couple miles down the road to the nearest trout stream too and enjoyed a little summer fishing.

On really, REALLY hot, steamy days back then, when a nice refreshing swim would be a royal treat, it was nothing for a gang of us to get together and walk to a pond located at a farm located five miles away.

Nowadays though, if it is really hot, the 17-year-old would be more inclined to bug us to drive her and some friends so they could go swimming at the state park a good 12 miles from here. If I were to tell her to walk to the old swimming hole the kids of my generation used for a cooling dip, she'd be giving me a look that would be enough to at least wither me to bits or possibly even kill!

What brought this train of thought on to me tonight was a conversation I had with a guy close to my age on the phone today. We got to talking initially about how things were ever further back in time for our grandparents before they left Sweden and came here and then, how their lives were after they arrived here too. One thing led to another and before you knew it, he and I were talking about how we used to spend our free time in the summer months for our school vacations.

Joking, we both remarked about how hard life had to have been for our ancestors to cause them to leave the homeland, family members, friends and embark out on the ocean blue to find a wonderful life here in the good old USA.

And for most of them it was an improvement over what they had in the "old country" but for a long time after they arrived, you can bet your bottom dollar it wasn't very much better for them here as the majority of them, not speaking or understanding English -or very little at any rate -were relegated to work of the menial, manual labor type.

But those ancestors worked hard -in the case of his and my grandfathers, they trudged every day, into the mines to put in extremely long hours in horrendous and hazardous working conditions and when they came home at night, they worked and worked some more from spring to fall in the large vegetable gardens virtually every family in this village had in their backyards then.

We wondered too how many of those who came here then did so in the belief that the streets and roads in the U.S. were, indeed, all paved with gold. And we had to chuckle over that thought knowing that the roads in here in this village were still muddy messes till probably the 1930's for some and even longer for many other roads in this area. Heck, the road that takes folks down to Peale, the local ghost town about a mile from here, is still dirt, still unpaved!

And our grandmothers sure didn't have it any easier here than they had in the country they left behind either. Drudgery would be a more apt word to describe the conditions in which they performed the work necessary to run their household and to keep their spouses and children fed, clothed and tended to overall.

Carrying water from a well was commonplace. So was having to use the old "outhouse" out back too. An old wringer washing machine was a luxury item as most of the women scrubbed their families clothes clean on a washboard, by hand, using really strong soap they made themselves. All laundry got hung out on the line, regardless of weather conditions -rain or shine, snow, ice, freezing rain -it still got hung on the line to drip until either dry or frozen stiff!

No drip-dry-no-ironing-needed clothing then so everything was ironed but before it was ironed, it had to be sprinkled and then rolled up in a ball and placed in the laundry basket to meet up the next day with the iron and ironing board. I'm betting there are homes today where the occupants have no clue what an iron and ironing board are much less how to use them properly too.

Not only was the water carried into the house but then, it also had to be heated on the old stove -around here that was an old coal cookstove that gave off nice heat in the winter and made for a sweltering place to try to cook the big meals that were served daily to their families too.

And yet, today -what do we say about our lives? Don't we decry out difficult life is and we have no time to do this or that with our families? Don't we complain about how hard it is to keep up with the laundry for our families and yet, all we have to do is head to a machine in the laundry room or basement, raise the cover on a machine, toss clothes and detergent in there and with a flick of a button, the water comes pouring in, the items in the washer are spun around to slosh in the soapy water and then, it drains itself and refills with clean water to rinse the clothes and spins them so the bulk of the water is removed without our even lifting a little finger much less risking getting a finger or even the whole darned hand caught in the vice of the wringer of the old washing machines.

And yet, we think we have a hard life, don't we?

Today, full meals can be prepared and on the table in a half hour's time maybe 45 minutes if it requires a bit more in the way of preparation. And after dinner, many just take the dirty dishes and rinse them and then place them in a dishwasher to let it do that chore for us too! Well, that last part there doesn't yet apply to this household as I tend to be the main "dishwasher" in the family unless Mandy is feeling kind, sweet and generous and decides she'll do that deed some nights. But you better believe it when I tell you the item that is at the very top of her "I want, I need" list is a dishwasher!

So many things that make our lives so much easier than the way our ancestors had to live, the things they had to endure and yes, even for the kids, the games they play today, on the computers, never getting out, getting fresh air, exercise and we wonder why is it our kids may be a tad chunkier at times than we were when we were kids!

Back then, there was no major worries about the amount of food we ate, as long as the family had the ability to have food on the table and enough of it to sate our needs, as a general rule, most of us then ran the extra calories off -either with the games we played that required running -a lot -like "Hide 'n' seek" or "Kick the Can."

And still we cry and complain oh, our lives are so hard today.

Well, I for one, am darned happy I can go to the kitchen and turn on the spigot and get hot or cold water and the same applies for the bathroom and taking a shower or tub bath too. I'm really glad I don't have to fill a big old wash tub and have to share that bath water with other family members too! Aren't you?

So many ways that our lives have changed and yes, I do think it is for the better, overall but the thing is I think we do need to stop grumping about the lack of time we have because we are all so super busy but is it from really DOING something or is it busy because we have decided the only way to live today is to be involved in everything imaginable, running from one place to another but not by using our feet -except to depress the gas pedal!

I would love though to see the kids today have a life filled with more of the activities my friends and I enjoyed those years ago and that they only spent time lolling around in the house when it is raining outside or too cold to venture out or because they are under the weather and not wasting beautiful sunshine, blue skies, nice breeze blowing their hair instead of hot blow dryers and curling irons and practicing yet another fancy up-do hairstyle.

That's the kind of simpler times I could go for, would love to see my grandkids enjoy.

How about you? What di you do for fun when you were growing up compared to what your kids -or grandkids -do today?


Sandee said...

We were outside all day playing. Riding bikes, visiting our friends, playing all day till dinner time. It was a wonderful time. We were all slender too.

My grandkids hate to be outdoors. They want to watch television (can't here because we don't have television) or play video games. Way different than when I was a kid.

You are right about how easy things are now compared to when my grandparents were raising a family.

Have a terrific day. :)

Suldog said...

You got all of it, wrapped up in a neat little ball here, kid. Times were different - and a whole lot better for kids, physically, emotionally, whateverally.

Is there any such thing as a pick-up baseball game anymore, or is there nothing outside of organized leagues? We'd spend the entire summer playing ball, from sun-up to sundown, almost every day. We joined little league at one point, but gave it up after a couple of weeks because in little league we only got to play a couple of games a week. We went back to pick-up and played 30 a week. Nowadays? Eh.

RuneE said...

Things have changed, but then, they always have. You are e bit further down that road than we are at present, but we are following. However, that is not to say that we are unable to control that change. Part of it is up to us. We call it politics.

I know a bit about how Scandinavia was when your grandparents left. I don't really think anyone would like to go back to that time and take it from there. The situation today compared to what it was 100 years ago when the emigrants left is unbelievable.

PS Thank you for the pleasant comment! I look forward to hearing from your former teacher. BTW, if you want more lambs, have a look at Norwegian blog. Don't mind the text - there is not much of it anyhow.

lattégirl said...

I'm not making fun of your use of the word "spigot." No, I'm not.

terri said...

I don't remember being bored too often as a kid in the summer. We played Barbies under the big maple tree in the front yard, splashed in our little wading pool, ran through the sprinkler, rode bikes everwhere... miles away, played baseball or basketball in the alley, or cops & robbers in the neighbors yards...

And if we did complain of boredom, our mom would say, "I can find you something to do. You could vacuum, dust, mop the floor, scrub toilets..." Then we went running, no longer bored.