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I’m So Old. . .


Nothing makes me feel old like discussing Christmas traditions with a group of my kids’ friends’ parents. As a rule, Dirtman and I are older than most of them since we married later in life than the average rural southerner (i.e., past the age of consent).
The difference is usually only a matter of about a decade, but I never realized how drastically different things became after the 1960s. Remember the first year we saw Christmas commercials that harkened back to the old Sing Along With Mitch television show? Not many of these people got that. They thought the commercials were stupid and “dated.” I mention Mitch Miller and the sweater vests and the accordion accompaniment and receive back only blank stares. Leslie Uggams? Shrieks of laughter. That Jeanne, putting us on again.
So it’s become expected of me in such conversations to provide the “I’m so old. . .” point of view, which is okay, because I am and because there is a certain benefit to having experienced a younger, more naïve world.
For instance, I’m so old I remember when our art class project during December was to cut out of construction paper a Jesus, Mary and Joseph, complete with paper plate halos. We sang Silent Night in music class. And I went to public school. (I am also so old that my public school actually made art and music mandatory parts of our curriculum.)
I’m so old that the modern lights my parents used on our tree and to trim our house are now called “retro.”
I’m so old I remember thinking I was too old to watch the first broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas when my fourth grade teacher told us about it; so old I remember a New York channel that broadcast A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim over and over for a week before Christmas.
The same station broadcast a Yule long burning all day long on Christmas day for people who didn’t have a fireplace. There were no commercials, no breaks. Just Christmas music and the log. I remember this because it was my aunts’ and uncles’ habit to turn on the TV now and then to “see if it’s still burning” and then laughing hysterically that it was and that it was being filmed. Then they’d turn it off and go back to the holiday. They did this Every. Stinkin’. Year. I think they’d love the fact that you can now buy a DVD that does the same thing.
I’m so old that, because Christmas was a special occasion, I was permitted to have two glasses of wine, as long as it was rosé – beginning when I was seven. Before that they’d water the wine down. After all, I was just a kid. . .
I’m so old that, Al Gore notwithstanding, until I was a teenager, I’d seen nothing but white Christmases. In New Jersey the lawn disappeared in December and it was March before you saw grass. When I was in kindergarten, the sixth graders would come into our classroom to help us put on our boots to go home.
I’m so old I remember when Jethro Tull wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything as hokie as a Christmas album.
I’m so old that most of the toys I received when I was little would be condemned by the Consumer Protection Agency. I remember getting the James Bond Attache Case that had actual plastic bullets that shot out at people, “people” being my brother. But – really – it was okay because he had a Roman boat called Big Caesar that had catapults that shot rocks back at me. We did all this without helmets.
I’m so old, my first Christmases are documented on 16mm silent film. They’re not too spectacular, though, since filming required movie lights that were too bright for our eyes. So basically you just see us stumbling around and bumping into the tree and each other while my mother hands us things we can only identify by touch. We’ve taken to providing our own dialogue over the years, a practice a therapist would probably find fascinating, if not disturbing.
I’m so old I remember that on Christmas day nothing – nothing – was open. Not a 7-11 or Wal-Mart. Nothing. Except Chinese restaurants.
I often wonder what traditions we’re experiencing today will be obsolete or outlawed by the time my kids are adults. Then they can say things like, “I’m so old, I remember when there were people who actually walked around wearing these cheap Santa hats. And people would put lights on their houses that would blink and cause seizures in their neighbors.
Sometimes obsolescence in a good thing.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 4:01 PM | Permalink

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