Sunday, August 1, 2010

Being 11 in 2010 vs. being 11 in 1971

My niece Nicole turned 11 on July 23rd. The party kicked off on a Friday evening with seven of her friends singing karaoke (Lady GaGa, of course) at FunHouse Pizza in Raytown. After that, Tiki torches and a fire-pit were lit for the backyard luau/swimming party. It was quite a production.

As I was taking this in, I remembered my own childhood birthday parties. They were usually on Saturday afternoons. My friends came over in their little dresses, we'd line up for a picture, I'd try not to race through the mandatory birthday card reading so I could rip open the presents--probably from TG and Y or Woolworth's--we'd have cake and ice cream, maybe play musical chairs, and then they'd go home. ( Geeze, is that true or am I confusing myself with Judy from "Leave It to Beaver?" Who knows.)

Anyway, that led me to thinking about how different the world is now, and about all the things my niece has that I didn't. On the flip side, I started thinking about all the things I knew as a kid that she never will.

She'll never know what it's like to only have three TV channels to choose from, or the anticipation of waiting until the one Sunday night a year when "The Wizard of Oz" is on. That was a huge deal at our house. Now kids can pretty much watch anything they want, whenever they want, repeatedly, if they want. Kinda takes the magic out.

She'll never know what it's like to wonder whose calling, thanks to caller I.D. I remember that rush of expectation before lifting the receiver--Would it be my friend Cindy? My mom checking to see if I'd done the vacuuming? My piano teacher calling to cancel my lesson? (Always a hope for me.) Fun little mysteries, gone.

She'll also never know what it's like to complete your list of chores on a summer morning, leave the house before noon, walk to the swimming pool, ("Don't forget to put zinc oxide on your nose!") and not be expected back home until 5 o'clock. Or what it's like to go back outside after dinner, roam the neighborhood chasing fireflies and putting them into a Skippy Jar with holes poked in the lid, just goofing off until it's 8 or 9 o'clock, and your Mom opens the front door, calls your name and says,"Time to come home."

Turns out even though she has a lot more than I did in many respects, I had a lot of irreplaceable things that she doesn't. Like growing up in a world that was much safer, a time that was simpler. Nothing matches the bliss of childhood freedom.

Geeze, do I sound old.

Anyway, even though I feel a little sad for what Nicole's missed out on, I know one thing she'll always have--an aunt who's impressed by her confidence and proud of her fearlessness, who's touched by her thoughtfulness, who's proud of her creativity, who thinks she's funny, and who's grateful for every numbered day she's still considered fun to hang out with.


  1. hey, girl! i like yr blog! check out mine.

  2. The freedom to wander on a Summer night without an Amber Alert or some such nonsense ensuing -- that's what I'd really miss if I were a kid today. I'd show up for meals and "Night Stalker". but beyond that I just had to be home before the evening news.

  3. This is just lovely. She's lucky to have you for an aunt.

    Your post makes me want to ask my kids what their experiences of mystery and anticipation are. Surely they must have them, even in our culture that's so saturated with instant gratification/information. Thanks for prompting me to think about this in a whole new way.