The other day I was standing in one of those super megaplex electronic stores along the Wasatch Front watching a plasma television that was playing one of the old sitcom cable channels. The show that was on was "Leave it to Beaver" and as usual the story ended happily and with a moral as it usual does, after Beaver, once again, had gotten into trouble and then worked his way out of it because of his fathers advice.
"Gee, I wish times were simple like that again," said a long lanky twetitish guy standing next to me. "Things are just so complicated nowadays."
I turned to look at him incredulously, but he had already turned and walked down the CD aisle nearby.
I have heard that remark, or something like it time and time again from people under 30. More surprisingly I also hear it from baby boomers, who either don't have very good realistic memories or have been brainwashed by old television programs that show a life that never existed. I just hope in 40 years that people don't think real life as it is today can be compared to "Friends" or "Frasier" when those programs are replayed hundreds and hundreds of times.
The only other remark that gets my goat even more than that though is when someone, particularly an individual my own age, says something like "Gee, I wish I could have lived in my parents time. Their lives were so simple."
I guess it is human nature to take your own problems and the complexities of life and think that no one else has it as hard as you do. No one knows what it's like to walk, limp or stumble around in someone elses shoes until they have to do it themselves, so it just makes sense.
But this preoccupation about the past being a simpler time blows me away. And if you want to know why I feel that way, all you have to do is ask me about my parents and what I saw them put up with to get through life.
My mother was an immigrant that came here from Holland in 1927, on a boat with her dozen brothers and sisters. None of them could speak English. She was 11 years old when they arrived and by the time she was 12 she had to quit school to work at the Royal Bakery in Salt Lake so that she could help support the family. She worked there for years, packaging pastries and bread, until she met my father in the late 1930's.
My father was a dairy farmer almost his whole working life, which I guess by his stories began at age 2. He told me once that he went to elementary school in Murray and then completed high school in one day.
"I walked in the front door and then out the back," he said. "That was high school for me."
From then on he worked 7 days a week until he was in his 60's. Other than his honeymoon, which was couple of November days in Yellowstone in 1939, he never missed a day of work, because he couldn't. There were no vacations, no holidays, no real weekends and certainly no sick time.
I remember one incident in which he broke his arm when a cow kicked him as he was about to milk her. He went to the doctor, had the arm set and cast and then went right back to work milking cows that same evening. I can also remember a few times he had the flu, and was very sick. But he still got up at 4 a.m. in the morning, because dairy cattle couldn't care less about how you feel, they need to be milked.
On a good weekend he would take off of work after the cows were milked on Sunday morning and we would get to go on an afternoon drive, usually to Ogden or Provo, sometimes even as far away as Evanston. But when the clock showed it was 3 pm he headed back home, because the cows couldn't wait.
He and my mother worked like hell for 13 years to get enough money to build the house they wanted on their own piece of land instead of living in a 100 plus year old house on the farm my father ran with my grandfather and my two uncles. My parents did without almost everything most of us consider a necessity today, except a car. I remember my mother often buying the cheapest piece of furniture in a store because she was worried about how she was going to put shoes on my feet and school supplies in my desk. They actually spoiled me rotten, but only by often denying themselves the necessities of life.
Now compare that experience with my life. My childhood was like a dream, I doubt anyone could have had a better set of parents, a more loving family and a funner time than I had growing up on that farm.
But it wasn't fun for my parents, even though they would tell you they had a good life.
I had my first car at 16 and bought a house at 20. I participated in every activity I could in high school and my parents paid for much of my college education. I only have had a couple of jobs during my life where I had to work seven days a week. Those also never lasted very long. I have taken vacations and traveled all over the United States and Canada, and could have done much more had I set my priorities differently. I walk 4 to 5 miles a day because I want to, not because I have to chase cows through a snowy winter field or because I have to irrigate a 100 acre plot of alfalfa at 2 am in the morning.
So each time I begin to grouse about my life, whether it be that I'm not paid enough, or I have to work too much or I can't have what I want (as opposed to what I need which I always have) I just think of them, and how different my life would have been if I had grown up in that "simpler time."