and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Oh, for a return to simpler times
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Saturday, April 11, 2009

On the first day of spring, my grandtwins celebrated their eighth birthday.

Aidan's gift from their parents was a ski pass for the Lake Tahoe slopes, where he bonds with his dad. Maya had requested the two latest books in the teenage vampire series by Stephenie Meyer.

I sent them both money in cards. I always said I wouldn't do that, though I'm not sure why; it's practical, saves on cross-country postage and was certainly welcome when relatives chose that option for me.

Over the last eight years, I've been sending toys and books from my and my son's childhoods. My parents kept my dolls in the attic and when their house was sold, I brought them here. Gave Betsy Wetsy to Maya when she was 2, Tiny Tears when she was 5. Don't know if she ever played with them; I think she toddled directly into Barbie.

I also sent her some of the 8-inch doll collection, precursors to Barbie, with different occupations and nationalities; but when she played with them the rubber bands that hold the head, arms and legs to the torso broke, so she then had a collection of heads, arms, legs, torsos and clothes in a box.

My rag dolls are more durable, but she hasn't shown much interest and I'm not sure I'm ready to give them up yet.

After I read the first Meyer book myself and was slightly horrified I did send Maya my Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, hoping to return her to the same age 8 that I once was; I may even soon give up my worn copy of "Anne of Green Gables." Surely little girls still love Anne, who was created by Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908, yet was popular in my age group.

Aidan is easier to share old toys with; I think boys haven't changed much in the last century. Both he and Lance were thrilled that I'd saved the folding carrying case with the Matchbox car collection.

Aidan reads well, too, but prefers the "Captain Underpants" series. I hadn't noticed that superheroes do seem to wear their underwear on the outside, but take another look at Superman next time you are at Newbury Comics on Route 114, which is where I went to get comics for Aidan when I was planning to send his sister Burnett's "A Little Princess."

Two years ago, I bought them a record player so they could take some of my LP collection; they liked the rock 'n' roll albums from the 1950s and '60s, just as my son does. My generation's music, which my parents also enjoyed, is still popular with young people, who collect some oldies on their iPods. Maybe that's because the beat goes back to our primitive roots; it's part of our human heritage, unlike so many other things that seemed permanent, until this year.

In 13 years our money may be worthless and our freedom may be history, but somewhere Elvis will be singing, "A little less conversation, a little more action please."

I wish I could ask my parents: When I was 8, could you imagine what the world would be like when I arrived at adulthood? I don't think it changed much from 1951 to 1964.

My family got a three-channel television set when I was 12. My high school science class took a field trip to see a microwave oven, and my college science class saw an early computer at Penn State.

My 21 wasn't much different than my parents' 20s, at least in small-town Pennsylvania. The cultural changes came later in the '60s, replacing some traditional values with a freedom that I admit I myself preferred during the first wave.

Now I can't imagine life without my TV, microwave, computer or for that matter, iTunes. But I wonder where ethics, taste and restraint went. And I can't imagine what my grandchildren's adult world will be like, the toys their children will play with (except for Matchbox trucks).

I do fully expect my son (and the good books we all read) will pass on virtues like honesty and personal responsibility. Maybe economic changes will take everyone back to a simpler time, to rag dolls, vegetable gardening and "playing outside."

Without the ability to imagine the future, we can fantasize about a return to the good parts of the past.

Just as we grandparents might fear that the American dream will be destroyed by Big Government/Big Business and debt, my parents feared that it would be destroyed by Nazi Germany, the Russians or a nuclear war. Remember when the Berlin Wall fell, and some readers wondered if anything could replace the Cold War spy novels?

Recently, I was afraid that my granddaughter might have to wear a burka, or speak Spanish as her primary language; now I wonder if my grandson will be drafted to fight in Afghanistan, or have to learn Chinese. It's always something, isn't it?

I really didn't want last year's world of political correctness, consumerism and irresponsibility for my grandchildren. Now we have "change." For all children's sake, we need to change again.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.