Monday, April 8, 2013

"G" is for the Good Old Days

Circa 1982, I was a preteen boy more interested in airplanes than just about anything else (with certain of the girls at O.J. Actis Junior High a close second). I knew with absolute certainty I was going to grow up to be a pilot, no question. I read about aviation, built model airplanes (I know, not exactly guaranteed to get said girls' reciprocal interest) and loved going to airshows. It was at one such show on a spring weekend that I crawled around and under the immaculately restored B-17 Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey and happily forked over three of my dad's dollars to walk through it. Afterward, standing in the shade of her broad wing, surrounded by the sounds of radial engines and Glenn Miller pumped out of the tinny PA system, I remarked to a trim, gray-haired gentleman in a leather flight jacket who had flown in B-17s during the war, “Sometimes I think I was born forty years too late.”

I’ll never forget the man's reply.  “Ah, don’t ever say that.  Everyone is born when they're supposed to be.”

Even at the know-it-all age of twelve, I immediately recognized the wisdom of his words. I knew he was telling me that every age has its share of good times and bad, challenges and opportunities, and that it's up to everyone to seek out the adventures of the era in which they find themselves.

I'm still insufferably nostalgic, though. I've always loved old technology, old films, old music, old style, and I still think there's a lot those things can teach us. There are so many things about people's lives in earlier times that I find fascinating and think ought to be preserved and not forgotten.  I think old people are a treasure.

But as the noted American sociologist Billy Joel observed, the good old days weren’t always good.  It’s one thing to want to hold on to the good stuff from the old days; it’s another to forget there was bad stuff, too.

So I’m glad to have missed out on a time when lots of Americans still thought that Hitler fellow over there had some pretty good ideas.

I’d hate to have seen American citizens be robbed of their property and herded into barbed wire enclosures in various badlands because they had a surname from the wrong country.

It would have been scary to see so many children my age in leg braces and iron lungs.
  
I don’t want to return to an era when “separate but equal” was perpetuated in law instead of recognized as a baneful fiction, when sitting down at a lunch counter could be a radical act.

I'll pass on thinking it was ever okay for a man to manhandle or otherwise disrespect a woman.

I’m glad I wasn’t around to see America's veterans come back home to be spit on and slandered.

So I see nostalgia for what it is and keep it in its proper place on the shelf. I keep loving old cars and motorcycles, and listening to Sinatra and shaving with a mug and brush and wishing I wasn’t so paranoid about letting my children play outside.  And I gratefully live in the present, ever looking for God’s purpose in having put me in this place and this time, right here, right now.

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18 comments:

  1. Ohhhhhh Jerrrrrry!!! This was A KEEPER for sure! Your best yet, best ever. Your timing was perfect; your descriptions, beyond compare. I can see you at the airplane, see the gentleman to whom you spoke. And the history lessons from the "bad old days"..... It's the idea of this blog topic and the direction you went with it. Absolute perfection.

    You've just totally blown me away here. We get so many versions of you - and each of them is amazing. Grateful for the techo break, particularly because it produced THIS.

    Bravo.

    Dana
    Waiter, drink please!

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  2. Thanks so much, Dana. All that means a great deal to me. These are things I've thought of for a long time. I do like to think of readers expecting an Archie and Edith-style paean to the old days and getting something a little different. Thanks again, Coach.

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    1. ... and I love that you call me this. :)

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    2. I'm glad, because I have decreed that that is your nickname.

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  3. Loved this one Jerry! While this young boy was dreaming of being a pilot someday, his Mom was dreaming that he would become an author!

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  4. This young boy was and is still lucky to have a Mom like he does, who has been his biggest fan since he was born.

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  5. My favorite cousin and you are cut from the same cloth, Jerry. I'm forwarding your blog to him. We will love it.

    Dennis

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  6. Thanks, Dennis, very kind of you. I'm glad you like it.

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  7. I always thought I was born too early. I want to explore the universe with Captain Picard.

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    1. Ah, the flip side! One question - if I wanted to explore the universe with Captain Kirk, would that be looking backward or forward? :)

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  8. Great piece, Jerry. I love your style. xoA

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    1. Thanks, Annis. One of the pleasurable things about writing it was thinking "I think Dana and Annis will like this one."

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  9. Powerfully written and a very good read!

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    1. Thanks, Tommia! I'm glad you liked it.

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  10. From time to time I think we all wonder what if... I would have been born earlier/later/somewhere else/someone else's child. But I love the simple words of the older gentleman. It puts everything into perspective. Very powerful.

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    1. I think placing ourselves is a fun mental exercise, and might ever provide fodder for a time-travel story (at least for folks in Terry's critique group), but we definitely need to get on with the job of living now.

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  11. The more I read of your writing, the more I wonder how you became an Engineer? LOL Well, I know you're smart and that's a practical profession...but I'm glad you also write. Carry on!

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  12. I refer to Civil Engineering as a dead-end job for smart people. Not saying I'm smart, just complaining about my job. :)

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