Part of growing older, and we'd like to think more mature is looking back and relishing memories. For many of us the longer we hang around on earth, the better the "good old days" appear. Things that we likely griped about are now cherished hallmarks of how we overcame adversity. The "hip" and cool generation we thought we were just yesterday, wasn't it, is now as historic as World War II was to us in our childhood. I just asked a friend, the other day, how did that happen? Aren't 1970 Chevelles and '68 Stingrays just as cool now as they were 40 years ago? And the fact that I say forty years ago so nonchantlantly tells me I have crossed into the no-man's land of "senior citizen". I and my friends now talk the merits of how the U.S. is going to heck in a handbasket to borrow a phrase from my grandpa. When did we quit seeing hope in the next generation to guide us and seeing only a huge ruse in the "Golden Years" analogy? When did we start seeing greed and excess as the most visual aspects of our National Government? When did we quit trusting?
So, bear with me as I have just taken a stroll down Memory Lane via the Barrett-Jackson car auction the past weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is a 5 day automobile auction in Scottsdale, AZ, specializing in the best of classic cars for sale. It is a show within a show, but for those of us who reached our teens in the '60's and 70's, it is a great look into how cars influenced our growing up even as we did not realize. I saw Chevelles, Corvettes, Mustangs, Baracuda's, Camaros, Cougars, and GTO's. The muscle cars we grew up wishing we could all afford, and even as a female, looking back and thinking, was there anything cooler than riding on a spring afternoon when it was just warm enough to make you think summer was coming in a burgundy chevelle with some guy who was trying to show off and impress? Ah, the innocence of those days. We thought life would go on forever and we would never live to see thirty, and couldn't conceive of getting beyond twenty though we all wanted to be older. How youth is wasted on the young, I once read, and it is kind of true. Sometimes we just need to get to this point to realize we had it pretty good. Not everyone does, but we did.... And to just reach out and grab back all those days, and see them once again in their golden tinged foreverness.
Now that I am on my way to "Grandma-hood", and trying out names for the new person I will become in less than 5 and 6 months, I have lots of sage advice which won't be of any use except to my friends who already know all of this. The flurry of baby showers and baby "needs" begins, and a whole new level of what we will become in this new order arises. We now talk baby beds, not cribs, and strollers that do eight different things: if only they could change diapers...I am slowly learning to be conversant in monitors and ultrasounds on a whole different level, and high chairs, (they do still make those, don't they?). And I have to smile, as I know from all this untapped experience, babies are pretty simple after all. They can sleep in an empty dresser drawer, lined with a blanket. Their daily nutrient requirements are supplied by Mom, and the most important pieces of clothing needed are lots and lots and lots of diapers. Being loved and held are the greatest gift we can give that newborn and its as instinctual in us as breathing.
When I became pregnant with Ryan, at that time we had no way of knowing what the sex would be. While there were new gadgets on the horizon, Ryan was the last of the baby generation looked on with practicality in mind as much as "the next new big baby thing". We bought a baby crib for the new one. Outfitted with a mattress it was certified safe. The side went up and down. The bars didn't allow for a baby's head to go through. Pretty simple. We painted the new nursery room a sunny yellow, as we figured that could grow with the baby, whatever the sex. My sister in law, had been through all of this before me, she lent me maternity clothes and piled up baby sleepers, receiving blankets, (I have since come to believe you can't have too many receiving blankets), spit up cloths and rubber changing table cloths. These basics were the best things I got as they are what I needed every day, and made the rest of the baby items, wonderful luxuries. My dad renovated an old wooden table into a changing table. He refinished the wood, added a large shelf underneath, and Mom made a vinyl changing table pad. It was perfect and served three children well. An old wardrobe stored in Dad's shed, which once housed a gun rack, was hauled out, cleaned up and retrofitted with shelves. The doors which once held glass, then were outfitted with mirrors, I now added gathered fabric panels, and we had a storage dresser/wardrobe for the baby's things. My parents gave us a wonderful collapsible stroller that was used, but in perfect shape. We thought it the greatest thing ever as it actually collapsed to just a frame of heavy steel. It was like lifting a small bicycle into the car but it was the newest thing since the "pram". Korey would be the lucky recepient of the new "umbrella" strollers which were just coming out, a stroller that folded in on itself like an accordian and could be carried on your arm like an umbrella. I didn't think baby inventions could get much better than that. Kurt's parents gave us the newest thing in "play pens" as we called them with mesh sides that folded down. Aside from sleeping when we went somewhere, my children were never huge play pen kids, and it mostly housed the myriad of baby toys we accumulated as it was like one big open toy box to pitch things in. Many years later the now slightly damaged play pen made a very serviceable birthing bed for our Brittany spaniel, Murphy. Use and reuse.
Not all the baby things we were gifted proved to be of great use or even very lasting. When Korey was born the "new" thing was an expensive stuffed teddy bear that when pushed in the stomach emitted the sounds of the mom's womb. It sounded vaguely like water lapping on shore, and when placed in the bed with the newborn was assured to keep the little one sleeping through the night. That didn't work at all, and I think after a couple of weeks, Mr Bear ended up in the toy pen along with all other stuffed animals. My children all slept their first weeks of life in a generations old German cradle. My grandfather was rocked in the cradle. When I say cradle you would think it was something small that sat next to your knees and you could gently rock it. Nope. The carved head and footboard to this cradle stood almost five feet. The wood side slats were two inches of carved wood and were over 18 inches high. It could be rocked by hand and was a wonderful testament to craftsmanship of an era no longer with us. We will certainly pay more for baby things now but we will never get the quality...(There's that senior mentality creeping in again....). My mother did not even know of the cradle's existence until her children were adutls. An aunt who had never had children had stored the cradle for many generations. Upon her death it was retrieved and my grandpa remembered. All of my children and my brother, Kim's children slept in that cradle. I like the feeling that the generations whisper to the sleeping child of family things and those who have gone before. The cradle now waits for me to bring it here to allow another generation to sleep in it, rocked by a loving grandma.
For the births of four boys, my two and my brother's two, and the birth of Annie, maternity clothes, then baby sleepers, blankets, baby towels, and baby items were traded back and forth between my sister in law and I. What a bond it created for us and one that existed long past our kids growing up. I gave baths to my babies in the kitchen sink. It was deep and small enough that the kids fit into it perfectly. We put our babies to sleep on their stomachs every night, because they stayed asleep that way and it was what our mother's and grandmothers had done. We taught them to walk by allowing them to fall down and get back up again. Somehow they survived to be healthy, and I most certainly hope, happy children. Things are different now, but in my old age wisdom, I know that they are very much the same. My children will add new "bells and whistles" to raising children and in the end they will learn what works, (a Johnny Jump Up and bounce chair were my best friends, and things my mom couldn't conceive of), and what doesn't. It is somewhat a "figure it out as you go along" kind of thing, and there is no manual I know to make you the perfect parent or make your children be carbon copies of one another, so what worked for one will work for all. But you will figure it out, and if there is one piece of advice above all others, don't get caught up in the "needs and the changes". They will come and they will be figured out with Yankee ingenuity, some German pluck and Italian dramatics.
I see the next page of life being readied. It will soon turn and I hope and pray I am young enough of heart to trust it will all unfold as the good Lord wishes....