My kids are teens. Both on the cusp of adulthood which I feel they are both largely unprepared for. Or maybe it is me, maybe I am unprepared for their exit of childhood. Growing up is such a mixed bag. I found myself the other day, remembering a time in my own life where life seemed simple, direct, uncomplicated. I miss that time. I hope my children have a time like this in their lives that they can remember...
I remember the smell of my fort in the woods. The dirt floor and the walls that were really no more than branches. Next to it lay a tunnel I was digging to China, because I believe one could do such a thing...dig a tunnel to the other side of the earth. I miss thinking things like that were possible.
I was in Indiana and I am pretty sure now that China is not opposite of Indiana in the world. But I didn’t know that then because I actually still believed that the world worked in mysterious ways that I did not yet know. And I guess my world is still full of things I don’t know, they just aren’t things like whether or not one could dig through the earth and reach another country.
Today my thoughts coagulate about my own children, their schooling, their drug use, their sexual escapades, and my flagging ability to keep up with all that occurs on the screens that control and dominate their lives. Their lives are complicated where as mine, my childhood was so much less so.
The base of the fort was lined with geodes from the stream beds. My friends and I would clamor over the rocks finding ones as large as our heads, and two at a time lift the giant boulders and smash them on the rocky banks. Some would break open revealing their crystalline inside, and others would stubbornly refuse to grant us inner passage. For those we stole our father’s hammers and perhaps a crow bar or two. Many were the tools lost in the quest for crystal treasures in that river bottom.
I was kind of a crystal hog. I would spend all Saturday afternoon searching for the perfect rock that I was sure contained a new color or pattern. I loved the purple ones best. And would often trade the white and other colors with my friends in order to preserve the purplish color scheme of my fort. Concerned even then about the decorative appeal of my lean-to fort with the dirt floor.
I would sit in the fort alone on a Sunday while others were at church, reading books my aunt and uncle sent me from California. They would send me entire series of youth books and I would read them one after the other, discarding one completed like a wrapper from a candy already consumed. One after the other the books would fall open, creased and smudged with dirt. I wanted to keep them pristine but I wanted to read them in my fort. The two concepts are incongruous to a six year old. When I burned through the series I would steal my mom’s books that were not appropriate for a child. I read those even though I didn’t understand a great deal of words...I wanted to.
This was childhood for me. I spent a great deal of time alone and in the woods. TV was a luxury and the only time my life was controlled by a screen was early on Saturday mornings which was the only time one could watch cartoons on TV back then. It was 1975 and life was so much simpler.
My own children never read books. Their interest and lives are consumed by Tik Tok’ers and You Tubers. They watch reel after reel all day every day. They speak to each other in sentences that are undecipherable to me. TY, IDK, ILU and those are just the ones I can decipher. So much occurs on tiny screens behind closed doors. It makes me so sad.
We live close to a beautiful forest and river but they never go. They spend all their time on their beds, aimlessly scrolling through humanity reduced to life removed to the digital pixels on devices that are expensive and alienating.
And I wonder why I have a hard time relating to them and them to me. We do not have the same experiences. We do not have the same childhood. We do not share the same things and that interferes with our ability to relate.
I still love getting lost in the woods. Choosing to hike in alone more often than with others. The dog and I wandering around surrounded by sounds that only the natural world could make. The caw of a crow, the crush of branches beneath our feet, the smell of dirt and decay and the overpowering scent of spring. This is what grew me up. And while I have tried to share this love of nature with them, Mother Nature cannot compete with the digital world. And neither can I.
I feel so lost to them and them to me. Time is passing so quickly now for me. Days seem like minutes and years like months. I feel time slipping away every day. But for them time is expansive, so much to happen in their lives, so much to look forward to, while for me, so much has already happened. Incongruent lives. Lived together but so very separately.
I am grateful I was raised in a time where there were no screens, no complete occupation of my mind by things that were far too complicated for my tender years. I was able to stay young longer. And yet, it was this time that I was able to amble through wooded stream beds that allowed me, I think, to be more ready for the adult world when it came. I knew how to do things, and I knew what I wanted. My children have no clue and I think would be quiet content to let me pay for everything forever. Neither child motivated to launch their own lives, funded by their own effort and dollar earned.
I am grateful that I was raised when I was. I find that I like the “modern” world less and less. And I find myself allowing my mind to unravel back to a time where things were hardly simple, but were less complicated. People ate dinner together every night, took family vacations in a car sleeping in dingy roadside motels without lavish swimming pools and accommodations. Life was just different and I miss it. And I wish, really, that I could show my kids what that life was like...but I guess in order to get their attention I would have to make a Tik Tok about it...and that is never gonna happen.