• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • March 29, 2014 in Columnists

    I am a living time capsule — we all are

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  Not so much, actually…
    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and me

    Lately, I’ve found myself choking up over old photographs.  They’re not actually old to me.  They’re from a time I remember quite clearly.  Yes, I was alive in the way back when.  I was alive in the time of bobby socks and poodle skirts and ‘55 Chevy station wagons with no seat belts.  Fins on cars weren’t even all that big when I came along.

    I get that life is change.  I understand that the world that produced me has now vanished forever and that describing it to people significantly younger than myself is akin to telling fairy tales.  Yes, five men did come pouring out of the gas station when you pulled your mammoth leaded-gas guzzler into the station.  One did actually pump the gas while another checked your oil, another the air pressure in your tires, a fourth man washed your windows and the fifth took your money.  Yes.  That was real.

    There really were Burma Shave signs along the roadway.  Chubby Checkers really was that wildly popular, as was Elvis – and yes, we all did the Twist, even us little kids.  We rode fat-tired bikes and we could buy a huge bag of candy for a quarter.

    Don’t for a moment think I don’t remember what was flawed about the time.  I was aware of quite a bit of what was wrong, even then.  Now, with the power of hindsight, I realize we had so much work to do – human rights of all sorts abrogated as if it was normal.  Sweeping domestic abuses under carpets because they were so unsightly, which allowed them to continue unchecked.  Putting what we considered socially appropriate over what was right (if difficult) nearly every time.

    I’m not saying it was perfect, but I do believe I am allowed to miss – and even grieve for – what was lovely.

    I miss how young we all were.  I miss my young parents and I miss being a kid.

    I miss my strong, young body that could play from dawn to dusk on those endless, sweltering summer days that graced the eternity of summer vacation.

    I am sad that I never got to be one of the grownups sitting gossiping on the front porch during those summer evenings, watching the kids chase now-scarce fireflies because TV and, now, computers, killed that culture forever and replaced it with silent neighborhoods with everybody indoors at night.

    I miss those fat-tired bicycles, although you can, if you try, find variations on that theme.

    I miss the smell of the school when it started up again – crayons, new pencils, library paste, cafeteria food, varnished floors and chalk dust.  Schools do not smell that way anymore.  I’ve been in them.  They don’t smell of anything.

    I miss the smell of the air – it was different, cleaner.  I miss the lighter weight of a smaller world population and I miss the feeling of not being afraid we’ve been killing the earth.

    I miss being naïve.  I really, really miss that.  I miss thinking that anything was possible and that all the exciting stories I told myself about my unknown future surely would come true.

    I miss the newness of the modern era – my father was born the year women got the vote and my grandmother most assuredly grew up without electricity in the Missouri of the new 20th century.  It was all so startling and surprising to see all the new things come to pass – transister radios, space flight, 45 rpm records of the latest hits – and their less impressive flip sides.  Color TV with more than two channels.  Nauga hyde couches.

    You in the under-50 set have no idea just how primitive things were when I was born, how simple the technology.  Go back and watch newsreels of the time – that world seems inconceivable now.

    Honestly, I don’t feel all that old – at least, not to myself – but I watched the first manned space flight on our black and white TV, saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, remember JFK being alive and adored, saw “The Yellow Submarine” when it came out in the theatres, experienced desegregation in my grade school.  I also saw civil rights marches live on TV and watched in horror as calm, civilized people marching peacefully had water cannons turned on them and dogs set to attack them.  I remember vividly where I was when both Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were shot.  I remember go-go boots and white lipstick and bouffants and Elizabeth Taylor being scandalous.  I remember when divorce was shocking.  I remember when your entire family would be talked about for years if your mother brought a box cake to a school picnic; cakes were made from scratch, thank you.

    I remember wanting desperately to go to Woodstock, when Haight-Ashbury burst into people’s consciousness.  I remember the peace sign and saying “groovy” without the slightest embarrassment.  I remember Nixon and the Vietnam War heating up and singing protest songs in coffee houses.  I remember disco (I loathed it, but Bette Midler was still awesome).    I now honestly remember half a century and more (my first memories are clear from the time I was 16 months old – that’s when I started talking in complete and grammatically correct sentences; spooked the snot out of the grownups).

    What younger people envision in black and white, I remember in color.  I am a living time capsule.  Ultimately, we all are.

    We were so shiny and new -- and so were those cars

    We were so shiny and new — and so were those cars

     

     



    • Great piece of writing. I remember it all as well.


