by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
November 15, 2005
THE 'OLDEN' DAYS OF JUST YESTERDAY
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- We do think of "the olden days" as being older than we are, at least. That's not true anymore. When I asked my mother about her childhood, I asked if they ate from wooden dishes. She laughed and said: "No, our holiday table was set with the finest china and silver flatware," adding, "The candles flickered over crystal goblets filled with apple cider; no, we didn't eat from wooden bowls," she laughed.
That sounded pretty normal to me as I pictured it. But, of course, I was asking about 1890 with the understanding of a child in the 1940s. She didn't say it was before electricity so they had made by hand the beeswax candles that flickered, providing light for dinner, while kerosene lamps (that she filled) provided light for the rest of her home. Nor did she think to tell me the amber-colored cider was pressed from apples they plucked by the bushel from their own trees.
The roast pig was the featured centerpiece on that lace-covered table. She never mentioned the pig was part of the ever-hungry mass of porkers in the pigsty waiting for her to fill the trough with grain and swill each day. Its number was up! I didn't think to ask. That wasn't important to me then; it was enough to know she ate her porridge from china bowls. That made us contemporaries.
But we weren't. The things I didn't ask about were part of her life she considered ordinary. I didn't ask what kind of car her family drove. And, of course, I assumed there would be a car in every garage. We had a 1939 Pontiac. We had electricity, gas heat, running water, indoor plumbing -- all the things we have today, albeit in a bulky, more primitive fashion. There was a vast difference between the life of a child in the 1940s and her childhood at the end of the last century --- whoops, I mean the 19th century.
We color in a picture with what we know. And, as I've discovered, what we don't know, we make up. I made up a car in her garage and she assumed I knew a horse and buggy would take you anywhere you had to go, and if it couldn't get you there, you didn't go.
As a child, I had a lot of misconceptions about the olden days. Obviously. All of a sudden, I mean like just today, I realize "the olden days" could be yesterday. Here I sit in my own ignorance wondering what in the world an I-Pod is. Or, is it an "eye pod?" I don't know but everyone either has one or wants one and totally understands the concept and capabilities. I don't know an I-Pod from a Pea Pod. Where have I been?
So now we have to define the olden days as being before and beyond the days in which we live. That will define me as anachronistic, for sure. Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" says it in one line of the song, "in olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows, anything goes." But it no longer fits. I am so far from being shocked these days that I can pass a young girl (I almost said young lady but ... no) with her belly button adorned with a brass ring pierced through it. With her shirt up high and her jeans down low, she fits right in with her contemporaries, and to them, it's normal.
I've come out of all the decades that have gone before and now I'm fully into the technological age - up until I-Pod. I'll catch my breath and think about my personal "olden days." Those would be when I got my first computer. I'd sit for hours learning what I had to know to research things I didn't know. My telephone line would be busy since it was a dial-up connection. I canceled about four servers before I found one that wouldn't disconnect if I paused for a moment.
In these olden days of my memory, I spent time as if I were letting shiny silver dime slip through my fingers. I'd look up at the clock and find 30 minutes had passed. In no time at all, my spending habits advanced exponentially until minutes turned into hours.
I can no longer remember life without the Internet any more than my mother could recall days before electricity, telephones and radios. When the old days are gone, they're gone.
My mother could still make candles, but why? She could still press apples into cider, but why? I can still use a typewriter, but why? I could still go to the Library to research whatever it is I want to know, but why?
Then again, it's a glorious day today. I know the Library is just as anachronistic as I am, but it is also working hard to keep up with life in our fast-moving cyber-technology. I'll sit in one of those little cubby holes, well lighted and comfortable. I'll turn pages and check contents and thumb through chapters. Maybe I'll find something on I-Pods.