Saturday, May 12, 2012

Were they really the good old days?

The past year has been incredibly difficult as I recover from losing Bate and my Dad within three weeks of each other. The losses have kept coming, but over the past couple of months, those losses are from my childhood not from my life.

Davy Jones was my first teenage crush. I was glued to the TV every Monday night to watch “The Monkees.” I was enthralled. My father doggedly read the newspaper. My mother kept herself busy somewhere else in the house. They did buy me every Monkees album I asked for on my birthday or Christmas. I would race down to the basement, put the album – yes, a VINYL album—on my portable record player and dance the night away. The basement could only marginally be called a rec room -- Dad had painted the floor and walls, put up siding to separate “my space” from his, and Mom donated the old living room furniture to the cause. It didn’t occur to me at the time to question why Mom and Dad thought an extra space in the basement for me to hang out with my friends would be nice at the exact same time I started to become a music aficionado, just not for their music. But now, looking back, I do have to wonder at the coincidence. But none of that mattered to me at the time. It was my space and I could pretend to Davy Jones was signing just to me or that I was dancing on American Bandstand.

The loss of childhood icons keeps coming – Dick Clark, Jonathan Frid of Dark Shadows fame, and George Lindsay from The Andy Griffith Show – and each one brings me back to childhood. I danced around the den when American Bandstand was on, begged my mother to let me watch Dark Shadows, and laughed over the exploits of the residents of Mayberry. Yesterday I read in the Fall River Herald News that the last vestige of Lincoln Park, the small amusement park in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, will be demolished. The property owners have received a permit to tear down the park’s wooden rollercoaster. I never rode on it, mind you, in all the times I went there. I was afraid of rollercoasters then and I am petrified of rollercoasters today. Still though, that wooded structure has stood strong for years after the park closed and years after a fire destroyed the rest of it. Whenever I was up visiting my Dad and would head to Dartmouth to have dinner with my BFF Susan, I’d drive by “the old Lincoln Park” and see the rollercoaster still standing. In an odd way, it was comforting, a reminder of a time when life seemed so simple and I had not a care in the world except for what dress my Barbie doll would wear to her prom.

I have found myself, often, over the past few months longing to be 10 or 11 or 12 again, when I didn’t have too much to worry about and concerns were few and far between. Then, the other day, I heard one of those quick and to the point radio segments that Bill O’Reilly does these days, and it got me to thinking. Mr. O’Reilly was commenting on a Beach Boys concert he’d attended, along with many other baby boomers (I won’ t say aging since I am right there with them!) and he attributed the band’s success over 50 years to the fact that their music harkens us back to a simpler time in American history. But were they really the “good old days” or are we just wearing our rose-colored glasses when we look back? Even as a kid, I must have had things that worried me: a math test I thought I’d fail, would my friends make fun of the dress my mother made me wear, would I ever get asked to a dance. I don’t recall worrying about those things or anything else, except maybe the math test, but surely there were things that kept me up at night? And what about my parents? Did they worry about making ends meet? Keeping a roof over my head? Making sure I had enough to eat? That I’d get hit by a car? I recall the turmoil of the ‘60s as well, the Vietnam War and its casualties, the related war protests, drug use among young people making national headlines, the threat of the Cold War, Charles Manson. Certainly the “good old days” weren’t all good.

Maybe the “good old days” are like that Lincoln Park rollercoaster or the Beach Boys, a comfort to latch onto, a safety zone if you will, for us to retreat to when life as an adult rears the ugly part of its head. Was Barbra Streisand right when she sang in “The Way We Were,” that we choose to forget what’s too painful to remember? I hope so, because too many of my memories of these past nine months are too painful to remember now. I’d like to think that there will come a time when I choose to forget those horrible weeks of last August and all of the wonderful times I shared with Bate and my Dad will be my new Lincoln Park rollercoaster.