Old school

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It was a simple question that should’ve had a simple answer; however, the answer turned out to be anything but.

Last week while riding to school, our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, were watching a series of cartoons on the media player in our car. It sounded like one of the cartoons we used to watch when we were kids back on Flamingo.

The girls laughing and giggling at the antics of Tom and Jerry prompted me to ask, “Is that cartoon in color or black-and-white?” Other than the epic chase still going on between that famous mouse and cat, there was a deafening silence immediately coming from the back seat. One look at the two blank gazes in the rearview mirror and suddenly I realized they hadn’t a clue as to what I was talking about. So I started to explain. It wasn’t long before they interrupted me with additional questions.

Growing up back on Flamingo Street, the black-and-white television in our house didn’t hang on the wall. It sat on the ground. The TV was a “huge” 19 inches across with a speaker on either side. The entire TV came built in a wood cabinet with a record player in the top, and the whole thing sat on the floor. Sweet Caroline interrupted me at this point to ask, “What’s a record player?”

It was at that point I realized — the more I talked, the wider our generational divide became. Lucky for me, it was time for drop-off at the school. Certainly, during the next seven hours they wouldn’t remember what we were talking about. Or so I thought.

As soon as the girls climbed back into my car, the questions started again. “Why didn’t cartoons have color?” “What’s a record player?” And “Wasn’t it dangerous to have TV’s sitting on the floor?”

“Cartoons were actually filmed in color. The TV just couldn’t receive a color transmission. To play records. And yes, it was very dangerous. Our TV was broken several times by us playing with balls inside the house.”

My answers to their questions only prompted more. “Is that why you won’t let play with balls inside the house?” “Why didn’t your dad hang the TV on the wall?” And “Did you have phones back when you were a kid?”

“Yes, it is. Because it was too heavy, and we did have phones, but they, too, hung on the wall.”

Once home, before we started homework, it was snack time. The girls wanted popcorn. Placing the popcorn bag into the microwave, I closed the door and set the timer. Listening to the popping I said, “You know, when I was a kid, we didn’t have microwaves either.”

“Papa, how did you cook popcorn, hot dogs, or anything?”

Retrieving the fully popped popcorn, I drizzled some melted butter over the top before handing a bowl to each — then told them that when we cooked food, we used a stove and cooked popcorn on top of it in a pan.

The popcorn-eating machines paused just for a moment to consider the logistics of having to actually cook food without pushing any buttons, giggled, and then continued devouring the fluffy buttery snack. They then wanted to know if they could make a black-and-white cartoon. Like my editor always says, I decided to show instead of tell.

The next twenty minutes were spent drawing pictures of stick figures, each one in a slightly different position than the last. The girls were amazed when I started flipping through the hundred or so drawings to make our stick figure run then jump over a log. By this time, the Loveably Icky Teenager had entered the room. She looked at our cartoon and said, “That’s old school.”

I smiled and replied, “Growing up back on Flamingo, we didn’t call it old school. To us it was simply school.”

As she bounded back upstairs, I watched the girls flipping through our black-and-white stick figure cartoon and wondered. Just how much of their childhood will one day be considered “old school” by their teenage children?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]