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more introspective ramblings

Continuing with Introspection Day (which I promise will be done soon)...

I was talking to Todd today about feeling nostalgic and wistful. We talked about the wonder of being a child, the joys that books brought to us, the days spent doing nothing but looking up at the sky or running through the grass.

We agreed that carefree childhoods are a thing of the past, which prompts me to re-post this entry from last year:

Summer of 12

12 then and 12 now are worlds apart.

12 then was blissful ignorance.

12 now is the weight of the world.

When I was 12 my summer days were spent barefoot in my backyard, alternating between the pool and the sprinkler and the blanket on the lawn. I left the backyard only when I heard the tinny ringing of the ice-cream truck. I would run out to the street, hopping like mad from one foot to the other in an effort to not feel the full scorch of the burning blacktop. Al the ice-cream man would hurry us along in a heavy accent. Sometimes we understood him and sometimes we didn't. And sometimes Al was in a talktative mood and he would show us the numbers tattooed on his arm. We would shrug, not really knowing what the story was. We couldn't understand his accent, and even if we did, it seemed like too heavy a story to carry with our melting cones.

Today, 12 means you have read at least three historical fiction stories about the Holocaust. 12 means you would know what the numbers on Al's arm were.

When I was 12 my summer nights were spent in the street, playing kickball with my cousins. Sometimes we played kick-the-can and we would run through the neighbors yards, hiding in their shrubbery and under their porches. We played until we were too tired to run, and then we would walk down to the candy store to buy soda and snacks.

Today, 12 means you can't play in the street because there are too many cars. 12 means your neighbor's lawn is off limits because it was just sprayed with some chemical to make their grass grow greener. 12 means you can't walk to the store at night, because there are too many strangers.

When I was 12 we went to the beach and for family drives and spent leisurely days at the park. We woke up late and watched morning tv in our pajamas until we were shooed outside. Our days were long and unstructured and lazy.

Today's 12 means summer camp or summer school and getting up with the birds. It is structure and bus rides just like the rest of the year. Family drives and trips to the beach are scheduled events. Time is managed. Soccer, baseball, dance, enrichment programs, swim lessons.

When I was 12 I wasn't afraid of the world. Current events in school meant local news, fluff stories, a few science-related pieces. Health lessons centered around hygiene and grooming. Drug education was non-existent. Learning about the environment meant paying attention to don't litter signs.

Today's 12 is frightening. Current events are happening in their own backyard. War and terrorism are part of the daily venacular. Health lessons include segments on AIDS and condoms and learning how to say no. Drug education is imperative. Today's 6th graders know about ozone layers and recycling and toxins in the water.

Today's 12 is better educated than I was. They are more informed. They are better prepared. But they are not the 12 of carefree childhood and innocence. They are somehow older, wiser and a bit more cynical than I ever knew at 12.

Perhaps today's 12 is more prepared to deal with the world than the 12 year olds of my day were. But I still have to lament that their childhood is almost over at an age when it should be in its prime.


We discussed the very same things at home last night. The lack of childhood innocence today makes me incredibly sad. This was beautifully written/expressed.

What you're saying is true, but I think it's also true that todays 12's will be looking back with similar nostalgia a few decades from now. Even though their childhood is in many ways more complex and difficult than ours was, it's still their childhood...

All the jews and zionists stayed out of the World Trade Center on 9/11 because Bush told them to. Bush's CIA and Israel's Mossad together pulled off the attacks to give Bush excuse to kill all Arabs and non-whites. Bush and CIA are watching you 24/7. Thousands have disappeared in the middle of the night. Thousands more have been sold into slavery.

Don't trust your neighbor - he's probably A Bush Gestapo agent!

Outlaw all smoking - the KKK owns Marlboro and the rest of big tobacco!

When I was 12, we'd grown up knowing that the Godless Communists might nuke us any minute now, I had vivid memories of the day Oswald murdered Kennedy, there was a war raging in Viet Nam, cities were burning that summer and the assnozzle Boston Red Sox stole the pennant from the Tigers on the last day of the season.

its odd...i feel more like a child now than i did when i was 12. back then, i was dealing with bullies, navigating the hells of middle school, dealing with losing a parent and the fallout from teachers and fellow students alike, and coming home from school/camp/rehearsal/soccer every day crying over something or other.

i discovered my childhood when i graduated from high school.

The summer when I was 12...can't remember exactly but I believe that was the year that my grandfather died of leukemia in May, so we were all still adjusting to life without that sweet, ruddy-faced, jovial old farmer. That was a hard, hard lesson in the reality of death, and I think it affects me to this day. Rest in peace, Grandpa, and I hope you know how much we still love you.

However, all was not dark. We had the usual summer chores to do in the garden and around the house but for the most part, the time belonged to me and my two brothers. I rode my bike all over those Michigan dirt roads, visiting my cousins and my friends who lived on the far side of countless pastures and corn fields. We rode into town to buy candy, went swimming, camped in the woods. My folks never worried about me, and I could come and go as I pleased so long as I got my work done and was back at the agreed-upon times. That was also the summer of the long and complicated break-up with Gail, my first real "girlfriend." It was then that I learned how fickle women can be (of course she's probably somewhere thinking, "it was then that I learned what jerks men can be"). But she had given me my first kiss, my first hand-holding walk, my first glimpse of the glory of loving someone.

There were things going on in the world -- Watergate, the Vietnam pull-out, POWs, Cold War politics -- but world events passed over me like those billowy summer clouds.

Yes, things are very different now for my own children. But short of moving to the country, I don't know how I can give them that same experience. We do the best we can, living here in Atlanta, and I take some comfort in knowing that they have opportunities here, living in the city, of which I could have only dreamed.

Thanks, Michele, for taking me back there, if only for a little while. :-)