I have begun to realize when you reach a certain age we begin to utter the phrase, "the good old days." When someone speaks about the good old days, it can have a different meaning for each person. I understand that may not be a profound observation. But what is fascinating, for some a return to the good old days is about a time in their lives or an experience or a place.
The good old days can also be referred to as "the old days." This description of the past is not as often thought of as necessarily a good time. Today both phrases are used to describe events from our past to invoke both good and not so good memories in our daily lives.
When I first asked people what are the good old days, most would answer quickly without giving much thought in their first response. As we continued talking about their answer they would sometimes pause and access deeper memories. In a moment, they would begin again with a more deliberate answer. This time, as they answered, it was often not as a response to my inquiry, but more as to themselves as they returned to that time in their memory. That answer was most often the one I was looking for when I asked about the good old days.
The first answers I will tell you about this week have to do with a time in a person's life. For many it was a time when they felt more secure and safe in the world around them. Security and a feeling of well being was part of many people's response to my question of the good old days.
I am not sure if the world around us over the last 60 years was any more or less safe, but the people I talked with indicated at least they felt it was a more secure time in their lives. They seem to have the feeling that at least they could make a difference and they were safe to walk the streets of the community. Perhaps they feel the loss of security is In part to the constant updating of the events around us in real time in the daily news. News broadcast agencies are looking for big ratings in their stories and unfortunately the world never fails to supply an endless resource of tragic news to tell us about in graphic details.
One person I talked with told me they felt safe in New Martinsville growing up in the 1960s. They could attend school, have a good time with friends, and not think about the bad things in the world. To them, they clearly knew where the bad things were hiding. It was in the reminder from their mother, "Don't go near the railroad tracks. The gypsies are there and may take you away." Were there gypsies along the tracks in our community? Not likely. But to them in their world, that was the place to stay away from and as long as they played by the rules it would be okay.
Another person I have known my whole life, replied to my question with a quick answer, and then they paused and then began again. "You know in the old days trust was an important thing. When you would shake someone's hand; that was good enough. Of course back then we had scalawags too," he paused a moment and then began again, "Today, well," once again he paused looking for words to finish his answer. Sensing where he may be going with his answer I said, "Back then did you know who the scalawags were and today they are harder to recognize?" He looked at me and shook his head in agreement, "Yea, back then I knew who the scalawags were and today I am not always sure."
A few people I spoke with talked about the fact that in the old days we were not always so worried about being politically correct when we spoke. Today, we live in a time where euphemism can mean something else in our world. Those people remembered when we spoke of things in simpler terms and not in a flood of new words and catchy phrases. The world around them was not condensed in short messages of 160 characters in a text message that needed an interpreter to understand.
I have to admit the one answer I did not expect was from a young person. Often when I asked someone younger about the good old days they were somewhat puzzled by the question. I got the feeling that they felt only older people could answer that question properly. But, I found out age does not make a difference when asking about the good old days and finding the answer to my question.
"The good old days, that was when I wrote letters to Santa." That was the answer I had not expected to hear. They went on for a short time talking about a time in their lives before the world around them had changed their innocent outlook to more of the reality of the world. This person said in that short phrase what I went looking for when I first started asking the question. A time of innocence. It was a time when we allowed ourselves to believe that a handwritten letter to a man in a red suit could bring smiles with family on Christmas morning. A time, when we believed and dreamed of a world in which all was good.
The "Good Old Days" for some was a time in their lives. It may have been a time of feeling safe in their daily lives. For others it was a time when a hand shake was as good as someone's word. A time when people spoke in straight terms and not euphemisms about the world around them. A time we believed dreams and wishes were possible, when written in a letter to the North Pole.
Time is the most precious thing we each have in our lives. It is like trying to hold dry sand in your hand. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, time continues to slip from your grasp. When these people spoke of the old days they spoke of their sands of time and how precious they were to them as they return for a few brief moments as memories as we looked Thru the Lens.