When I was a tender youth, I read voraciously … Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Boy’s Life, Saturday Evening Post, Popular Science, Mad Magazine AND Cracked … you know, all the classics.
I had an insatiable appetite for information and the written word, whether a novel about man’s existence or a magazine article about the future. This trait has persisted and stands me in good stead today, even if it does tend to clog my email account a bit.
I was promised flying cars …
Back in 1957 or so, I distinctly remember an image that caught my attention. It was a picture of a typical suburban street, with cookie-cutter houses, pavement everywhere, and shining sun above. For this isolated farmboy stuck at the edge of the world in rural MIssouri, this looked fantastic. I could not wait to be in that world.
What really got my attention was the artist’s carefully rendered depiction of a car in the driveway. Not just any car, mind you, but a car with wings!
My life had no context regarding cars with wings, since at this point, airplanes were still pretty exotic items and usually glimpsed as they flew high and majestic over our farm, above me standing far below with mouth agape, in and out of my life in a few short, but exciting seconds. At that time, the Air Force base outside Kirksville was still a going concern and the rare appearance of an actual military bomber flying lower than I dared hope to soar loudly and ominously over the barn was a time of near hysteria. I became adept at playing out a mini-wargame whenever one of these mysterious crafts appeared. On the days that I noticed or heard them coming, I was ecstatic, because this gave me precious extra moments to act out my boyish fantasies.
About that car with the wings …
This was the promise of the future, along with a bunch of other predictions about work-saving appliances, portable communications, and easy living, most of which meant nothing to me at the time. However, a car with wings was something to be excited about.
This is what we do as young people. We grow into the world and try to make sense of it. As we grow and expand our base of knowledge, we let loose of some interesting but fanciful conceptions and incorporate a widening circle of experience and knowledge. At least, that is how it is supposed to work.
Another concept I was exposed to early in life was the idea of work …
I was less excited about this concept, since work on a farm means physical labor that never really ends, but only shifts focus and location, as weather and seasons come and go. Work on the farm consumed much of the day and much of the energy of my parents. While I knew other people had different jobs, I did not think much in terms of those other jobs … partly because I had little direct knowledge of them and also because I did not understand that “town jobs” like teacher, storekeeper, policeman, gas station operator, or druggist were options for me.
I also learned that you worked for many years, until a magical time called “retirement” when you could stop working. This was also unclear to me, since all the farmers I knew continued to work hard, regardless of their age. Retirement was more attached to the afore-mentioned “town jobs” than to my reality.
I have to admit that this retirement sounded pretty good, although the whole idea of what you actually did do every day when retired was rather vague. Fishing was mentioned and I eventually learned that retirement appeared to include drinking coffee at the restaurant during the work day, sitting on the town square observing commerce, and hanging out with other people of a certain age. At least that is what the men did … I have no clue what retired women did, or even if such existed. I guess I just assumed women kept doing what I saw them doing most of the time … cooking, laundry, and taking care of children.
I grew up in a different time … and I am still waiting for those flying cars.
More importantly, I also grew up, as did many others, with some clear expectations for how things would go. Those expectations were based on what I saw, what I was told, and how things had gone in the past.
Life goes on and the boy ends up in a far different world than expected … stay tuned for Part 2, where I analyze some expectations and find them wanting. Then in Part 3, I will share what I believe we are now learning about how life will go for us.
Feeling full of purpose and sort of excited about things in the Heartland ….
Inspiration: Life Reimagined (Leider and Webber, 2013)
Image: “ConvairCar Model 118” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia