Saturday, April 9, 2011

Observations of a Fossil

Every generation curses the short attention span of the next. I think it first really got to me when I got married. I married a woman eleven years younger than me.

My friend Steve and I did the audio for the St. Louis Hockey Blues commercials for two years. We had free access to games and never took advantage of it. I’m not really a big sports fan. I think people should play games, not watch.

The team had a private box at Busch Stadium, and we did go to baseball games.

I finally went to a hockey game with my wife. She loved the game. I couldn’t believe how expensive it all was. I was bored out of my mind, too. It was all action and no drama. All that wasted, meaningless energy!

I confessed my boredom and said I preferred baseball. She couldn’t believe it. “That has to be the most boring game in the world, they just stare at each other.” she said.

I told her I thought the tension, drama and suspense of a pitcher trying to psyche out a batter was far more entertaining. It held my interest much more. She didn’t get it.

Turner Classic Movies sent Tippi Hedron to one of our local theaters to speak before a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds last week. A woman was talking about it on the radio. She said she overheard young people in the audience complain about how slow the film was. There were long pauses in the action with the sound of fluttering wings in the background. Those scenes used to send chills down my spine. My mind ran wild with all the “unthinkable” possibilities.

Speaking of short attention spans, this all occurred to me because I was going to write about trees. I have never seen either of my kids in a tree.

The first time I officially played hooky, I mean I wasn’t feigning some illness to my mom, was in fourth grade. A friend of mine and I were walking to school, and when we arrived at the front of the building we kept right on walking. We walked to Tower Grove Park and spent the day in a tree.

In those days truant officers were everywhere, and we knew they wouldn’t find us there. We made up lies and kept each other entertained all day. I couldn't imagine my kids staying in one place all day, unless it was in front of a computer or television.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about it over the years, but it’s true: adults have organized all the fun out of childhood. I’ve been guilty of it myself.

We organized our own ball games in empty lots. Now kids have uniforms and professional fields complete with concession stands. We built our own tree houses with stolen materials from construction sites. Now grown ups build forts from prefabricated kits. We rode in gangs on our bikes through the streets. These days, kids get together in front of a TV to play rock band, no one goes outside at all. In fact, parents won’t let their kids go out for fear that some pedophile is lurking behind the tree the kids should be climbing in the first place.

I scold my kids for their consumer driven idea of fun, but it’s my fault, and I’m afraid it’s too late to change.

I told my daughter that she and her friends hide behind technological social networking. They don’t have the courage to say the things they do to each others’ faces. That made them cowards. To my surprise, she agreed.

I guess their attention span is just on a different level. For example, they’re allowed to use calculators in math class. Our teachers would never have allowed that, but it allows them to go much farther. They just wouldn't be able to do it without tools. I guess if you think about it, we’ve evolved to a point where there are a lot of tools we can’t live without. Life marches on!

This pic is from years ago when my kids still behaved like kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It has always bothered me that your kids, my grandkids, wouldn't sit or lie on grass. Afraid of bugs! Never knew the euphoria and utter relaxation of lying on the sweet scented blades of grass, inspecting between those blades of grass for insects or worms and other crawly things, or gazing at the sky, imagining various structures or animals formed by clouds.

And trees! My God!. I used to carry a book up into a tree and sit and read. And when running wildly through woods and thickets with two of my childhood friends, we would get into arguments over who first called dibs an a particular tree with an especially good limb for sitting!

My hometown was on Spring River. Every spring at the beginning of the swimming season, the older boys would search the area around the docks and under the bridge that joined the two sections of town, dragging out tree limbs that might have washed down river during the winter, to make sure it was cleaned up of dangerous debris that could impede or harm those of us who jumped or swung out of trees into the river, or jumped or dived off the bridge.

I find it almost impossible to imagine not living the outdoor life growing up. I hate it that my grandkids will never know or even truly conceive of that joy!

Ah, youth! Such were the joys of growing up in a very small town in the foothills of the Ozarks in Arkansas.
Your Mom