Life was a lot different for 9-year-olds when I was a kid



“Lili, what are you doing?” I asked.

“Well, grandma,” she said. “My friend Kinzie wants to get healthier, so I’m making an exercise and meal plan for her.”

“That’s awesome,” I said, but I was thinking, “you’re 9 years old; why aren’t you playing with paper dolls?”

When I was 9, I was still asking my grandmother to tell me stories about what life was like when she was a kid. I don’t think I’ve ever told my grandkids about “the olden days,” but if I did, these are a few of the memories I’d share:

Saturday morning cartoons were a big deal. We didn’t have cable or Netflix, so Saturday was our only chance watch cartoons. We had one TV, so we had to take turns picking the cartoon. If we bickered, we risked waking dad, or worse, mom.

“Visiting” was a thing. We’d jump in the car and go visit my parents’ friends, uninvited and unannounced, or they’d show up at our house. The moms always had a cake or pie to serve while they flipped through the Sears catalog. The dads, if they weren’t working, were always tinkering in the garage.

Shop traffic was an issue. Appointments had to be scheduled so as not to get “caught in shop traffic.” Once the factory whistles blew, the gridlock was maddening.

Kresge’s lunch counter was just about the greasiest place in town, but the hamburgers were amazing. Special occasions meant dinner at Bill Knapp’s or Howard Johnson. The Fair was the place to buy special clothing.

Our friends were the kids in our neighborhood. After school was play time. We didn’t have homework; that was done at school. We didn’t have activities every night of the week. Our biggest fear was not being home when the streetlights came on. We could go to Canada — just because — no passport required.

If something broke, someone fixed it. Nothing broken was discarded; it was kept for parts.

Our dads were always working. We hardly knew them. They were the guys who wore black, steel-toed boots and washed their hands with Fels-Naptha soap and drove the car when we took that one-week vacation every summer.

We were shuffled out of the room when the grownups talked about Vietnam, Watergate or the USSR.

My reality was a far cry from my grandchildren’s. But that was my time; this is theirs. This generation faces incredible demands to achieve, compete and stand out from the crowd. But they will accomplish more than my generation ever imagined. They don’t have time to listen to stories about the olden days, but that’s OK.

I’d probably just sound like my Uncle Barney, anyway. He had one story: “When I was your age, kids had to be in bed by 7 o’clock.” I once told him that’s probably why he was so mean.

Oh! That reminds me of #10: Getting grounded meant we had to stay in your own yard.

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