I turned 56 this week. This, once upon a time, was considered a venerable age, especially when life spans 30 years ago were only about 68 years. The average life span in the U.S. is now 78 years. Long enough to see our childhood treasures end up on the shelves of collectible shops. The furniture we jumped up and down on as kids (and got our behinds swatted for it) now grace the shop showroom floors. The toys mom threw away because they were old are now in high demand (gee thanks Mom, that was my first $1.0M you so blithely tossed in the dust bin). My grandparents did not ever get to see this phenomena. My parents are just barely getting to see it. But, its in MY face. Each and every day. Thanks to the popularity of collecting vintage and antique items (and yes, I am a collector too).
Gives pause for thought. About how my generation is the last generation that can possibly bear living witness to the Victorian/Flapper/Hollywood eras. I was lucky enough to know people who lived during those times. I was able, as a young girl, to visit their homes and hear their stories. Some of them were relatives, like my father’s mother who was a Flapper. Or my grandmother’s Aunt who had a home that was filled to the ceiling joists with all things Victorian.
I remember myself as a young child wearing gloves, hats, crinolines and curtseying to my elders. I can remember the adults huddling in dark closets changing the film in their cameras because to do it in the light would ruin the film. I also remember a world before the polio and measles vaccines. My first polio vaccine was given to me in a sugar cube. I was too young to understand the concept but I did know that I loved eating that sugar cube and was excited every time I had to get one! And, yes, I caught all of those diseases like the measles and chicken pox that are pretty much non-existent in this day and age.
My generation is also the last generation that will be able to say things like “we had no computers, no twitter, no facebook”. The only webs we knew about were woven by spiders. At best we can say that we watched the technology revolution take over the world, but, for many of us, we cannot claim to have helped it along. Our telephones had rotary dials and our televisions did not come cable ready. We watched Neil Armstong walk on the moon on television sets that had screens smaller than today’s average computer monitor. Recipes were written out longhand and everyone wrote letters and thank you notes.
My granddaughter, Raven, and I once spent a lazy Sunday afternoon visiting collectible and antique shops. She spied a large black rotary dial telephone and said “Granny, what IS that?!” “That’s a telephone.” “WHAT?! How does it work? Where are the buttons?!”. After ten minutes of explanation and demonstration, she still looked dubiously at that telephone. She just could not grasp the concept. After all, she has no context. All the telephones in her life from the day she was born have been cell phones. Her telephone magically dials the numbers for her and she can use it just about anywhere. She does not have to memorize a telephone number and she is not attached to a wall.
Its the context. You can read all about the past, but unless you have “lived it” you really have no context. Every generation has its own “I remember when” stories and every generation always will. But I believe that my generation is the first generation to have lived long enough to find their childhoods tagged as “vintage” and “collectible” and put on a shelf for a younger generation to buy. Have mercy on us when those items can be tagged “antique”. Many of us will STILL be around.
I will close with one of my most favorite moments with Raven when she was 10 years old. We were watching an old black and white TV series, when Raven turned to me and asked “Granny, when did the world turn color?”. Can you imagine? She was quite serious as she has not known anything other than color television, color photographs, color movies, etc. Seeing my old black and white photographs and watching my old black and white classic movies, why, to her my world must have been horribly dim and gray until someone threw a switch and suddenly we had color!
I could almost hear her thinking, “What a wondrous day that must have been”.