“Why, when I was your age . . . “ It’s impossible to utter those six words, in that sequence, without having someone come up with, “Yes, we already know: You had to walk to school five miles, uphill both ways, in deep snow.”
So I won’t be mentioning the daily trudges through snow, in freezing weather that lasted from December to December. Nor will I write about the distance of our treks.
In fact, I’m wary of beginning any sentence with those six words, even though discussing distances to school or climatic conditions might be far from my mind.
“When I was your age” usually comes from an avuncular or avauntular figure who simply wants to compare current times with those of the past. There’s no need for youngsters simply to assume we’re about to discuss how easy kids have it today.
And besides, judging by recent weather patterns, I believe people my age were children when the last deep snowfall came.
This topic came up during a trip to the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa this weekend. We joined our son, Ben, and daughter-in-law, Heather, for a trip north and an attempt to climb as much as we could of that huge sand pile (actually, a National Monument and Preserve). Walking in sand, even on level ground, is difficult enough.
It requires pulling the foot back out of the sand, with each step; the steepness of the climb makes the walk even more difficult.
After exceeding my comfort zone and watching the others leave me in the dust — er sand — I waited for their return.
Later, in a family restaurant near Adams State College, we talked about a number of when-I-was-your-age topics. The first that came to mind was the perplexed look in the face of my grand-daughter, Celina, upon first handling an old rotary phone a year ago. We had taken the grandchildren out of state, and when Celina asked to phone her mother, back here in New Mexico, her grand-aunt handed her a phone, the same kind we used as children.
The phone Aunt Kay handed Celina must have weighed 700 pounds, been the size of a small horse and been shaped like a ship’s anchor.
When we were your age, we needed to get up from the sofa to answer the phone and hope the cord was long enough, in case we needed privacy.
Nowadays, most of us use a tiny cell phone, shaped like a thin bar of Ivory, and we don’t even recall the rotary phone features of old.
At lunch, I was curious about some of the pro football scores. Ben merely punched a couple of buttons on his cell phone and instantly received the entire list of scores, including the mauling my Oakland Raiders were being gifted. When I was your age, I needed to wait until Monday afternoon’s delivery of the Optic to learn which teams won on Sunday.
When we were Celina’s age, we needed to wait until Saturday for our bath. Although I don’t quite remember that Mom and Dad used a “cajete,” a wash tub, for our ablutions, I’ve been told that Mom reversed the order of our bathing, beginning with me. Mom would say, “We’ll bathe Mannie (my nickname) first, because it then becomes holy water.”
It’s commendable of Mom to arrange the sequence from youngest to oldest. When I was your age, hot running water wasn’t readily available, except for Las Vegans in the local Silk Stocking District. Like many on our street, we had a coal-burning stove that we used for heating, cooking and warming up a supply of water stored in a separate compartment.
Come dish-washing time, we added that water to augment whatever was in the sink. None of that instant-hot-water feature for us.
When I was your age, a four-door car generally required the driver to lock all doors separately. Some geniuses in Detroit also decreed that the doors, trunk and glove compartment use three different keys.
Indeed things change, even by the week. The hoopla following the introduction of a newer version of the iPhone virtually promises more miracles.
I’m still marveling over things that in the past we would consider science fiction. The miracle of talking to and seeing our two granddaughters — in real time through a computer application called Skype — all the way from Las Vegas to Denmark amazes me.
It makes me wonder what our Scandinavian toddlers, Ellen and June, will discuss when it’s their turn to say, “When we were your age...”
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We’re going to miss the thrift store outlet provided by Salvation Army.
The merchandise part of the store closes this week.
Operations such as the food pantry, with its connections to churches that provide meals for the needy, apparently will remain intact.
My concern is the loss of the convenience of a facility that not only sold stuff at affordable prices but also made it convenient for us to dispose of material as well. I have no doubt that I’ve purchased a number of books — the same books — several times.
For a quarter, or a half dollar, or whatever price the store asked that week, many of us used Salvation Army as our library. While it’s true that there remains Samaritan House, which offers similar services, albeit on a much smaller scale, the variety of the goods at Salvation Army made it a popular spot.
It would be great if another business were to fill the vacuum created by Salvation Army’s departure. Las Vegas doesn’t need yet another vacant building downtown.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.