Somewhere around the time I was Carson’s age, I realized that my parents weren’t just parents but that they were people. As people, that meant they had a past, that they had experienced youth. The realization was slow in the making– I knew they had siblings, I knew when they were born, I knew that they went to schools. Maybe it was seeing pictures of them as children when it really hit me– they had been young– kids who got dirty, who laughed, who avoided choirs. Most importantly, they were children who had fun, too.
Once I had this epiphany, I loved asking my parents to tell me about their youth. My dad’s stories were the best. He would tell me about making model cars, playing stick ball, and walking to the drug store to get a soda from the fountain. His mother loved baseball. She would pack up all four kids, take the cable car to the old Municipal Stadium, and they would sit in the bleachers for a double-header.
At times, he would share unprovoked. On these days, I felt like he was offering me a piece of himself.
We would be sitting at the kitchen table talking about what we could do for fun, and he would sigh. After a long drag off of his cigarette, he would share with me. “You know when I was your age, I would walk to the neighborhood theater with my friends. On a Saturday afternoon, we could see a feature, a couple of cartoons, get a popcorn and a pop, all for $.75.”
I always felt his eyes twinkled when he told me these stories. Maybe it was because I enjoyed hearing them so much, or maybe because they brought back fond memories. Either way, I loved that I realized that he had been youthful and spry. Ironically, when he told me these stories, he was younger than I am now.
Although I am unsure if my children have really grasped the thought that I was a child who experienced life, I was feeling nostalgic today. My friend Katie and I had a conversation about the landline. Neither one of us is willing to give it up. Is it stubborn to pay this extra expense each month? Maybe. However, I equate the landline with my youth: lying on the floor in my parents’ bedroom, talking on a sea-green Touch-Tone Trimline set. We had three phones in the house. We were so modern!
Ah! The irony of modern society. It can only be modern for a little while. Like my father’s stories that seemed antiquated to me, my own stories are of items and places that are obsolescent. Lucky for me, my youth has traversed the years of out-dated and has entered into the realm of “classic.”
So many of my memories do seem ancient: walking to the local drugstore with the kids from the neighborhood to buy candy (my favorite were candy cigarettes and candy wax bottles), grocery shopping on a Saturday morning with my mom at the Fisher-Fazio’s, eating lunch in the Woolworth Diner, hiding in the racks at Uncle Bill’s. These stores and these memories represent my Days of Yore, times that are seemingly forgotten, except in the memories of people who grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland in the 1970s.
I yearn for the day when my children ask me about my childhood, when they are fascinated by the thought that I myself lived a life before I was a parent. I can’t wait to sit and paint a picture of my youth out of my memories. When they finally do ask, I hope the stories I share stay with them the way my father’s have stayed with me.