I don’t see any flying cars, though.”
May I be forgiven. I am about to launch into a fit of nostalgia, and I’ll just say “I’m sorry” up front and get it over with. This isn’t even going to be a mellow, sighing sort of nostalgia, wherein I wax poetic about happier, simpler times, the joys of childhood, the blankies you drag all over the house, and the importance of afternoon naps. No, this is going to be hard-core, the kind of delusional, rose-colored glasses nostalgia engaged in by storytelling grandparents and by most Republicans. This is going to be a fit of nostalgia that longs for times long out of memory and probably nonexistent.
You know the nostalgia I mean, I’m sure. This is the kind that leads policymakers to lament the “moral decline” of America and long for the days of the “traditional” family. Somehow it’s become a popular belief that if Mother always stayed at home with the 2.5 children and the 0.6 dog while Father spent days at the office and evenings in his chair with his pipe and the paper, things would be better. Lower teen pregnancy rates. Lower divorce rates. Lower instances of juvenile delinquency. A well-scrubbed country of smiling faces and popular opinions waving from behind our white picket fences. Because that’s “how it’s always been” and only since we’ve started deviating from that model has the country become the morally corrupt thing it is today.
Um, does anyone remember any time before 1950? Remember when both parents (and everybody else) worked one way or another? Remember the Middle Ages, when if you weren’t nobility or clergy, you were a farmer who worked your plot of land with parents, siblings, spouses, and offspring and then gave most of your crops to your landlord? Remember the Industrial Revolution, when Father worked in the mines, Mother worked in the mill, and the children joined her there as soon as they could tie broken strings together? Our happy mental picture of the “traditional family” was born in the 1950s, out of post-war affluence and leftover aspirations of the Victorian middle class.
But this is not my point.
You see, I woke up this morning with a sour taste in my mouth and really determined crusties in my eyelashes. And no, I did not earn such an experience by exceeding my recommended daily allowance of alcohol last night, either. I felt miserable, depressed, purposeless. And then it came to me: today I want to sit in a sewing circle with other youngish, newly married, newly expecting women, drink tea, munch dainty cookies, and quilt. We would be making another quilt for the orphanage in the city, feeling ourselves righteous with every tiny stitch. No, that’s not it; I wanted to take my laundry to the wide space in the river and chat with my neighbors over our suds and washboards.
Never mind that I’m not newly married, not expecting, or that I lack the strength and stamina to wash my clothes by hand with rocks in a river. If I actually had to live my life that way, I’d not have the time to write these rambling thoughts for your amusement. But still with these “life was better then” glasses, that’s what I long for this morning. And if I look closer, it’s not the river, the laundry, the cookies, or the quilting that I want. It’s the community. The supportive gathering of friends.
How sad that we have become a nation of individuals so completely individual that we don’t connect with anyone outside our home or workplace anymore. Gone are the days of neighborhood get-togethers; for that matter, gone are the days of neighborhoods. We work our mind-numbing jobs and go home, swearing at strangers on the highway who dare slow us down in our rush to get somewhere where we can be alone with our computer, our eBay account, and that guy in the chat room with the cute avatar. We know more than we ever knew before; we travel faster, horde more stuff, and spend less time with fewer and fewer people.
Welcome to the future; is it everything you hoped it would be?