My push-button phone was attached to the wall because it had to be in order to operate. Curling my hair meant sleeping in sponge rollers that left dents in my scalp, and I was free to record and listen to my favorite music ad nauseam because I used a piece of Scotch tape to cover the previously popped-out tab on the bottom of a cassette tape so I could record Sweet Child O’ Mine over Livin’ on a Prayer. I, my friends, was an 80s gal.
My daughter was born a beautiful and perfect baby of 2002. She does not know the 1900s. Gag, that sounds so old! The first date she ever saw written in school came from the soft felt tip of a dry-erase marker on a shiny whiteboard and began with the numbers 2 and 0. The first date I saw in a classroom was scripted on a green chalkboard with a dusty yellow cylinder of chalk that likely was pulled from one of those wood and wire holders designed to hold four pieces to draw spaced and dotted tablet lines. Like countless other children I have taught, she likely struggled to even read the year 1985 as a date and not a number written to the thousands place the first time she saw it on paper. My baby girl’s struggles are so very different from her 80s mama.
I have thought long and hard over the last 13 years since my daughter has been alive, and I have come up with a virtual laundry list of things she will never understand and about which she would roll her eyes to the heavens should I begin my version of the “to school uphill both ways in the snow” stories of how my youth differed from hers. I try very hard not to be that mother, so I squirrel away my comments as I bite my tongue. Drum roll, please...
Talking on the phone meant, essentially, camping out in a five-foot square of floor space. As an 80s child, I spent a vast amount of time on the phone after school and on weekends with friends. As a result of that, I was basically tethered to the wall. Our phone, though long of cord and short of technology, could not be taken from room to room. (The 90s saw the introduction of the cordless phone to our family. With it came the freedom to roam just about five feet from the edge of our carport.) Having a conversation with my best friend took dedication, sacrifice, and the desire to sit cross-legged for hours on end telling my friend about every 15 minutes, “Hold on a sec while I switch ears.”
Thanks to the smartphone, my daughter will never know the feeling of achy ear cartilage, cricks in her neck, or the irritation of having her mother pick up the other end and begin pushing buttons in her ear as she and her friend discuss that girl in homeroom’s overuse of blue frosted eyeshadow.
See? My daughter knows not of the struggle. She thinks the struggle is having to get up and unplug the wireless router for 2.4 seconds to reset the wifi in hopes her iPhone will load Ed Sheeran a few milliseconds faster. Pfffffft….
2. Listening to music was almost a job. I grew up with a Fisher Price
record player and used a hand-me-down radio/tape player for much of
the 1980s. It took a steady hand and burning desire not to scratch the vinyl in order to set a record spinning. When it came to listening to the radio in hopes of hearing a favorite song, I needed a small arsenal of weapons in order to conquer bad recordings and ensuing mishaps with the tape. If I didn’t have a pencil for untangling my tape from the deck, a roll of Scotch tape for making a cassette reusable, new stickers to cover the old stickers I was using to label mix tapes, and a marker that would write on those stickers without smearing, I was pretty well sunk.
3. Photographs were always, and I mean always, a surprise. When
I received my first camera, it, too, was a hand-me-down. My parents
gave me a thin, black Kodak Ektralite, and it required 110 film. Yes, my sweet, sheltered daughter, actual film. (Cue that music from silent movies.) Every picture I took was a hope before it was an actual photograph. Each point-and-shoot combo I performed was accompanied by a brief prayer that my subjects would A. all be in the photo and B. have the entirety of their heads featured within the photo’s borders. Completing a roll of film could take days, if not weeks, and that would be followed by a week’s wait or more on the developing of the film by a team of people who saw my handiwork, my blurred images of a field trip, and a couple stunning close-ups of my pinky finger before I did.
My daughter’s picture-taking frustration centers around whether or not she will delete the eighty-six nearly identical pictures of our orange tabby cat today or wait until her camera roll is full.
4. Lost TV remotes equalled mild cardio. Mishandling the TV’s
remote control, when we were lucky enough to have one of the
new-fangled televisions, meant a wee workout as I scoured cushions, squatted to peer into the nether regions below the loveseat, and risked shoving my hand into the crack of the La-Z-Boy and pulling back a handful of popcorn and two dusty dimes as my search ensued. Anything was better than getting up and actually walking to the TV to manually change the channel. When all rescue efforts failed to yield results, to the TV I would walk.
Today, as my daughter sits and, inevitably, loses the remote (now roughly the size of a 100-calorie granola bar), she need only slide her thumb to one side or the other on her phone’s screen to activate her remote control app. Voila! Problem solved.
5. Televisions were for television shows, and movies meant a car
car ride. As a kid, I recall one movie in particular being shown on
television yearly. The Wizard of Oz aired every February, and our
household waited with bated breath as if we had never seen it before.
Beyond the occasional movie set to air on television, my movie
experience was limited to new releases in a theater or trips to a movie rental store. The VHS tapes my family rented from these establishments had to be returned within 3 days and must be returned rewound. Yes, we had to make sure they were ready for the next renter to begin...wait for it...at the beginning, or we were charged a rewinding fee. Our slacking became someone else’s job.
Just now, my daughter whipped out her phone, searched for a movie
she had been wanting to watch, swiftly pulled up her Roku app, and
instantly selected said movie on Netflix. Just. That. Simple. The biggest conundrum facing her was whether she would watch it now or just add it to her queue. Her queue. Siiiiigh. My queue was in my hometown’s movie store and involved answering the question, “Do you want to add another night for 50 cents?”
The struggle… it was real. My mother could probably have written her own version of this about me and how my sponge rollers were much more comfortable than the perm rods she knew and the shameless way in which I complained about having to search for a remote control she never had the luxury to complain about losing when she was my age. Only time will tell what my daughter’s daughter will call a struggle. For the time being, though, I will revel in the joy that is hearing her say Eminem’s name and knowing when “Eminem” rolled off my tongue it was because I was referring to the candy that melted in mouth and not in my hands. I will find solace in rolling my eyes at my child who uses “like” as a noun and knows nothing of the amazing technological wonder that was The Clapper. The struggle, folks...the struggle.