The Little Things
By Jason Marshall
It’s funny how a person’s definition of “old” changes with time.
When you’re 10, high school kids are old. And your teacher is ancient, even though she’s in her late 20s.
In fact, there’s no real discernible difference between anyone from 30 to 100. To a kid, they’re all fossils.
Then one day you’re 40 and you realize kids don’t have a clue.
We’ve heard all the sayings: “You’re only as old as your feel” or “You’re only as old as you act.”
Well today I feel old. And I’d prefer to be acting like a kid.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve made myself a jug of Kool-Aid and I’m poolside, taking a timeout from 2023. I’m on a journey back to a 1970s summer.
No work worries. Cutting the grass and weeding the garden aren’t my problems.
As a kid in the 70s, your only obligation was to your friends.
Days were spent just hanging out. You might go swimming or grab an ice-cold bottle of RC Cola at the store. Or if you were short on cash, you’d go looking for pop bottles in the ditches.
There were no cellphones to stare at. The sky was your screen. You could lie on the grass and watch the clouds roll by all day, looking for shapes and animals. From the same vantage point, the night sky was filled with more stars than you could count in a thousand lifetimes. And spotting a falling star gave you a magic wish.
Still at night, you could camp in your own backyard, and before you climbed into your sleeping bag to tell spooky stores by flashlight, you’d catch fireflies in a jar or find dew worms in the damp grass for a fishin’ trip the next day. No sense spending 25 cents on a dozen when you could pick them yourself. After all, a quarter could buy you Bottle Caps candy, Pixy Stix, a candy necklace, a bag of gold nugget gum and a pack of Lik-M-Aid, complete with the Lik-A-Stix.
As I take another swig of Kool-Aid, my mind drifts to how we even survived growing up.
Start with our playgrounds and those big steel merry-go-rounds that could spin at speeds of 250 km/h and throw kids up to 50 yards if the wind was just right. If all the sugar didn’t get your teeth, those metal monsters would. Then there were the long steel slides on a sunny day. Close your eyes and you can hear the squeaking of skin on hot metal.
Just getting to the playground was a workout on banana-seat bikes with only one gear. The all had pedals with sharp teeth that chewed up your shins and greasy chains that fed on your pant legs. Triple the danger factor if you’d added two more sets of forks to make your own chopper. And triple the triple-threat if you made your own ramps out of boards and bricks to mimic Evel Knievel.
Toys were also meant for the courageous. Slingshots and BB guns were often pointed and shot at one another. As were the original lawn darts, and Clackers. Remember them? Yup. Pulled off the market too soon. Eye patches were also an “in” thing, now that I think about it.
And God forbid you came home with a cut or a scratch. No soap and water on a plush cloth. Nope. Moms from the 70s came armed with a scrub brush and two bottles. One was filled with iodine. The other Mercurochrome. I can still feel the sting and see my red stained skin all around the scrape.
Speaking of red skin, no mother wanted her kid to have a bad sunburn. Sunscreen was virtually non-existent. So out came the baby oil. They’d have covered us in Crisco, but they were using it to enhance their own tans.
And every 70s mom insisted on family time. At least during a meal. Summer meals meant backyard barbecues sitting in a folding webbed lawn chair eating a hamburger that tasted like lighter fluid.
I take the last mouthful of my Kool-Aid to wash away that imaginary charcoal flavour, and I realize my journey back to a 1970s summer is finished.
I survived. And thrived. We all did.
So many little things to remember. And never forget them. They make all the difference.
Jason Marshall has been a writer and journalist for more than 30 years, and is an on-air host and station manager at Valley Heritage Radio just outside of Renfrew, Ontario. And he’s truly a big kid at heart. You can email him anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org