My dad sent me a funny email the other day about a woman who apologizes for not knowing that plastic bags are bad for the environment because “we didn’t have the green thing back in my day.” As it turns out, they did have the green thing, it just didn’t have a trendy name. It’s about a time when doing the green thing was not something you bragged about, it was simply the way people lived. It’s about a time when people did the green thing not because it was the in thing, but because they were frugal and used common sense. True, there were fewer choices back then, but people also lived within their means.
Even though I am not “as old as dirt” as the email states, I do recall a time when green was just a color and things were a lot less complicated. As a child I can remember never having a choice between paper and plastic, milk bottles that the milkman delivered full and picked up empty, cloth diapers for my baby brother, a single television in the house, and not a single health club in my town. I remember when bottled water was a novelty and riding an escalator at the shopping mall in Omaha was as exciting as going to a theme park. Of course, I’d never been to a theme park. We didn’t go on vacation, we went camping.
Technology has changed a lot since I was kid. I do remember life before computers. My grandfather owned a typewriter. When my grandson saw it he acted as though he had discovered a lost enigma machine. They don’t even have typing class in high school anymore. They call it keyboarding and it starts in grade school. We learned cursive handwriting. Remember taking a picture with your camera and having to wait three weeks to see how it turned out? Or how about when televisions were pieces of furniture? I remember. I also remember when television was free. Of course we only had three stations and a big metal tree on the roof called an antenna. I even remember UHF. You don’t? Well, let’s just call it cable and move on. I remember the birth of children’s programming. I was there. It was called Sesame Street and it taught children the importance of learning to read, how to count, and the difference between near and far. It also placed emphasis on being honest and doing the right thing; messages that are hard to come by in children’s programming these days. Finally, I remember life before PlayStation. We played outside. We rode bikes, climbed trees, and made forts. We got stung by bees, eaten alive by mosquitoes and we never wore shoes in the summer.
Yes, things have changed a lot since I was a little girl. Maybe I am as old as dirt. Or maybe, I was just raised to live within my means and to know the difference between needs and wants. I am proud to say that I passed these lessons on to my daughter. She turned 25 last month and like me, she grew up on Sesame Street and Dr. Suess. She never had a television in her room because we only owned one. She never got hooked on hand held games because I never bought them. Instead, she read books before going to bed. She played with dolls, put puzzles together, and used crayons to draw pictures. When we went on vacation, we went camping. She had second hand toys and wore second hand clothes. Not because we couldn’t afford new, but because they were still good. She didn’t have a cell phone until she went to college. How on earth did we communicate? When she was little, we called out for her to shake a tree…because she was always in the woods building forts and using her imagination. When she was in high school, we spent time together. We had conversations. We still do.
I am confident that my daughter’s children will also remember life before “the green thing” because she will raise them the way she was raised. They too will learn to make the best out of what they have and what they can afford. She will raise them to be excited about escalators, barefoot summers, Sesame Street, and using your imagination. She will teach them that living a life less complicated doesn’t mean you are poor or deprived or even noble. It simply means that you make common sense choices and that sometimes green is just a color.