It seems that the perspective from this point in my life has led me to do a lot of reminiscing lately. Conversations keep cropping up that lead to expressions like “back in the day,” or “That’s how it was when I was younger,” or ” I remember when.”
My mom and I read a lot of the same books, so I was telling her about one I’m now reading by my favorite author, Stephen Hunter, titled “The Third Bullet.” On the cover of the book, the title is superimposed over a picture of JFK.
While discussing the book’s plot, we both started to talk about where we were when we found out that Kennedy had been shot. My mom was working in an office and I was in the “typing” room at my high school. We both chuckled about the fact that, back in the day, we were both using manual typewriters. I haven’t seen one of those in how many years?
From there, the conversation drifted into what we were wearing in those days. I went through high school and college in skirts. Back in the '60s, the whole issue of women wearing pants to work or school was just emerging as the feminists pushed their agenda. In high school, wearing skirts was not troublesome or inconvenient — but the girdles? Now that is something I could have done without!
Although wearing skirts in high school was not a problem, in college they were. Back in the day before campus buses, students had to walk across campus. The campus at NIU was in the middle of the corn fields of DeKalb, Ill. Think winter, high winds blowing across open corn fields. At times, ropes were strung along the sidewalks for students to hold on to as they crossed campus because of the high winds.
My classes were mostly in a building that was shared by the business college and home economics department. Female students were not allowed in the building in pants. So, the challenge was to wear pants to cross campus and change in a bathroom in another building before entering this building.
Oh, the good old days!
Listening to someone talk about their life experiences, or “the good old days,” slows us down and helps us to connect with our heritage. It is unfortunate that in our culture this is not such a valued thing as in other cultures where the elderly in the family are honored and placed in high regard for their wisdom drawn on their life experiences.
The wisdom of listening to those tales of “back in the day” came sharply into my awareness on a recent visit to see my father-in-law. Over the 48 years of his being in my life, I have come to know a lot about his life; however, on this visit, new information came out as he reminisced about “when I was a little kid.” He remembered in great detail growing up on the family farm with no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no insulation, etc.
Being the oldest of three siblings, he was one who had to step up to the plate and help out his parents. This involved driving a team of two, then four, plow horses by the time he was 10. His parents had dairy cows and so they grew their own feed, plus had a cash crop.
In the morning, his job was to get the horses down to the pond for water, and break through the ice for them in the winter if necessary. He also tended to the cows. His dad took them to school in a horse-drawn wagon.
We talked about how different it was for children then, as their chores were necessary for the survival of the family. It certainly put him on the path to success as an adult. He got married, raised four children, went on to own his own farm, and at the same time continue to work in a foundry. He became an instructor pilot during World War II. After the war, he started up his own business while continuing to expand his farm.
In listening to him tell his story, it was so easy to feel his life move through these experiences and arrive at where he is today. I am thankful that I had the time for him to share this with me. I have a better understanding of the person he is today and a great respect for all he has accomplished in his life.
Each of our lives has been woven of experiences that are uniquely our own. There is great value in sharing these experiences with our family and friends so that they may see the world a little differently through another person telling of his/her own history.
Enjoy saying “back in the day” or “when I was little”! You will be providing someone an opportunity to get closer to you and understand the history that you have lived.
— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.