Thursday, August 12, 2004

Living History

In the last week I have gradually come to realize that Tom and I are at the age where we have lived the history that our kids are learning. I suppose this is only to be expected at our ages (either at that half-century mark or close to it). We have long been used to the wonder that Hannah and Rose expressed in their younger years at finding we didn't grow up with at least one computer at home, VCRs, or (horror of horrors) color TV. *flashback* I remember when every time our family walked my dad to his gate for one of his frequent business trips, he would stop at every TV along the concourse. It was football season. "We've got to get one of those!"

What we're running into now goes way past being able to remember what we were doing when Kennedy was shot or the space shuttle blew up. Those also are fairly stock memories in our house now. This is stuff like watching "Miracle" and having to explain that if the Soviet Union (no, not Russia) had boycotted the Olympic Games in Lake Placid, then none of the Eastern Bloc would have come either (Eastern what?). Listening to Rose explain that flawed blood filtering techniques wound up infecting people with AIDS reminded Tom of when people would stockpile their own blood or refuse to get transfusions. A discussion of graphite led to an explanation of Chernobyl, which Rose had never heard of. (Listen, that's just the kind of household this is. Tom has a subscription to Invention & Technology and reads it cover to cover. We were being treated to a short lesson on the history of the wooden pencil. Yes, pity our children. Their friends often are amazed at our dinner conversation, although we try to tone it down for the sake of not being the geekiest family they know. On the up-side, Hannah never had to study much for her World History class.)

Being a living history book doesn't make me feel old or bother me. Actually I find it interesting to be jolted back to a different mindset by these memories ... remembering when we operated under a whole different set of assumptions about how the world works.

Of course, I can see this overlapping generations. I look at our children and think of the fact that our family remembers what year September 11 happened because that was the summer we went to Europe. Hannah and Rose will tell their children stories of a time when you could meet arrivals right at the airline gate, when no one dreamed of worrying about terrorists on United States' soil, and when movies featured two buildings on the New York skyline that are gone now ... when we operated under a whole different set of assumptions about how the world works.

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