A Backward Glance
Over the years, there have been many changes that "modern folks" just would have problems relating to. Only us elders can conjure up these very vivid images. Among the first are our mores. We used to be so prim and proper, it used to make even us sick! Thank heavens, some of these traditions have relaxed but in some instances, we have gone practically to the opposite end of the spectrum. Nowadays, no one even thinks "Easter Bonnet" anymore. We seldom wear hats and gloves to church now - not even the ladies, let alone little kids like in the old days. Now, with some folks, it's more likely to be shorts, tight little miniskirts and halter tops. And grubby sneakers instead of those shiny shoes that some conscientious family member spent all of Saturday polishing. As far as other aspects of "propriety", well, let's just leave that alone, okay?
Moving on, our mode of travel has advanced since the horse and buggy days. We have run the gammit from Model A's and "coupe" cars with "rumble" seats to "club cabs" and big gas-guzzling, road-hugging Lincolns. Now we're down to tiny go-cars and mini vans. The gas guzzlers of today are the super-efficient homes-on-wheels that roam the paved highways from one end of the continent to the other like giant vagabonds, imprinting us with clouds of putrid gases as they rumble on by. We're not house bound anymore either. For the sake of a musical concert, we drive five hundred miles and back as casually as we once went around the block. Instead of inviting the neighbours to ride with us, like we would have done in the old days, we are often back before they even realize we were gone. Even our bicycles have graduated. We don't ride just ordinary bikes anymore - we have "ten-speeds", “mountain bikes” and what-nots. Once a coveted dream for ordinary people, the Harley Davidson and its clones now strike a chord of fear and suspicion in our hearts as they thunder down the highway, especially if there are more than two in the group.
Farmers, too, have come a long way. Instead of the six-horse-drawn equipment, farmers now drive multi-hundred-horsepower tractors and other self-propelled monsters with cabs equipped with quadraphonic radios, earphone head sets, cell phones and portable little gizmos that provide you with TV, voice mail, email, the world wide web and heaven only knows what else, all at a touch of a tiny button. You no longer have to come home from the field to find out that the Yankees lost the World Series or some lunar space shuttle is gyrating out of control in the great beyond.
We used to walk for miles to visit neighbours, friends or relatives and we visited them often. Extended family was important and everyone knew even distant aunts, uncles, and cousins. And we always knew where to find them. No address needed. They lived two miles east of the big barn, one mile north and half a mile up the crooked road that led up that steep hill. People came unexpectedly, informally. It was a general "Ya'll come" invitation that extended to family and friends alike. Now we drive fast cars, communicate via email or IM messages or cell phone called “blackberry” or something else just as exotic, and, if it were not for weddings and funerals, we would never meet our relatives and friends. But thanks to the web cam, I-phones and other hi-tech thingamajigs, we not only can talk to them, we can even see them while we chat, no matter where they are, across the street or across the ocean! No hand-written letters with four-cent stamps. And no long distance fees either no matter when or how long you talk! Like Wow! Our ancestors would die again if they saw that.
Used to be when company came, we went to the hen house, interrupted some poor unsuspecting chicken, and after a guillotine process that would totally phase the modern housewife, there was a full course meal on the table. And that was after starting a fire in the old wood stove from freshly slivered kindling! There always seemed to be time for everything. Nowadays, all too often it's Kraft's macaroni and cheese instead of perogies and sour cream. Truth is, ever since they discovered that the earth rotates around the sun, instead of the other way around, our earth has been gaining momentum and picking up speed and we just adjust our clocks accordingly. No wonder we can never catch up to ourselves!
Our modern technology of freezers and microwave ovens just cannot begin to provide those scrumptious meals that exploded from old clay bake ovens and cast iron wood stoves. We don't appreciate freezers enough, but to many of us, the mere mention of the words "salt pork" is enough to make our jowls cringe. And those school lunches with cranberry jam. Day after day, after day - cranberry jam sandwiches. When we got desperate for a change, we mixed in left-over mashed potatoes and convinced ourselves we were getting a treat. Now the kids get hot soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu and tapioca pudding and they think they are hard done by.
Modern technology has affected our modes of entertainment as well. Before the advent of TV's, Nintendo's, VCR's, CD‘s, DVD’s and MP or IP-things, or other doohickies that attach themselves to our ears and entertain us as we walk, work or drive, people used to make their own music. Every household had at least one member that played one, or several musical instruments: piano, organ, fiddle, guitar, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, dulcimers, banduras or that tiny little mouth harp they called a "drimba" that had that special twang that is probably unequalled in the music world. And people sang! They knew the words by heart - hundreds of songs, lyrics and beautiful melodic arias spewing forth spontaneously without the aid of song sheets - a cappella or accompanied. Many even yodelled! And if you think that was easy, you try it. Getting music from behind a tongue that flapped in your mouth like sheet in the wind could not be an easy task. It truly was a talent and some folks developed it into a fine art. Even the Swiss would be hard pressed to equal the strains of Rudy's "Yodel-el-el-el-el-a-e-oh" when I was growing up.
And Christmas was never complete without the carollers. With hoarfrost on their eyebrows and icicles on their moustaches, they came in - singing their hearts out, eagerly helping themselves to the mountains of festive food and fountains of special spirits that were always home made and home brewed.. Now our carols are piped at us at the malls from the day after Halloween and by Christmas, we are too tired of them to carol – or care - anymore. And chipmunks, reindeer and even Santa just don’t seem to have the same affect that Baby Jesus had in our youth.
Laundry day is not what it used to be either. We don't use Grandma's home-made lye soap anymore and there is no more Oxydol that "transcends" all other whites. We don't get blisters from scrubbing linens on washboards or worse yet from wringing out men's denim overalls. What a blessing our modern hot water taps and automatic washers are! And what woman in her right mind was sorry to see the demise of the "sad iron"? Even our modern irons with fingertip heat control, hissing steam and spewing spray are fast fading into the archives of history with the new "wash and wear" fabrics, some of which look like Bossy the cow mistook them for cud! And let’s not forget clothes dryers either. Remember those rows of solid, white, fleece-lined men's underwear waving in the winter gale like petrified white skeletons suspended from the clothes line? After a couple of days, we took pity on the silly things and gingerly manoeuvred the monsters through cold-blasting gaping doorways to stack them over the couch until Jack Frost released his grip on the ghostly figures and let them wilt into manageable masses. What a Godsend our dryers are now and how did we ever even exist without Hydro???
And how about the “less is more” and that Persian kitten soft bathroom tissue? Maybe Eaton’s catalogues needed to perish in order for us to graduate to some of these modern comforts. Just remembering those midnight dashes to the outhouse in forty below weather sends shivers up the spine. No cushioned seats in those days either! Skin had to be tough to withstand such drastic deviations in temperature. No need for Ex-lax in those days. No body dared to be that frivolous.
We have eliminated some of the old annoyances from the old days too, (though some may argue that we have replaced them with newer and bigger ones). At any rate, we don’t seem to have the flies like we used to have. Remember those awful tacky brown curly strips we used to hang from the ceilings to trap the pests? Who can forget getting their hair tangled into the sticky mess of glue and dead (or sometimes frantically buzzing live) flies? Just one such blunder and you never, ever again, got near enough to repeat the experience - even in the dark! Our modern air pollution must have had at least one commendable effect. Wish it had the same effect on mosquitoes.
There are many positive aspects to our lives now, but we look back fondly at those primitive beginnings from whence we came. We cherish "Yesterday" because it makes us remember and remembering makes us appreciate "Today"!