“That is so weird.”
That is the response I got when I told The Kid that they used to sell warm cashews in the ladies’ lingerie department in stores.Are you old enough to remember that? Every time I went to Belk Tyler’s and JC Penney’s with my mom, she’d get a small bag of cashews. They were kept in a small, lightbulb-warmed, glass-fronted case that sat on the wrap desk. The nuts were scooped into little lined paper sacks that made a delicious, anticipatory crinkly sound when the sales lady filled them.Looking back, when I was a kid there was a lot of stuff that went on that didn’t make a lick of sense. But at the time, those things seemed perfectly reasonable to everyone.
Since I was a kid, most of the oddness I took note of had to do with kids and the lives we led back then. Honestly, the fact that most of us made it with hearing, sight, limbs, fingers and toes all accounted for is nothing short of a miracle.I was in junior high before our family car had seatbelts. The only baby seats were the laps of adults. I and every kid I knew regularly napped in that shelf between the back seat and back window. In the mid-seventies, our family owned a VW bug, and when there were more people than seats, I sat in the tiny space behind the back seat. If we’d ever been rear ended, they would have had to use tweezers to gather me together.
Leaving us at home to play was no guarantee of safety.I’m not sure if we had toys or potential exhibits at the manslaughter trial. Lawn darts: sure kids, here are some metal darts with tips sharper and more lethal than the arrows headhunters use. So make sure you throw them into the ground and not at your little brother.Slip & slide? More like slip and call the insurance company and see what our deductible is for personal injury. Older children with a scientific bent were given chemistry sets—basically child-sized meth kits.Our Halloween costumes came in boxes; cover-alls that tied at the neck and plastic face masks that stayed on by a thin elastic thread. If we behaved while trick-or-treating and Mom was in a good mood, we’d get to wear them to bed. We had choices like Barbie, GI Joe, and Underdog. But these suits were so flammable it was like we were running around the neighborhood wearing shiny, colorful explosives.
And when we did get hurt or sick, the medicine and treatments we were given would be the basis of a social services investigation these days. Upset tummy? Every home medicine cabinet had a bottle of Paregoric, which settled even the worst stomachaches. The reason was it was chock full of morphine, which effectively paralyzed our innards. A cold with a cough was treated with a heaping spoonful of medicine full of codeine. A scraped knee could give you a touch of brain damage when the antiseptic dabbed on it was Mercurochrome, a mercury-laden wonder drug.Thinking about the vast difference between my childhood and kids of today makes me think. I wonder if, in thirty years, parents will be shocked and appalled that when they were little, they were actually allowed to walk in the scary, dangerous outdoors on their own two feet, they used their teeth to chew potentially harmful solid food, and they hadn’t even invented bubble wrap suits yet.
And I’ll be in my rocking chair at the home, laughing my mercury-addled head off.
Thanks for your time.