My daughter, Miss 18, and I had wee discussion via Facebook ‘tother day about her elderly overlocker (that’s ‘serger’ in North American). She inherited the machine from my mother but of late it had been misbehaving and she wasn’t too impressed with it (though to be honest if I was trying to organize four cotton threads at that speed, I’d probably collapse into a snivelling heap occasionally too.)
“I’ve tried looking it up on the Internet but it’s so old there’s nothing on there!”
“Honey, I was 13 when Grandma bought that thing....the Internet wasn’t even invented yet.”
After what must have been a bemused cyber silence my child replied: “Holy shit, at first it sounds like you're joking but it just literally wasn’t lol”
Not in 1987....hell, New Zealand only just got its first mobile network that year....but the Internet as we know it did officially ‘materialize’ (well as much as thin air can materialize) two years later in November of 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee got all technical with his Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the World Wide Web was born. It all became very handy dandy....just not when I was a kid.
This got me to thinking about all the other things that are the norm in my offspring’s life but were mere fantasy in my childhood.
(This is the peril of being a writer you know....your brain never just stops at the end of a conversation and moves onto the next thing like normal people...it keeps nagging at you for hours: “Can we stop and write about that stuff we were talking about earlier? Please? Can we? Like now?.....OK after the dishes. What about now? Stop doing that, just stop....STOP EATING AND WRITE DAMN YOU!)
And here I am....
Now take the Compact Disc for example (a strand of technology already becoming obsolete); it, and CD players, may well have become commercially available in 1982 but nothing much reached New Zealand shelves till several years later. I remember Miss 18, just exiting her own tweenhood, being enthralled to discover that I never owned my first CD until I was 18, by which time we could afford something to play the damn thing on. “That was only three years before I was born!” She gasped. “So what did you play music on before that? “On tapes dear child and prior to that, records.”
“Wow, you mean like those shiny round black things??”
I sent her to clean her room before I was tempted to beat her within an inch of her life with a flaccid album cover.
But other similar discussions have been had at various points along her developmental span, usually provoked by random events: I would be mid account of a childhood adventure when she would ask: “Why didn’t you just text?”
“Because I didn’t have a cell phone.”
“You di....oh wow....so did you like actually ring people and stuff.”
“Well normal people did, I had a pathological fear of phones so avoided them wherever possible...but yes, telephoning was the norm.”
“So did you have email?”
“When I was a teenager we got one; we had a Commodore 64 that played arcade type games and stuff.”
“So like Granddad’s Wolfenstein?”
“No those games needed Windows or something similar and that (as you would recognize it) didn’t come out until the 90,s....these games were DOS based.”
“Disc Operating Sys.....you know the black screen you sometimes see when a computer is booting up? We used to play in there.”
“I didn’t even know you could DO that!!”
“Live and learn, Ducky”
It was even more entertaining listening to her discuss these matters of generational difference with my father:
“Your Grandmother...”he would extol, waggling an earnest finger “you’re grandmother will tell ya clear as anything...there was none of this being driven to school in shit weather carry on in her day, no no, she used to have to walk to school, even in the snow and sleet and rain and hail, and it was uphill, she’ll tell ya! Uphill both ways!!”
At which point my mother would bellow from the kitchen: “I do bloody not say that you lying old git!” or words to that effect.
You should have seen when he got to the bit about the dinosaurs!
I’ve discovered that ultimately one does have to accept the transition of life as you know it. It happens to us all; little tell-tale events will regularly remind you that your time of being ‘current’ has indeed come and gone, or is at least slipping ominously from your grasp....all those things you found so super important in your youth are now a foreign language to the next generation.
And if you’re lucky it looks a little something like this...
I found Miss 18 and her eight year old sister rummaging around in the garage one day hunting for God knows what when I heard the eldest exclaim: “OH...MYGOD...look, look at this!!
“What is it?” Lil Blondie’s face crinkled into nonchalant curiosity.
“It’s my Tamagochi!” my teenager squeaked, her face aglow with memories of her deep amusement with the tiny toy. “I use to play on this thing for hours when I was your age!”
“You seriously used to play on THAT!” the Blonde one snorted. “Didn't you have an iPad or anything?”
It was almost poetic...