Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sixteen Candles

Poor Ken. Poor old Ken. Poor old candle-deprived Ken. Sunday was his birthday and we didn't have 48 candles to put on his cake. We didn't even have the numbers 4 and 8 in our collection of "big number" candles. Instead we had to use last year's 4 and 7 candles and stick a single (pink) candle next to them.
Ken's parent's sent him a e-card for his birthday.
An e-card. I've never sent an e-card in my life.
Every now and then you'll hear about some 80-year-old woman who gets a new computer in order to IM her grandchildren, or geriatric1927, the 79-year old Englishman who's achieved YouTube fame. While on the surface we say things like, "that's great, good for him," I propose that secretly we don't want our parents to catch up with the latest technology. We don't want them to master TiVo, to walk around attached to earbuds, or to talk about how many friends they have on Facebook. When we were teenagers we didn't want them doing this because we perceived it as embarrassing. Now we see it as a threat. We don't want them doing this when we're 40 because it just might mean they are more technologically hip than we are. It is conceivable that they are - or could be if they put their minds to it. After all, they have more time to learn this stuff while we are busy trying to figure out what's for dinner and what happened to all the missing socks. They are retired. They eat pizza every night and don't notice if their socks don't match. They have all the time they need to take photos with their cell phones and upload them to their blog.
Though on the surface we may complain about how our parents live in the past and are always talking about "the good old days," there's comfort in knowing that at your parent's house the carpets are still shag, the footstool is still naugahyde, and Neil Diamond is still crooning on the stereo. We prefer our parents remain in the decade in which we graduated high school. It makes us feel young.
What would we do without the generation gap? Sit around with our parents and talk about sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll? Certainly not! We need the generation gap as a cushion between us and them because if our parents are on the same wave length as us, then it surely means we are old.
We also need our parents, or at least their houses, to be firmly rooted in the past in order to enlighten our children about our own personal past as well as about some of the iconic relics of previous generations. There should be plenty of old photographs at our parents house, a few embarassing ones of us, but more importantly ones of relatives who have long since died. This way kids can point to them and ask who they were and the grandparents can tell the story of Grandma Studley who grew African violets and of Auntie Edna who liked to sleep under the Christmas tree. A grandparent's house should be a portal to another time. Just last week my son came home from my parent's house talking about "those disc things." He meant records. Maybe this week he'll notice that they have a bread box.

song: Sixteen Candles • artist: The Platters

No comments: