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Nostalgia October 2014

The Old Gal

What Makes it a Home?

By Anne Ashley

Our house was small and messy and didn’t afford any of us much privacy. But I don’t recall ever wanting privacy. I played with, argued with and shared everything with my sisters and brother. It was home, our home and, warts and all, we were happy-ish.

In my youth, certain days (and nights) of the week were dedicated to particular purposes. Wednesday night was for grocery shopping (no mean feat for our mother schlepping five young children around the aisles, preventing forbidden items from slyly appearing in the cart). Friday night was fish for dinner, and Saturday was laundry day. Sunday was always church and having family over for lunch.

Occasionally Tuesday was reserved for an after-school function or extracurricular amusement – never any other day of the week, lest we overtaxed ourselves and became cranky with too much fun or excitement, and spoiled Wednesday’s grocery shopping extravaganza! Incidentally, our father rarely participated in any of these events – but we had it on good authority that he was always informed of any infraction or accomplishment and would respond accordingly! Unfortunately, there was no Dr Phil and his wise words of wisdom in those days to point out the perils of a parent not wanting to attend the event with their children but willing to show up for the opinion or punishment afterwards!

Anyway, television was closely monitored for unsavory content and watched by the entire family at the same time, as there was only one set in the house. Bath time followed strictly an hour after homework was completed and TV time finished.

Our mother was a bad cook – possibly, because she gave up trying to be creative after child number 3! However, she really cooked! And I’m not saying she wouldn’t have made use of a microwave if such a contraption had been available to her but, as it was, meals (awful, awful meals) were prepared as part of her motherly duties. We never ate in any room but the dining room/kitchen and we all ate the same thing at the same time in the same room. Amen!

It never occurred to me that this way of life was unacceptable or unfair. I don’t recall ever complaining that I wanted to do anything else of a Wednesday evening or that I wanted to be alone in my room instead of with the family. Had I dared to ask to eat in my bedroom, I’m certain I would have gone without dinner that night … or a bedroom!

Our house was small and messy and didn’t afford any of us much privacy. But I don’t recall ever wanting privacy. I played with, argued with and shared everything with my sisters and brother. It was home, our home and, warts and all, we were happy-ish.

Fast forward to home life today and none of this structure exists. Television blasts in the background from almost every room in the house and more than likely to no audience (which, quite honestly, is all today’s dreadful TV programs deserve). “Meals” are “nuked” in nuke-able containers to save time having to wash dishes and inevitably eaten while the lone diner is simultaneously carrying out other tasks … and, no doubt, texting!

Modern family life consists of hectic schedules, time saving processes, and privacy … lots and lots of privacy! No one communicates with family members anymore because we’re all too absorbed in social networking with the rest of the planet. It seems that conversation is now something to be typed, not spoken! I know of a young woman who only found out her sibling had had surgery because she read it on her Facebook page! How does that happen?

It is impossible to turn the clock back and un-know what we know today. But what have we traded yesterdays old-fashioned, labor-intensive lifestyle in for? We spend an absolute fortune on iPhones, iPads, enormous televisions (in every room), MP3s, Wi-Fi, 4G internet connections, and portable entertainment gadgets – lest we find ourselves with nothing to do but engage with the person in the room with us! We are seduced by mobile phones that talk to us, promising to carry out tasks that we once asked of our friends or family. We're paying for a contraption that replaces communication with a human being for communication with an android and we’re buying it in droves!

No, warts and all, I prefer the days when conversations and our time was free.




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