The Good Old Days

Dear Ellie — When people get to be a certain age — let’s say Opa’s and my age — you’ll notice they may start talking fondly about The Good Old Days. They’ll get a misty look in their eyes and turn inward, seeing something you can’t see: How things used to be when they were young. And — guess what! Everything was a lot better then.

Once they really get on a nostalgic roll, they may start talking about the younger generation, too. The younger generation — what a big, crushing disappointment they are! They’re spoiled, entitled, ignorant, arrogant, disrespectful. With this no-count generation at the helm, the future of the world is bleak. (So bleak it may be time to haul out a big bottle of gin to contemplate the imminent collapse of civilization.)

And so on. Conversations like this can go on forever.

Oh, good grief. I have real problems with that kind of drivel.

I grew up in the same Good Old Days they did — and you know what? The 1950s and 1960s weren’t all that great or good.

Most of this country was still segregated then, with separate schools, bathrooms, and drinking fountains for blacks and whites. Girls were treated like they were scatter-brained (a compliment in those dark days) and inferior to boys. Boys were taught they shouldn’t cry or have feelings, since that was un-manly. And gays? Well, people didn’t talk about that kind of “deviation,” except in horrified whispers.

Oh, sure, the music was good and the cars had big fins and the economy was soaring — but good luck sharing in that great economy if you were female or dark-skinned.

I think about all of this in the spring of 2017, when the world seems to be shifting off-course, with a deranged, amoral, and incompetent real-estate titan in the White House, growing inequality, and a planet that’s heating up dangerously. It would be comforting to yammer on and on about the Good Old Days, when everything was so much better. Comforting, but false and brain-dead. It doesn’t do anyone any good.

You’re almost 20 months old now — with a bright, curious face. You walk, you run, you seem to understand everything, and you speak a few words. I wonder if you can feel the anxiety we all have about where the world is going. But then, I think of how fortunate your life is compared with other 20-month-olds around the world, how secure and well-loved you are. The anxiety we and your parents feel is minuscule compared with the horrific daily problems faced by most of the rest of the world.

Once again, when we visited you in Seattle at the end of last month, we got caught up in your busy, bright little world of Legos, blocks, outdoor swings, and sudden bursts of laughter. It was such a lovely place to be and to lose ourselves in. For us, those were the Good Old Days, and we plan to re-visit them whenever we can.

Love you, my pink-cheeked girl, Coco