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The Carol Burnett Show

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I know I’m getting older. I’m 52 now and been doing my job for 27 years. I’m getting nostalgic about things sometimes. You know…the old idea that things were better when. I’ve been thinking lately about the family and how the dynamics of the family has changed since the sixties. I came from a family where my Dad worked and my Mom stayed at home and took care of the house. We always ate dinner at six o’clock and everyone was expected to be at the dinner table at that time. We rarely ate out. Mom did all of the cooking except for the rare occasions that she was gone somewhere. If Mom was gone, Dad had about three things he could cook before he ran out of ideas or expertise. Mom did all the inside chores with the help of my sisters and Dad did all of the outside chores with the help of my brother and myself.

We were able to go play during the day pretty much wherever we wanted but we had to let our parents know the general vicinity of where we were. I remember riding my bike with friends all over the neighborhood and in the local area. We had sting rays that we would take over to new housing developments so that we could jump our bikes over the dirt piles. My sister and I would climb trees, play in a dirt fort, and just play catch sometimes. We played a lot of ping pong. We had a ping pong table on the back porch and we would play almost every evening. My Dad was usually the best, then my older sister, then me. When I got older I just wanted to shoot hoops out on the front driveway. I wore out two backboards due to my incessant need to shoot baskets. This came from a basketball camp or coach that said I needed to shoot at least 500 shots per day in order to develop a better shot. Back in those days players did what their coaches told them.

Then there was the TV. I don’t think that we got a color set until I was about 12 years old because the black and white set wasn’t broken so Dad saw no need to buy a new set. We watched TV almost every evening. Sometimes we even watched CBS Evening News with Walter Kronkite during dinner so we could keep up on the Vietnam War. The TV was on a rolling stand that Dad would roll to the doorway between the dining room and the family room so we could watch from the dinner table. Of course the biggest event of all was the lunar landing. I remember Dad even filmed the TV screen with his Super 8 camera! We would all gather around the TV after our homework was complete and watch one of three channels that we received.

Have we lost something from those days or are these just different times? I know families don’t eat together as often. Families go out to eat much more now. There are numerous fast food choices that all of our children seem to go to weekly if not daily. We all sit in front of our own computers and spend much less time together than families of the past. We check a Facebook status to see what even members of our own families are up to. I recently learned that my son broke up with his girlfriend because he changed his status to single. We watch TV but rarely together. Some people have TV’s in every room and each member watches whatever suits them. We have so many options today of what we can be doing but our children still say there’s nothing to do.

Not all the changes have been bad though. I do inside chores as well as outside. My wife is not just a housewife but a companion and an equal partner. I cook and I have to admit pretty well (a far cry from my Dad’s three recipes). Facebook has been great in keeping in touch with my college age children who are away at school. We have choices now that we couldn’t have imagined in the 1960’s. So many choices that we can get carried away and try to do too many things. Do kids still wear out basketball backboards? I don’t think most kids would stick with something for that long. They have so many other choices.

So as my son sits upstairs in his room on his computer, my mother-in-law watches TV in her part of the house, my wife was upstairs on her computer but is now doing dishes, and I sit here on my laptop, I just wonder if life would be better here if we could all just sit around and watch the Carol Burnett Show and laugh at old time slapstick comedies.