Entries in nostalgia (2)

Tuesday
Dec112018

 GIFTS

 

I can’t remember playing with any special toys.  First of all, we didn’t have a lot of money so I knew better than asking for stuff my parents couldn’t afford, which was most things.  I didn’t care about dolls except for this one I got for Christmas one year that you fed water to from its own little bottle and then squeezed its stomach and the water squirted out of a hole in the doll’s behind.  It became my own special squirt gun. I know now that I was way too annoying, running around the house, filling the doll up with water and then having it pee on everything.  Parents do occasionally make mistakes with toy selections. 

I did like paint by number sets and would occasionally stoop to begging.  I was with my mother and my sister at a Woolworths and my mother was going to let me pick out a paint by number set.  She had this religious picture in mind and I had my heart set on a picture of Superman.  Unfortunately, Superman cost more than Jesus and I was told it was Jesus or a German shepherd.  I didn’t want the dog and I didn’t want Jesus.  I wanted Superman! I stood there holding Superman in my arms and started to wail.  Embarrassed, my sister paid the extra fifty or sixty cents and the four of us left the building. Up. Up and away!

Since there was a limit on the number of these sets available, I eventually gave in and painted the German shepherd and went on to the Last Supper.  Mom decided that I should give the completed Last Supper to our minister.  Even a little kid like me suspected that he had a closet full of the same picture, but he took it from me with a straight face and my mom was happy.  The German shepherd and a Cocker Spaniel hung on the wall in the dining room, next to two pictures portraying kimono-clad ladies on scenic bridges, horses, pink flamingos, parrots, sailing ships, a lighthouse, a Poodle on black velvet, etc.

Another young passion of mine was putting together plastic models.  I started assembling old-timey cars and planes, never really interested in those of the present which by now would be in that old-timey bracket.  The original Aurora plastic models of Frankenstein and his horror buddies adorned my dresser top and a large dinosaur skeleton which I later gave to my nephew.  That was a total mistake as he stepped on it and broke it beyond repair.  Bet you thought I had forgotten that, George!  I worked my way up to large models of sailing ships with intricate rigging and cannons.  Putting it mildly, our home always smelled of paint thinner and glue.

I was still into model making when Jerry and I became friends in high school and one time I bought him a simple car with just a few pieces to put together and paint.  A few days later, he brought it over to show me.  Most of the body was covered in fingerprints embedded in dried, excess glue and one of the axels had been replaced with a toothpick.  The car was painted all over in one color and he had drawn two heads on the windshield, smiling.  He told me that glue and paint were too dangerous and he would rather stick to scotch tape.  I agreed. 

When buying gifts, remember to stay within the skill-level of the recipient.

Sharon

Tuesday
May012018

Is it Just Me?

I was speaking with a young lady friend of mine over the weekend and during the course of our conversation I mentioned a historical novel that I had just finished reading and how much I had enjoyed it.  After one or two sentences about the book I could see her eyes glassing over and I stopped talking.  She told me that she enjoyed writing, but had no use for reading anything other than school assignments.  I’ve noticed that this is a trend, one that worries me.

              Some kids remark that reading takes too much time; watch the movie and be done with it!  Many years ago another young lady of my acquaintance chose to watch the movie, The Good Earth rather than read the relatively short Pearl S. Buck novel.  She watched the 1937 black and white adaptation starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer and with all the confidence in the world took a test on it the next day in her literature class.  Can you guess what her grade was?  The movie is excellent but she missed out on such a wonderful story bypassing the original work.

                 I grew up on Chicago’s south side.  We didn’t own a car and, for a long time, didn’t have a television.  When we finally got one, there were only two channels available and after a certain hour, no shows were broadcast until the next evening.  This is not a call for sympathy but just stating reality.  We even had a two-party line for our rotary dial desk phone.  The radio was on quite a bit with programming that brought a variety of news and entertainment. As a family, there were those occasions when we actually would discuss a particular show that we had just listened to.

                No, I’m not a nerd but I was an early reader and would read everything I could.  I found some books left in the basement of a house we had moved into and they kick-started my passion for reading.  Of course I played outside, riding my bike and playing catch with my dog, but short winter days and times when staying indoors was a much better idea were perfect for curling up with a story that took me elsewhere.  Speaking of elsewhere, Robin Hood was first read under the covers, aided by a flashlight and I was introduced to Shakespeare sitting on top of a ladder while my father painted the living room walls.          

                My dad would walk me to our neighborhood library which was more than a mile each way.  The library was located in a large park which had ball fields.  He would take me close to the entrance to the library and find a baseball or soccer game to watch.  Keeping a close eye on the big clock on the wall, I knew I was good for an hour or two.

                The library was big, with dark wood on the walls and what seemed to me, miles of bookshelves waiting to be explored.  I would first find books that I wanted to take home – volumes from the Black Stallion series, Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red series and books by Jack London.  I read biographies about people doing extraordinary things with their lives and I even read poetry.  After I had my “take home stack,” I would continue to wander around pulling out books at random just to take a look to maybe consider them for a future trip home with me. 

                At the predetermined time, I checked out my books and walked toward the ball fields to             meet up with my dad.  If a game was still in progress, we sometimes stayed there, he watching the game, me continuing reading.  Eventually we took the long walk back home, my arms hugging the books close.  Today, I continue to wander through our local library, wondering what I’ll find to bring home with me. 

                I worry that so many young people today have lost both their patience and their imagination.  Visual entertainment is thrust upon them 24/7; the world can be seen and “facts” from both reliable and questionable sources, given without them moving out of their chair.   Stories that authors wrote and rewrote until it met with their expectations, sweated over, characters defined… Fast forward and delete are instantly available.  Change and replace… move on.

      Maybe this is just progress, maybe I’m just too old to understand, but when I close my eyes I can still see the Black stallion running down the sandy beach the way I imagined the scene, not the way a movie director filmed it.

Sharon