My parents were pre-teens when the Great Depression began. Peg & I were born Post-War babies. Kathryn was a product of the 70’s and our Grand Daughter is a product of the 90’s. When she has children, and for the first time it’s a subject she’s actually talking about, they’ll be 20-teens or 20-20’s kids. This little family of mine spans a century and we aren’t a big family. It’s hard to realize the change in human experience that is encapsulated in that passage of time.
I remember stories about my mom growing up. They would make toast for breakfast. You were allowed to put butter or jelly on your toast, but not both — that was “too good.” Butter and jelly were an excess. — and today they are an excess I don’t think a moment about when I do just that — butter my toast and then put jelly on the buttered toast. Yum Oh!
When I was growing up our family weekly food budget for 3 people was $20.00. You could feed a family of three quite adequately for a budget of $20.00. And in those days $5.00 worth of groceries were as much or more than an old fashioned grocery store paper bag could contain. You could arrive back home with four or five large paper bags of groceries with your measly $20.00 budget.
To this day I buy a lot of meat but I don’t often buy steak. It’s usually not “my price.” And that’s something I picked up from my maternal grandmother who went shopping every day for the day’s food and needs. She had “her price” for everything. If she couldn’t buy something at “her price” she didn’t buy it. In a few days the price would alter and she’d snap up what she wanted, but only at her price. No one set “her price” except her — it was an innate thing that defined parameters — it just existed in her brain and there was no changing her; or, it seems me — today. I too seem to have adopted the “my price” philosophy.
The upcoming wedding of our grand kid has had me reeling about the nature of perspective. We all have our own very personal point of view and that’s a good thing. That all of our points of view do not coincide is obvious. What’s a little harder is to be at a point in life when you can actually welcome and be happy in other people’s point of view. Clearly that is something that is not happening today politically — everyone is wrangled about someone else’s point of view being the dominant policy and no one is very happy. The Dems want to move forward the Republicans want to move back — it’s tug this way and tug that way and the country is growing weary of a tug-of-war that has no winner.
But between individual people it’s different. For one thing the only thing holding individuals back is their own sense of values. I think back on my parent’s reaction to Peg & I when we wanted to get married and let me assure you: we did many things our parents — all four of them — did not think were sensible. We did things, went places, bought objects that mystified them; “why do you need that”, or “why are you going there?” The two of us grimaced a little; we probably thought our parents were a little old fashioned, and did it or bought it anyway. I’m sure I have thought similar things to my parents attitudes over decisions made by our daughter and son-in-law; I’m positive I have done so about our granddaughter; but I’m also positive that I look at the changes in life, and the changes between generations as a positive thing — that is life!
On some levels learning to accept the points of view of other people is one of the great challenges of life. And because we all learn differently the experience of coming to terms with differing points of view can be …. let’s just say “challenging.” I remember from my college days there was a professor who had found that there were 16 unique ways of learning. I was befuddled by that because I grew up thinking there were about 4. How he/she could have found 12 more was almost more than I could handle. But what really mattered was that I heard something that disagreed with my point of view and I could accept that he had a legitimate point of view.
I skipped the whole military experience. Soldiers don’t get a lot of ‘choice’ about accepting officer’s points of view. The military has it’s own way of dealing with different points of view.
But employees are faced with accepting the point of view of their boss, and their boss’ boss. And of course there are also the points of view of the customer — which while not always “right” is always the “customer” — a point that is sometimes easy to forget.
And of course all the way through life we keep coming in contact with people who have a different point of view than our own. Learning to not only tolerate them but to appreciate them is a big part of maturity.
Human progress — our progress as a species — depends on the changes that each generation brings to the gene pool. earliest man (or woman) had little idea about individual rights — they were too busy running from man-eating critters and finding food. By the 21st Century most of us aren’t all that concerned with raising and slaughtering our own food — we leave that to specialists in the field. Humanity has changed. But I bet there have been a lot of bumps along the way to where we are today that one generation or another absolutely hated.
I could not be happier for my granddaughter. That does not mean I would do what she is doing. Those two realities are important I think. It seems to me that there are a lot of folks for who those two realities cannot exist side by side.
For one thing I find it more and more important for me to wish well for other people. I want to see them doing well. I crave the knowledge that people are satisfied with their life, that they are making good at the things they want to do. Human experience needs to move forward. By the time I step off this earth I hope that hatred will no longer exist. At the rate we’re going that may not happen, but I’d be delighted if it did. There are a million other improvements we humans could do with — I’d be happy for most all of them.
But at the same time that it’s important for me to wish others well, I think it’s equally important for me to be content being who I am. I don’t have to be someone else to be me. I don’t have to follow them just because they are going in one direction.
Let me use one example. When we married gas prices were about $0.25 per gallon. Today they are hovering around $2.25 — almost 10 times the price. During that time wages have accelerated similarly. Home prices have done likewise. But you know what? My brain is stuck on $0.25. Not literally, I do pay $2.25 for gasoline, but my brain can’t forget that old price. As a result there’s always a bit of bittersweet when I pull into the gas station because I know things were not always thus. However, our first car had not fuel gauge. It was an old VW beetle and it had a valve on the dashboard. When the fuel got low, you flipped the valve and you knew just how many gallons you had left. On one occasion I literally ran out of gas in my own parking spot on the street in front of our house. And there was no trip computer. Or air conditioning. The heating controls were two air valves on the floor and sometimes they got stuck and you either had all heat or no heat — regardless what time of year it might be. The only radio was AM. And the motor was in the back. And it wasn’t all that uncommon to see a VW beetle stopped alongside the road — on fire — because the wires tended to get hot and there were oil and fuel leaks and lots of them burnt up along the highway. I saw them! and it was always a little bit bittersweet…. See — there’s that word again. bittersweet.
Change isn’t easy; it never is. There can be bitter along with the sweet.
The grand kid is having a big wedding. She’s part of a small family marrying into a very large family — a very large family that like to spend time with each other. There will be 5 times as many guests at her wedding as at ours. That’s not good or bad — it’s merely a fact. The logistics baffle me, but it’s just a fact. She’s happy and I’m glad I don’t have to be the groom in that wedding! On their honeymoon they are going to Iceland and France. The combination alone is enough to boggle my mind, and it took us 20 some years to get to France and I’ve never yet been to Iceland. Not that I want to go. Belize maybe. Iceland, not so much. But the point is that life changes. Experiences change. Welcoming them, and being happy about them — those things are important both for us as individuals and for families. It’s good that us older ones can be happy for the younger. And I hope that they in turn are happy for us. But truth be told I suspect in many cases the younger are too busy living to spend a LOT of time thinking about the old — which is the way life probably is supposed to be. Not everyone spent a lot of time with older folks the way I have. And that’s just a quirk of fate that I’m content with.