Longing for the old days — but not everything about the old days

     A group of friends is shown c. 1979. (<a href=Wikimedia Commons) " title="70s-fashion_1200x675" width="640" height="360"/>

    A group of friends is shown c. 1979. (Wikimedia Commons)

    I can clearly recall when my parents would tell us all about the good old days. They would tell us that “penny candy” meant that you got a fistful of candy for a penny. They would tell us that movies were five cents, and that included a double feature. They would tell how they bought their first house, the beautiful house I grew up in, for $30,000. And I remember thinking, God, they’re so old.

    I thought I was middle aged. But I’ve been in possession of an AARP card for three years now. So maybe that makes me an official senior citizen.

    I can clearly recall when my parents would tell us all about the good old days. They would tell us that “penny candy” meant that you got a fistful of candy for a penny. They would tell us that movies were five cents, and that included a double feature. They would tell how they bought their first house, the beautiful house I grew up in, for $30,000. And I remember thinking, God, they’re so old.

    Well here I stand today, 53 years old, and I can remember, when I first started driving, I could fill my tank for seven bucks. I remember pay phones — not the portable devices we now carry in our pockets. It cost a dime to make a call from the inside of a little standing box. And I remember the big things and the little things: Big hair, big speakers for our stereos, big platform shoes, and big dreams. Tiny transistor radios, tiny TV screens, and a tiny choice of channels to surf.

    My dad made his living as a plastic surgeon. Back then, they were plastic surgeons, not cosmetic surgeons. They might lift you here and tuck you there, but they also made you a new ear when you were born without one, and they built you a new face after the old one went through the windshield.

    I remember vacations in the late ’70s to a little place called Grand Cayman Island. There was a seven-mile stretch of beach there with only one hotel. There were no Ritz Carltons, no TVs and very few phones. And I remember go-go boots, the wet look, and bare-midriff halter tops.

    Please, God, don’t bring back the bare-midriff halter tops. I can’t bear the thought of walking into my local Wal-Mart only to find someone’s bra strap in hot pink hanging out of the top of one and her muffin top hanging out of her middle.

    But then, so many things are really still the same. Back then, we wore black horn-rimmed glasses. Today, we don’t call them horn-rimmed, but the fashion is still big, black and plastic. Back then, we wore pedal pushers. Today, we call them crop pants, but they’re still pants that just don’t make it down to your toes. The Who can still jam, Springsteen still draws a crowd, and yes, we still have big dreams.

    Some things have changed for the worse, some for the better, and some have just stayed the same. I really have no desire to go back to my youth and relive the good old days. I was naïve and insecure and limited in wisdom. I like it just where I am.

    A fistful of candy is now about a buck-fifty. A single feature film is now $12. And that house I grew up in can now be found online — at a value of $250,000. But of course our salaries are higher and both sexes work, so who’s to say that the value is all that much different.

    There’s just one thing, one little thing, that I really miss about the good old days. I want to go on vacation. I want to go back to Grand Cayman Island. But I want to go back in 1978. I want to go there without all the big hotels and the tourist shops. I want to go back to no TVs — when I could hear only the sound of the ocean.

    So I need to have a little talk with the future. I need to tell it to please produce an airplane that will take me there. Take me back to Grand Cayman in 1978, because apparently I’m a senior citizen now, and that would take me back to the good old days.

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