Actually, last night I thought about a boatload of strange things that have changed in this world since I was little, and the following are some important things that I’d like to mention.
First, dog doo. When I was little, when I took my dog on a neighborhood walk and she took a dump, I never picked it up. Nobody even thought about it. Nobody cared. I mean, it was rude to let the dog leave a big turd in someone else’s yard, like right in the middle of the sucker, but still. If some kid stepped in it later, we figured, tough shit for you, you weren’t paying attention. We never carried plastic baggies around to clean up our dog’s business, oh no, we just walked our dogs and let them be free like they lived in Wild Kingdom, and that was that. See, the dogs were in charge. Enough about that crap.
Shopping carts. Back in the day, when Mom and I went grocery shopping, I sat in the front of the cart, facing backwards, way up high, and the way the carts were designed then, it was totally dangerous. There was no such thing as these safe carts that look like little plastic cars or whatnot. Instead, they were metal contraptions from some horror film, and there was no seat belt. Screw that. If a kid fell out, oh well, it wasn’t the cart’s fault. People just assumed it was a bad kid who deserved to fall.
And cart corrals? WTF? We used to just leave the carts wherever. It was a mad maze of cars and carts in the lot.
Last night, I watched a woman walk her cart 15 cars up to park it in a cart corral. Seems courteous, yes. However, here’s the weird part — the store front was a mere 10 steps away. Kooky.
Third, ah, computers. When I was a wee lass, no home computers. Some weird people did have a gargantuan model, but we stayed away from them. No school computers either. Pens and paper, yo. The library had a card catalog, and we wrote real letters, not e-mails.
Here’s an example, a tear-jerker. When I was 14, I wrote this older boy love letters. Poor guy was in college. I sent a few on stationary with heart shapes all over it and wrote, “Sorry for this paper, but this was the only kind I could find,” which was a total fat lie. He did write back, but he thought it’d be fun to find me a date. Meaning not him, but that he’d set me up. How sad. Now that I think about it, real letters were just as confusing as e-mails. But still, wasn’t it fun to decipher a person’s mysterious handwriting?
Fourth. Phones. Growing up, we had land lines. No one had a cell phone, except maybe FBI people, which made cell phones curious and exciting, rather than everyday gadgets attached to your hip, purse or head.
When some kid called me, which was rare, my parents usually answered, the whole house knew and sometimes my brother made fun of me. It was totally embarrassing. Everybody knew everybody else’s business, because the cord was only so long, and I couldn’t escape Dad in the den or Mom in the kitchen or brother on the couch with a broken leg or even sis in the crib. No one could be trusted, and then there was the worry that bro might pick up another phone and listen in until he started cracking up. Anyway, there was none of this individual, personalized, direct connection BS. Instead, it was a scary, revealing, incredibly dysfunctional adventure.
Lastly, playtime. As kids, we played street and yard games. Football, kickball, Dungeons and Dragons, swing sets, sword fights. Boys had fist fights, and then they just shut up and kept playing. We were outside, all the time. Hail or heat, outside.
The other day, I saw a group of kids playing “ghost in the graveyard,” one of my favorite games, and I realized it’d been years since I’d seen that — an old-fashioned, family game. Their huge eyes shone in the porch light’s glare. If I had a child, I thought, what a joy it would be to see him or her running fearless through the darkness, searching for lightning bugs, feeling the freedom, learning the excitement of the chase, experiencing the crisp thrill of the night. That’s what I’m talking about.
So now that I’ve reflected, here’s how I’m going to celebrate my birthday: I’ll read a real book, write a real love letter and, if I had a dog, I’d really let loose and take him for a walk with no baggie. I’d let him pee right on up the side of someone’s fence. Ha, so there. Later, I’ll go to the supermarket and leave my cart wherever. Perhaps right in the middle road, hell yeah.
I might use the computer to write this or, very importantly, check my horoscope, but that’s it. If someone texts, I’ll text back, “This is C.A.’s answering machine, please leave a message.” And I’m gonna hunt for a super creepy graveyard, where I will find all of the lost ones, the spookiest ghosts.
CONTACT C.A. MACCONNELL: firstname.lastname@example.org