Today I celebrate living through another year. I know that sounds cynical, but it’s not meant to be. I’m still here, breathing, so celebrating that another year came and I’m still here seems apt. I’ve been around 4 decades and a few extra years, and a lot has changed.
We’ve all see the blurbs going around about how when we were kids there were no helmets, knee and elbow pads, our parents let us run all day in the summer, etc. and we managed to survive. I did grow up like that. When I was in elementary school and school was out we would get up, eat breakfast then run with our friends all day. We’d come home for lunch and dinner and when it got dark.
My mother never worried about someone kidnapping us or worse. There were few stories in the news about missing kids, so parents didn’t worry. I rode bikes with no helmets, because there were none. I walked to school and home for lunch each day because my school didn’t serve lunches. I didn’t worry about anything more than which friend’s house to visit to play.
My parents shielded me from a lot. I was in elementary school in the 70’s: Vietnam, gas rationing, hysteria about Global cooling and a second ice age, Nixon, Watergate, the Munich Olympics. It was all just whispers in the background. My parents didn’t even watch early news because my siblings and I were still awake. No need for us to be worried at that young of an age.
I started high school in the fall of 1981. Reagan had just been elected as President and things were looking up. I was also at an age where I started paying attention to what was going on in the world. I remember watching the home coming of the Iranian hostages. The news cast played “America” by Neil Diamond as they showed a young girl running across the tarmac to her father, whom she hadn’t seen in 444 days. To this day, I can’t hear that song without tearing up.
That vision sealed for me my faith in conservative leaders like Ronnie Reagan. His unwavering faith in America, his solid backbone in the face of the nuclear threat from the USSR. He pulled us out of the morass of a recession and into an amazing period of growth. I know that because of him, today American stands and the USSR is but a memory.
That threat, though, was one that affected my generation. We knew that at any given moment some nut could hit a button and obliterate the world as we know it. At least then we knew the nuts in play and who had what. Movies like War Games and Red Dawn were pretty good representations of our fear – what might happen and what it would look like if it did. That’s not to say it was an all overriding fear. It was there and we talked about it. But we were teens, so worrying about the Friday night game, who was dating whom, what test was coming up, getting into college … those were more pressing.