Old Fashioned Ideals: Was life really better back then?

“Freedom From Want” – Norman Rockwell – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

A very close friend once said to me, “trapped in your 47-year-old body is a 95-year-old man who sees life as a Norman Rockwell painting. You certainly wish life was like the ideals portrayed in those paintings.” Her view of who I am was perfect because once upon a time life was slower, more respectful, and family seemed to matter more. My memories of growing up in small-town America are of Thanksgivings spent at either Bagaw’s for lunch and then Granny and Granddaddy’s home for supper.

Bagaw and Granny at Christmas Lunch 1994 – Life was Always Good Around Their Tables

As a child at Granny’s, you were relegated to the children’s table because the adults sat at the big table and the meal featured ham, collard greens, green bean casserole, and love shared among the family gathered in an informal setting. Conversation at the kid’s table centered around what we were getting for Christmas or could you believe that cow in the pasture charged us. Life just seemed more comfortable then, not because we were children but the distractions of 24/7 television and social media were still at least 30 years in the future.

The level of connectivity today has changed how we view life, and the change has not been for the better. Honest and genuine conversations rarely happen anymore because of how quick people choose to be offended by either an inadvertent choice of words or because the topic discussed makes the person uncomfortable. In the past several years, I have noticed that I am more reserved in not only my conversations but my friendships as well; that is not a good thing because we are social creatures who need nurturing relationships. How can we have nurturing relationships with people outside our families in this climate of mistrust and division because of race, politics, socioeconomic factors, etc.? The answer to that question escapes me, and this phenomenon of being quickly offended may not be unique to 2017, but I do not recall that people were as quick to voice their angst and offense while growing up in small-town America.

The significant wish I have on Thanksgiving Day 2017 is that we can all come together in love and kindness and start working towards bridging the gaps of division driven into the fabric of the nation by 24/7 social media access to the good, the bad, and the ugly of America.

Finally, I miss the quiet of the Thanksgiving table where the only distraction was when Uncle John asked for more mashed potatoes or the clattering of the forks dipping into Granny’s Million Dollar Pie. Life just seemed so much simpler and nicer then, but maybe I’m just waxing nostalgic, and life was not all that ideal. I guess it is all just how we choose to view life then and now.

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