        • Maya North

        • March 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm
        • Reply

        It’s amazing how the world we came from is a lost world now — it barely resembles the world the still lives so vividly in memory…



    • I remember the eighties. The eighties are burned etched in my mind. However, I loved the stories my mother told of the time before me. I have always wished to visit the fifties, sixties and seventies. It seemed like an amazing time period to be alive. You are blessed to have these memories. I don’t think the world has become better in so many ways. Although, technology has increased our capabilities so much it has stolen a certain richness from living. Beautiful column and picture maya! <3


        • Maya North

        • March 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm
        • Reply

        There are ways we’ve improved so much and I LOVE technology, but it has also isolated us in ways that we never dreamed in the pre-TV era. We never dreamed of a world with quiet, dark streets of a summer night. The streets that still live in my memory were alive with the shouts and screams and laughter of children and the quieter talk of the grownups. We were rarely bored even though we only had each other — and books — to keep us entertained… <3


      • Robin Pratt

      • March 29, 2014 at 1:47 pm
      • Reply

      oh, Maya, me too! “time it was, oh what a time it was… a time of innocence..a time of confidences..” (I’m sure I’m dreadfully misquoting it but, hey, I’m getting older and the memory is going!)


        • Maya North

        • March 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm
        • Reply

        We were there together, weren’t we, love? It was a time of innocence and I still find myself formed by it. I expect myself to be just who and what I am (what you see is what you get) and I expect it of others, too (occasionally to my sorrow)… <3



    • Lovely column! Very peaceful.


        • Maya North

        • March 30, 2014 at 12:00 am
        • Reply

        Thank you! It wasn’t that peaceful for long, though — we were undergoing a culture revolution and it was pretty wild. Not so much when I was a kiddo, though. I’m glad I got to see it, though. It was the last moments between the old world of low or no technology and what we have today — the bridge, if you will. I’m still amazed, but not so much as my great-grandmother, who was born during the time of the Oklahoma Land Rush and lived to complain that her jet flight was late 😉 <3


      • Hellion

      • March 29, 2014 at 7:50 pm
      • Reply

      I have my Dad and I grew up in my Dad’s house, which was basically a 50s throwback…and more primitive than most of my school chums’ lives. There are things I took for granted in my life that when I mention them, usually someone my age, who lived in a city, was like, “You did WHAT?” It’s alien to them. It’s somewhat less alien to some of my friends who had similar poverty levels. *LOL*

      I don’t think I remember clear back to 16 months old. Pretty darn sure I don’t. My first real memory was chasing a kitten (and leaving home)–and getting caught in a fence and screaming/crying until a neighbor man rescued me. I was mad about the kitten getting away. I didn’t realize there was a search party out looking for me. Or that I was lost.

      However, I do recall what constituted top of the line awesome in the mid-1980s and when compared with things now, I just laugh. I watch Back to the Future and what we’re supposed to be having now…and it’s all comical (and much larger than any of the stuff needs to be!) So I can see the changes that have raced forward that way. I also recall when I was small–everyone went to church. Now it’s cool if you don’t want to go. I almost know more people who don’t. I love what constituted a PG rating in 1980s vs what rates it now. It’s completely opposite now. I remember learning how to do computer work on large clunky apple computers–no laptops then that I ever heard of–and we were typing a lot in basic code stuff. I think Windows was about another year away when I went off to college or so when that really became basic to everyone. I remember typing my high school “paper” on a typewriter, but it was a fancy one! And you could even backspace to correct mistakes–fancy schmancy.

      I remember in the late 80s, Billy Graham seemed to come on the air every couple weeks for some revival thing and everyone would talk about how the world was nearly ending because of Russia was going to lead us into WWIII. All I wanted to do was grow up and get a boyfriend–and you know, not die a virgin. I didn’t like these speculations. That went away for a while, but I see the talk is starting up again and freaking out my niece who was the age I nearly was when I was like, “Please don’t make me die a virgin!” Some things never change.

      I remember my biggest concern in 3rd grade was getting math right…and impressing my teacher. 10 years later, I learned most 3rd grade girls’ biggest concerns was that they were fat and needed to diet. 20 years later, those concerns have not reverted back to getting math right but are very concerned about looks, fitting in, and being beautiful. Being bullied has always been with us–but nowadays it seems a lot, lot, lot more malicious. And lethal.

      Yes, technology wise, we’re very advanced–even our treatments for health are much more advanced and wonderful. Other things–manners, kindness as a virtue, citizenship in the way of taking care of the earth and taking care of everyone in your community–we’ve regressed and become primitive. Just goes to show where our priorities now lie. But I’m still hopeful. We just take a long time to evolve–but I know so many who care and try–and we have to think the world has always been like this. More of us kind, trying, rather than ruining everything. We’ll be okay.


        • Maya North

        • March 29, 2014 at 11:44 pm
        • Reply

        It’s so interesting that you are my daughter’s age and your dad is my father’s age. It does give you a unique perspective having been raised by someone at least a generation and a half older than the parents of most people your age. We lose, we gain. People think it’s worse now, but they’ve not studied history — it’s been savage beyond belief and while it still is, it isn’t so literally everywhere as it was once. I am, myself, enamored of social media. It’s such a powerful tool for change and if those of us with ethics and heart work hard at it, we can, indeed, change the world. <3



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