Of Old Days and New Ways



It’s January and like Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors, time to look forward and back. I get why Janus is depicted as having two faces, but on 2nd century BC coins, he had four of them. Poor man. Imagine hearing: “Oh, you’re so four-faced!”

I got to thinking about what we used to be able to do before our nation with 4.5 percent of the world’s population ended up with half the lawyers. Admittedly, some of this stuff has nothing to do with lawyers, but they’re always good fodder.

Let’s see. We didn’t have to undress at airports. You didn’t sue people if you fell out of their apple tree. Nobody wanted to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance or the cross from on top of the Cos Cob firehouse. And it was okay to drink water out of a public fountain instead of a bottle.

Growing up in Cleveland, my brothers and I used to break open thermometers and play with the Mercury, rolling the silvery blobs around in the palms of our hands. It was fascinating and nobody got poisoned. We bought little painted turtles at Woolworth’s, raced them across the kitchen floor and didn’t get salmonella. Mother wasn’t a great cook, but she made the best bread, butter and sugar sandwiches. Now people don’t want their kids to eat sugar, because it’ll make them fat and hyper. But guess what? We went outside to play and ran it off with our friends. We didn’t sit around inside playing computer games.

We rode our bikes for miles up and down Shaker Boulevard unencumbered by helmets, kneepads and elbow pads—stopping to pick wild strawberries along the way—and lived to tell the tale. Some houses had whole front lawns full of bright yellow dandelions, a beautiful sight. Who needed weed killers?

School—In fourth grade we devoted a period each week to learning penmanship from Mrs. Young. There was a deep paper border on the classroom walls featuring big A-s, little a-s, big B-s, little b-s… Except for a random thank-you or sympathy note, we now communicate via e-mail and text messages, and our grandchildren can’t read script, let alone write it. Grammar and punctuation? We had to memorize all the prepositions in the English language—“aboard, about, above, across, after, against, amid, amidst, among, amongst, around, at …”—and didn’t use machines to correct our spelling. Reflecting more soberly, we had fire drills, not lockdowns.

Birthdays—We brought presents to parties, watched eagerly while the birthday boy opened them, then helped him play with them. We weren’t jealous because we knew that it would soon be our turn to have a party. Now, most parents won’t let their kids open gifts until after their guests have left. That teaches them how to handle disappointment? Not.

Of course, there’ve always been goodie bags. But when Janie Rogers turned six, we went home with the ultimate favors. Her mother had called all of our mothers weeks in advance asking what we were going to wear. And right there at my place at the table, along with a paper hat and blower, sat a doll in a green smocked dress just like mine!

Cars—Dad used to pile all three of us Clegglets into the rumble seat of his 1929 Packard Runabout convertible for a spin around town. No seatbelts, nothing. Just hang on tight. Later doing Country Day carpool, I’d have a bunch of boys—DeNunzios, Welds, a Moffly and a Smith—squeezed into the backseat and deck of the station wagon with little Audrey in her nightgown riding shotgun. For sudden stops my right arm thrown across her chest became the seatbelt. Now we’re all buckled up, and babies have to sit in car seats facing backwards, which starts them off with a crazy perspective on life. Since only so many car seats can fit in a car, the fact that they’re required until your child hits a certain weight and height is a form of birth control. You don’t want kids too close in age or you won’t be able to go anywhere.

Dogs—They used to run free. Then somebody decided they were a nuisance and a leash law was enforced. End result, besides people walking around with plastic bags full of poop: The coyotes and foxes have been spared the wrath of their natural enemy and keep themselves well fed on our neighborhood puppies and kittens.

But Jonathan Moffly probably wouldn’t be alive today if our golden retriever Charlie hadn’t been on the loose. He never left the three-year-old’s side when he took off one day and “got lost in the ferns.” Charlie also didn’t like to see his family swimming and would jump in and push you to shore if he caught you in the water off Willowmere beach.

Like you, I could reminisce forever. Marshall at Riverside Pharmacy would hand-deliver medicine when everybody was sick, then stick around and get your child to swallow his pill. We taught our kids to ice-skate on Binney Pond, where it’s not allowed anymore. Our teething babies enjoyed gumming a piece of Zwieback, while some mothers today wrap their cookies in mesh. You can never be too careful!

Actually, you can be too careful—and miss half the fun! Have a healthy and fun-filled new year.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...


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