Interacting with the world

I was thinking again about what a stark contrast there is between the kind of lives my kids and those of their generation lead and the childhood I experienced. I can’t help but lament the huge influence of electronics and other gadgets of today.

Here I am with my sister just watching the cows near our house in eastern Pennsylvania.
Here I am with my sister just watching the cows near our house in eastern Pennsylvania.

I have fond memories of spending lots of time outdoors. Let me make clear that I am not an “outdoorsy” type now and kind of wasn’t even then. I don’t really enjoy camping, I don’t hike, don’t fish, don’t go on trips out to natural wonders; rather, I really enjoy visiting cities with interesting historical sites, museums, and lots of other cultural wonders; I read, I spend time learning things online, editing, writing, etc. I guess it sounds odd I would then be nostalgic about my outdoorsy childhood. But I am. I’m pretty sure my mom forced me out the door when I was a kid, so I would get some fresh air, take a break from reading, and get out of her hair for a while. But I think back on all the beautiful country that lay around the old houses we lived in in various parts of Pennsylvania and just savor those memories. I made mud pies, incorporating wild little onions and carrots and the moist dirt that lay right along the burbling streams. In the winter, my siblings and I built great igloos and forts out of the snow that was so abundant.

Did I watch TV very much? Nah. Do I have fond memories of sitting around the TV set with my family? Not much. I do have some fond memories of going to see classic films with my dad and sister and brother. We watched “Oliver” and “Fantasia.” When teaching his occasional film class, Dad would bring us in to introduce us to Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” and even “Battleship Potemkin.” “Citizen Kane” was on the menu. But day-in, day-out, we didn’t have the option of watching videos in our living room. There were 13 channel options on the TV knob, and not all corresponded to an actual station (half were just static).

I love the scent of lilacs today because we had an amazing lilac bush outside a side door of one house, which had a kind of hollowed-out middle I could crawl into and think while smelling that intoxicating floral scent. While I don’t take the time today to find places to walk in nature, I did enjoy just setting out through woods and trails and seeing what I’d find, thinking about whatever while doing so.

Today, my kids and others have instant entertainment in the forms of hundreds of options of (mostly dreck) on TV; they have DVDs galore; there are computers with the Internet, Facebook, Google, YouTube, what have you; smartphones to access that same fun (and often the same level of dreck) stuff whenever they’re not sitting at a desktop computer, and so on. Even though I try to limit the amount of time they spend in front of any screen, just being entertained, I do lament that they aren’t forced as much to just entertain themselves. (Part of my sadness here is that my husband and I always lived “in town,” as opposed to the old houses out seemingly in the middle of nowhere my parents had us live. I admit I have caved to the convenience of having shopping, school, work, etc. easily and quickly accessible. Plus, my husband is a city boy.)

Yep, so here I am being one of those “old codgers” who talks about the good ol’ days and being sad about what’s happening with the young folk. Most of the time, I just do what I can to make my kids entertain themselves (they do love to read and we have a TON of books around, and we have plenty of paint, crayons, paper, etc. and other raw materials for play/learning) and keep them off the computer or away from the TV. But there are moments I wish they could have enjoyed the “simpler time” I had. Guess I’m just turning into my parents here. It’s bound to happen to all of us eventually.

Author: Cathy Carmode Lim

I'm a copy editor, writer, and book reviewer with three decades of experience. My book review website is I'm a mom of four and grandma of three.

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