Even as a toddler, I was pumping the locals for information. No doubt, I wrote it up and reported the news to my cadre of dolls, obediently lined up on our sofa to provide my audience.
AS THEY SAY, “TIME FLIES” — or perhaps, the older I get the more I attract flies. Either way, the past 54 years have truly flown by, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to consider the changes I’ve seen since those early days back in Indiana.
If you’re anywhere near my age, then you’ll surely agree that nearly everything we knew as children is gone, replaced with a less personal, less caring world grown too bright and too busy for Sunday afternoon naps. My mind loves to unfold and review those memories stored so long ago in those innocent 1950s.
During the lazy days of summer, my dad took us (mom and all six garrulous kids) on Sunday drives nearly every weekend. We’d visit my aunts and uncles, join in on picnics, and wander the valleys surrounding our modest two bedroom home (yep — two bedrooms for a family of eight). Dad drove one of those station wagons with the mock wood paneling on the sides. He smelled like Old Spice, and he’d drive a bit quicker over the little hills in the one-lane road — just to hear us squeal with delight as our stomachs flipped.
The Ferguson Clan moved as a herd, six girls and two smiling parents, proud but weary. Mom and Dad stretched a dime to the tensil strength of a dollar, and we giggling girls never realized how poor we really were.
Television replaced radio shortly after I arrived in 1952, so I recall Saturday evenings gathered around a 9-inch screen with hi-fidelity sound watching Frankenstein and The Wolfman turned our squeals to terrified screams. We’d each get one bottle of Coca-Cola, and Fay would pop corn, which we’d devour during commercials.The following Monday afternoons might find me back in front of the ‘scream screen’, munching on a toasted cheese sandwich, watching fifteen minutes of Bugs Bunny before Mom chased me outside where I’d meander the meadows, chasing frogs and pretending to be a princess.
My mother worked off and on, but for the most part, she spent her days with us, and I learned to love watching her sparkling blue eyes. Large families weren’t unusual then, and family reunions often included fifty or more children — a raucous bunch of cousins with tanned legs and empty pockets, running, laughing, and enjoying the feel of rocks beneath our barefeet and dirt beneath our nails.In sickness, in health; in triumphs, in disappointment; through lean days and fat, we drew closer together, and we remain that way still. Our faith roots grew deep within well-tended hearts; no matter what might come, we knew we had God and each other.
Since those days, I’ve watched the American family diminish, not just in size but also in heart. When did this idyllic world change? When did innocence die? Perhaps, it started in the middle 1960s — perhaps on November 22, 1963, when a shadow group assassinated an American president — a blood sacrifice on the 33rd parallel.
Since that ritualistic event, childhoods have been reshaped — and each passing generation has grown smaller and more distant. Families scatter on weekends, coming together on stressed-out weeknights around extracurricular activities rather than home-centered ones.Children have abandoned the playground for the PlayStation. The family cars commute to sterile offices and return their weary drivers to packaged dinners accompanied by mind-numbing, digital television. Gone are the days when the medicine cabinet held only aspirin and cod-liver oil — stocked now to near-bursting with prescriptions for every family member, labeled with familiar names like Ritalin, Lexapro, and Prozac.
In fifty years, America has gone to sleep. We have become a nation of disinterested zombies. Just like in the monster movies that used to frighten me so. However, this monstrous trance-formation has taken place — not on that flickering 9-inch screen — but in widescreen, horizon to horizon, Post-ModernVision.Where will we be in another fifty years? I shudder at the thought, but no matter what horrors society might bring, one thing has not changed — will not change: God. He’s the same today as He was yesterday. He loved us then, He loves us now. He gave us free will, and look what we’ve done with it. The world has all but replaced Him with Science.
What of the post-modern monsters? Need we continue to sleep while the monsters roam? Is it too late? Perhaps not — perhaps, small steps could eventually return us to that bright path of wakefulness — to those days of running feet and dirty fingernails, and honest, innocent laughter.
Start this weekend. Spend time around a puzzle or board game, play a game of catch, then load up the car, and take the family for a drive through the countryside.And be sure to drive fast over those bumps.