Article by Wendy McCance
Back in the 70′s, when I was a little kid, I lived in a middle class neighborhood. The home I ended up spending the most time in was a half-brick and half-siding colonial. It was a basic home with three bedrooms, a living room that was never used and a family room that always was.
I remember moments when I envied some of the other kids I hung out with because of the things they had that made them appear to have it all.
Now, looking back, I am amazed at what I thought living the good life meant. I’m not talking about having designer clothes or a swim club membership. No, I am referring to what I thought was an envious lifestyle based on the little things.
When I was 6 years old, I remember going to a friend’s house. She lived on the next block over in an almost identical home. We were inside her home when she showed me a small glass container full of sugar cubes. I had never seen a sugar cube and wanted to try one desperately. My friend decided if I would like to try a sugar cube, then I would have to eat lunch first. She then proceeded to make the most gag inducing peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder bread. I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter and jelly especially on mushy bread like the popular Wonder bread of the 70′s.
I ate that sandwich like I was in it to win it. It was like a segment on the television show Fear Factor. I scarfed down most of the sandwich as fast as I could. I did get to try a sugar cube after I ate that sandwich. I was really disappointed to find out that it looks much better than it tastes.
When I was a year or two older, I found out that not everyone drinks powdered milk. I hated milk with a passion. It wasn’t until I had dinner at a friend’s house that I realized that there was a better milk out there. We were all served a glass of whole milk with dinner. It was the richest most delicious milk I had ever had. I felt like I was spoiled and drinking a milk shake. After you live with powdered milk and the lumps that are inevitably in each cup from the powder that didn’t blend in well, you are in heaven when you try the real thing.
My mom was against most sugar. Packaged sweets were never in my house. Rarely would I see a popsicle, a Hostess product or even sugared cereal (unless sugar was at least the 3rd ingredient down). Dessert in my lunch for school was usually homemade cookies (2 of them) that were so small they didn’t equal one normal size cookie. My mom would make big batches of cookies and freeze them. I was lucky if my cookies were sufficiently thawed by lunch time. Kids who came to school with packaged treats were envied by me. Many times the kids had not one, but two treats. That was something that blew my mind. Those kids had to be living the life if they had two treats at lunch time.
Babysitting was something I rated by how well the kitchen was stocked. Embarrassing to say now, but after the kids would go to bed, a well stocked kitchen was an opportunity to sample all of the great treats I never had at home.
I remember being in second grade and going to visit a friend. Her older brother was hanging out in his room and we stopped in to hang out too. My friends brother was sitting on the floor and pulled out a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips from under the bed (where he kept a snack stash). He offered us some chips. Even though the chips tasted awfully stale and a little off in flavor, I was still in amazement that there were parents out there that took such good care of their kids that they would give them big bags of chips to keep tucked away under their bed.
It’s funny, food situations stand out the most in my head, but there were other things too. My mom had a dish cloth she would use over and over again. If we spilled something on a counter, out came the dish cloth. Washing a dish by hand, the same dish cloth was used. The cloth would get washed in our washing machine once a week. It would be used over and over until it disintegrated in our hands. Then, and only then would a new dish cloth emerge. Any friends that had paper towels were looked at in awe. That goofy dish rag smelled after a while. It just wasn’t a pleasant experience. A paper towel that was pulled off the roll fresh and odorless was an incredibly delightful experience.
Now I am the one with kids. I feel like my kids live the life now. We do have some sugared cereals in the house. Hostess products and popsicles have been known to show up from time to time. Paper towels are a must. I have never and will never use a dish rag for mopping up spills. Oh yeah, sugar cubes have never appeared in our home. They’re cool looking, but I’m over them. The 70′s appeal has lost it’s luster.
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