Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The electronic age?

Christmas is approaching. All the electronics are flying off the shelves. When I was a kid, Mom and Daddy never gave us electronics for Christmas or birthday gifts. We got books or clothing (practical clothing like coats, sweaters or boots). Toys, like dolls and stuffed animals, were given until we were 10 years old.

I don’t think it would have crossed my parents mind to spend $600 on a electronic game (let alone any game!) In fact, I KNOW it never crossed their minds. Big ticket items were things the household needed, like a new washing machine or a new stove or an air-conditioner. But never, ever toys.

We had 2 tv sets in my childhood home. Both sets were black and white. One lived in the family room. The other lived in my parent’s bedroom. Sure we had fights about what programs to watch. My eldest sister, Susan, loved the watch American Bandstand, while my younger sister, Beth, and I loved to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Sharing that tv taught us how to compromise and work out differences. We either had to work out a schedule or it became Daddy’s choice. In other words, no tv watching at all.

We had 1 record player and 1 stereo. They lived in the family room too. You can imagine the sounds coming out of there: tv set blaring Gilligan’s Island reruns and the record player blaring out Susan’s BeeGees stuff. My parents never understood how we could concentrate with "all that noise". But we did somehow. When I was about 14, Daddy had enough of "all that noise". So he bought a set of headphones for the stereo (I guess he wasn’t a Duran Duran fan!) That reduced "all that noise" somewhat.

That family room lived up to its name. We watched tv, listened to the stereo, did our homework and played board games in there. Daddy and Mom would sit in the family room with us to watch at least 1 hour of prime time tv. Most of the time, they would sit there and shake their heads at our choice of quality tv. Periodically, we had to watch one of their shows. I remember watching "I Claudius" with mom. I didn’t understand half of what I saw, but Mom did her best to explain it. We watched together as a family. I guess my folks were ahead of their time, because they would explain the more adult themes to us. Usually with the admonishment of "that’s not how polite people behave" or "don’t let a boy treat you like that" or "If that ever happens to you, tell us immediately!"

I guess my electronically deficient childhood forced my family to talk and interact. We weren’t locked in our separate rooms, watching separate tv programs or listening to the music alone. To this day, my sisters and I still snicker over something that Daddy or Mom said while watching or listening to whatever. We fondly remember watching them tango in the family room to show us how they used to dance when they were our age. I wonder if kids today will have more memories about their Playstation 3 than about their family members?

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