There is a saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I can see the truth in that. But I’d like to talk about the drastic changes one person can see in his or her lifetime.
Tomorrow I will attend the memorial service of my Great-Aunt Theresa, my maternal grandmother’s oldest sister. Theresa was born in 1907… she would have been 104 next month. One hundred four years old. That boggles my mind! The things that she has seen in her lifetime must have boggled her mind at times… a mind, by the way, that was sharp until shortly before she passed. I did not know my Great-Aunt well, but the times we spent together were always good. I was always in awe of her… not in a frightened way, but in a fascinated way.
The year Aunt Theresa was born, UPS was founded in Seattle, WA, it cost 2 cents to mail a letter, and Hershey’s Kisses were invented. She was born before WWI, and was probably old enough to have memories of the news of it.
I was talking to a 20-something girl the other day, and she was sounding all kinds of impressive that she could remember when we didn’t have texting. I told her I could remember when cell phones were the size of bricks, when we didn’t have cell phones, and even when we didn’t have cordless phones–so to take a phone call, we actually had to stand right next to the phone. As young mothers, my friends and I were grateful when we could get really long cords so we could talk on the phone and still check on our kids and do the dishes and other chores. That girl I was telling all this to was amazed! lol. But Aunt Theresa saw the progression from most homes not having a phone to most people keeping a phone in their pocket.
She saw the progression from computers not even being a glimmer in any scientist’s eye to computers in the home to computers in most homes to many people have a computer on that phone in their pocket. When she was a child, it took several days for a letter to cross the country. Now, when someone writes a letter, it arrives in a couple days. Most of us, however, do our written communication by email, which can be instant when both parties are at their computer. My daughter talks to her friends on Skype.
In the early 1900’s women stayed home to take care of their husbands and children. Couples didn’t question whether they would choose to have a child. No mother would choose to feed her baby from a bottle. There was no instant way to “throw something together” for dinner. Meals were made purposefully, and meal gatherings were an expression of love. Bread was made by hand. Many homes had a garden–families ate fresh food in the summer, and they put up food for the winter months.
I don’t know if my great grandparents had a radio in their home when Great-Aunt Theresa was a girl, but I’m listening to streaming radio on my computer as I write this. When I go for a run, I’ll listen to music on my iPod.
A couple weeks ago, I was explaining to my daughter that it’s only been recently that we would just drive up to the curb to pick someone up or drop someone off at the airport. When I was a girl, and even through my teen years, airport drop-off and pick-ups were a family affair… a real event. The entire family would go. We would park in parking lot, we would all walk into the airport together, and then we would all wait at the gate… whether it was to see our loved one to the plane and wait until the plane would pull away, or it was to wait with joyful anticipation for the plane to land and our loved one to walk through that doorway. And no one would wear jeans on a plane; it was a dress-up affair. Also, plane tickets cost more when I was in high school than they do now. She thought it was pretty strange. However, we can hop on a plane whenever we choose. Just 4 years before Aunt Theresa was born, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flight.
In many ways, the world was a much safer place. When I was a kid, we’d go outside to play and not come in till it was dark and mothers were flashing to porch lights to call us in. I’m sure it was the same when Aunt Theresa was a girl. Kids always walked wherever they needed to go, and no one worried about whether they would make it safely to school, the neighbors’ house, the store, or wherever they were heading.
When Great-Aunt Theresa was a girl, there were some very scary diseases that killed many. No one under the age of 60 has seen a case of smallpox, most people under the age of 40 don’t have the smallpox vaccination scar on their upper arm, and a case has not been seen on the planet since at least 1980. Helen Keller was left blind and deaf as a result of scarlet fever. Started in the 1940’s, the Centers for Disease Control have worked to cure and prevent many diseases.
As I sit and write this on my computer, I can easily go back and correct mistakes. I will (hopefully) not post this until I have caught and corrected any mistakes… and everything I write is saved on “the cloud” forever, as far as we know. If Great-Aunt Theresa kept a journal, is was with a pencil or pen in a bound book.
What about you? What have you seen in your lifetime that fascinates you? What was common in your childhood that is unknown or amazing to children today? Is there someone in your life who has lived a long, blessed life? I encourage you to spend time with that person, record some of their stories, enjoy the richness that comes from a life well lived.
Thank you for joining me today. I appreciate the gift of your time.