The Way We Were
6 Jun 2012
Life these days is just one big blur that moves forward on a superhighway to nowhere. Get up, go to work, pick this up, drop that off, make a deposit, remember a birthday, write an email, send a text, and try like hell to delay the inevitable... another day of the same.
But, every now and again, we spot an off-ramp and jump on it. The sign reads, "Sugar Mountain". Neil Young's voice surrounds us and we are 'there' once more. Back when we were young and time stood still. Back to unassigned and unencumbered. Back to swimmin' holes and city pools and first cars and first kisses. A time when we found freedom in tiny increments and a time when we believed our dreams just might come true.
These off-ramps are hidden in songs and images and words. When we find one, we smile, we laugh, we nod our heads and without any control over the words that give it shape, we recite the memory... with love and in great detail.
Looking over the comments posted to my nostalgic images, I realized that we boomers categorize these memories: 1) childhood and family, 2) then God made boys and girls, 3) high school days, 4) then God made wheels, 5) dreaming the dream, 6) it was the best of times, and 7) a smile and a tear. Using my images, and the words of our JPG friends, this is the way WE were.
The lead image, Magic, was sort of the primer for this photo essay. It is an image that mattered to me and almost no one else. It was my vision of the innocence and joy of childhood. Then JamesHarmon McQuilkin posted this comment, "Creative, and so well composed. Strong symbolism. I'm hearing Neil Young's, Sugar Mountain, with this". The words I posted with the image pale in comparison to Jim's. Therefore, this remembering is shared and it is cumulative.
The next two images, 1948 Dodge Coupe and the Container Store took us all back to our childhood and our family. I remember sitting in the back of a 1940-something Hudson feeling somewhere between a gangster and Edith Ann. Regenia Brabham commented, "A beautiful ride and memory. My daddy has had a few old cars but none as nice as this". JamesHarmon McQuilkin talked about his grandpa, "Funny, my grandfather had one and his father's name was Harmon Hudson". Yeah Reg and Jim, life was good.
The Container Store image brought other memories back to Michael O'Brien, "That tub on the left was what we used for our weekly bath in the NE Iowa farmhouse where I grew up. At that time we did not have running water in the house. Beautiful tone and memories. BTW, I am seventy-two". I lived on a farm as well and took baths in the tub just like Mike. One picture, two memories, linked in time.
When God made boys and girls, we were sprouting stuff that made us blush and trying to figure out what to do with it. The 'figurin' out place' was usually somebody's basement. It generally included a spinnin' bottle and a laundry room. It almost always ended in a poorly executed kiss and a bad case of puppy love. Carol Dandrade knew exactly what I meant when I posted Anybody's Basement 1960's. Her comment, "Absolutely". And I knew exactly what she meant. Ted Anderson's comment made me laugh out loud, "Why was ours called a Rumpus-Room?" Apparently Ted knew what to do with his sprouts.
Then we were on to sock hops, and drive-ins, and cars, and curfews. We had stuff to do man... houses to T-P, parties to crash, excuses to conjure, and bodies to smuggle into the Drive-In. We lived on phosphates, black cows, and the brand new food sensation, pizza. We got caught smoking more than once and drinking beer a lot more than that and, occasionally, we ended up at the police station in town waiting for our parents to come pick us up in the wee small hours of the morning.
The image, Big Boy Root Beer Float, was 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' time machine for a few jpg-ers. Regenia Brabham said, "I miss missing those days. Cool find and capture". Tom Wiederhold commented, "Boy does that bring back some memories. We have this little guy up in our kitchen!" Michele Wambaugh said, "Very amusing and charming!" Susan Griffith commented, "Brings back memories of strawberry pie." And Ted Anderson took the off-ramp to New Jersey, "Perfect. In N.J., it was A&W or Stewart's. Frosted mugs!"
But one of the best things during these years was our ever-growing freedom. We were out on pass and bound by nothing. One of our favorite places to hide was the Drive-In Theater. The most righteous part about it... it was dark. Some pretty scandalous things went down as I recall. Ted Anderson was there, "Ours was the Amboy Drive-In on the banks of the Raritan River in South Amboy, NJ", For the record, neither of us know nuthin'.
The Fender Skirts image recalls our first cars. Regenia's was, "an AMC Concord. Boring! Then a '76 Nova. Not even a cool one. I would have loved to have a ride like this". Generally speaking, it made no difference what it looked like as long as it ran. I remember somebody running behind me pushing the car, then poppin' the clutch to get it going. Operational was all we really cared about.
Senior year was the year of dreams. We were gettin' gone and that spelled freedom; freedom to live it without parents, without rules and without restraint. We dreamed the dreams of Alexander Supertramp... dreams of VW buses and peace signs, and making the world a better place. Carol Dandrade's comment, "Very nostalgic", speaks to the dreams she once dreamed. Karin Burton remembers in specifics, "Oh... my dream car! Then travel the US!! Awesome!"
Too soon reality found us: add a job, get married, buy a house, buy insurance, have some babies, raise the babies, set the curfews, lay down the law. Even so, we remember and we recite our history... to our children and to others when the occasional off-ramp reveals. Why do we do this? The comments posted to 1958 Buick Roadmaster explains why: John McCabe said, "Awesome! You don't see lines like this in cars anymore. This is when cars were cars!!! You caught that feeling of Detroit steel here. Beautiful!" Regenia Amen-ed that, "Cars today all look too much alike to me. No character or personality at all". Brendan Kelly agreed with Regenia, "I love the classics. They had character back then. Today, well not so much."
What are we really saying when we recite our histories? We are saying, "This worked. You ought to give it a try". We are saying, "This is a unique time in history and we are part of it and proud of it". Aaron Schwartz commented on the image, Drive-In, "I miss them".
Universally, we miss it all.
But Thad Zajdowicz said it best. "Brings back memories. Young once more!"
Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon
You're leaving there too soon
It's so noisy at the fair
But all your friends are there
And the candy floss you had
And your mother and your dad
There's a girl just down the aisle
Oh, to turn and see her smile
You can hear the words she wrote
As you read the hidden note
Now you're underneath the stairs
And you're givin' back some glares
To the people who you met
And it's your first cigarette
Now you say you're leavin' home
'Cause you want to be alone
Ain't it funny how you feel
When you're findin' out it's real