These Are the Good Old Days

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There is a song on the radio right now that drives my husband insane.  In it two singers talk about how the times they were trying to break in were really “the good old days” and they didn’t notice.

This infuriates him, because, yeah, the heartbreak of being young and rich beyond the dreams of avarice must be terrible.

In my defense, I was always aware of “these are the good old days” while living through them.

When I was in the hospital, to all medical opinion dying of pneumonia at 33, what weighed on my mind was the novels left unpublished, but what I missed were our weekends with the kids, driving around, going to garage sales, parks and diners, or the “vacation” weekends, going to amusement parks and museums.

Do I miss those days?  Well, heck yeah.  But I enjoyed them to the hilt when they were happening.

And when we were young and had a writers’ group that met at our house every weekend, I enjoyed the heck out of the camaraderie and the silliness, and the parties.  It was fun.  It helped with that whole “raising two boys when far from both families.

I miss those days.  If I could go back and relive just one day in my life, it would be the day we discovered Lakeside amusement park (really cheap.  If they dropped a virus that only killed English speakers, my family would be the only casualties.)  The kids were two and five, it was a beautiful day (Memorial Day, as it turns out.  We were playing hookie on worldcon, the first of many times.) and the kids went on all the rides and Dan on most, and I walked around and read a mystery, and watched them have fun.  When we dragged the kids away it was ten thirty pm, and Marshall fell asleep against me in the car, his little head hot and heavy like kids’ heads are.  Then we found a late-open Chinese restaurant and had a late dinner.

But at the same time I’m neither stupid nor senile.  Those days are encircled with a gold nimbus, because memory has elided their struggles and problems.  I know that they were there and were real.  And just because I know how the biggest struggle I was involved in in those days turned out — I did end up selling my writing.  Who knew? — it doesn’t mean I knew then.

Yes, if I had a time machine, I’d send two notes to past self.  “It will work” and also “Write one for submission and one for the drawer.  Trust me.  Around 2007 it will all pay out.”

But then again, if I did that, would I have pushed as hard, worked as hard at the craft?  Would I be the writer I’m now?

No, sufficient onto the day the trouble of the day.  Those pains and fears paved the way to how I write now (not amazingly, but decently, I think.)

And maybe today’s struggles, disappointments and work are paving the way to something much better.

Are these the good old days?  Well, I’m caught in kind of a weird bubble in time, where I still worry for the kids’ future (and they’re still on the pay check, as they finish their professional training) but I’m moving my emotional …. focus away from them, because, well, I’ll always care for them, but at this point I don’t have much influence, nor should I.  It’s time for them to adult.  And it’s time for me to be more than “mommy of Robert and Marshall.”

I was always both, mind you, mommy and writer, and I’ll always be both, but the emphasis must now be on writer.

Believe it or not, this is harder to do than it seems.  “Psychological work” I think.  And hard.

But there are things I enjoy, from the days Dan and I go up for the park or museum, and to Pete’s, to the days when Robert or Marshall have time to hang out and talk.

Yeah, there are struggles too, and in the future those will be softer in memory and these will be the good old days.

But then the new days will bring both joy and sorrow aplenty.  And if I succeed in expanding my career, that will bring new work and new responsibilities, and less free time.  It always does.

Wherever you are, no matter how bad the struggles you’re going through, seek out the good things in your life right now, and enjoy the heck out of them.  It might be a moment building railways with the three year old on the floor.  Take it.  When he’s 23, you’ll cherish that memory, and so will he.

These are the good old days: cherish them.  They’re all the bad old days: work through them.

May your next set of good old days have more good and less bad.  It’s all we can hope for.

 

107 responses to “These Are the Good Old Days

  1. Christopher M. Chupik

    As I said on Twitter last week, the reason Golden Ages never last is because nobody realizes it was a Golden Age until it’s passed.

  2. I don’t so much miss the good old days as I miss having a future. The vast web of potential is slightly less vast at eight-squared years than it was at four-squared. Back then life was about what I could be, now it is about what I am.

  3. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” is a good book opening for more than one reason. Honestly, I’m sorry that more people don’t realize that the “times” are often good and bad simultaneously.

    • “in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    IIRC in C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters he had Screwtape saying that we (the Demons) want humans to be extremely focused on creating a “Golden Age” sometime in the future rather than humans living their lives in “today”.

  5. One important part of the ‘good old days’ is realizing things one, with scare quotes, “knew” were catastrophic back in the day, are today, in retrospect, are quite minor, compared to the rest of back in the day.

    & yes, today, right now is in the golden age, even though we’ve 5 power outages in the last 2 days, with more expected & my telephone line is on the ground, not on the pole having been knocked down by snow & we went out late last night to chain saw a tree from across the road so a neighbor lady could get home.

    Hey, good times!

    • And “bad times” make “good stories.”
      But there are times I look back and muse that I am not having nearly enough fun… and yet… and yet…

    • And that is why kids and teenagers can have these really overblown reactions to things. It’s all new to them. Which can be awfully nice at times. But it also means they have nothing they could compare those minor catastrophes to, so they feel like major ones.

      And that same goes for people who have had easy lives, no matter what their age. Most times they probably don’t realize it has been easy except in retrospect if something happens which makes it less easy.

      Who knows, if you think of what meaning to attach to what humans experience in our lives, maybe it’s sometimes just that – we need to experience the bad before we can fully appreciate the good.

      • But it also means they have nothing they could compare those minor catastrophes to, so they feel like major ones.
        Which is why elders are so important. And stories. It helps to teach them to measure things properly.

        • Thank goodness for family stories– even if I do tend to inflict them on others a bit excessively.

          *********

          Had someone ask a while back exactly how dang many cousins I had, and realized that a lot of my cousins are the kids of my dad’s grandfather’s brothers on one side, and the kids of either my mom’s grandmother’s kids and every kid they took in for more than a week plus my mom’s dad’s two sort-of foster families, which each had at least 9 kids. Plus the various “OK they’re not blood relations but their mom was an aunt to me, so those are your cousins” cousins. Oh, and any cousins of the cousins, since they’d be introduced as “cousin Bob” and it’s not until years later you find out that their aunt is married to your third cousin twice removed or something.

          Which explains why family reunions do the “family chart” on a 3.5×20 roll of butcher paper, with small writing, and have some odd notations….

          All the “my uncle” stories are actual uncles, though. Biiiiig crop of boys last generation.

          • Ditto. Went to rather large HS with some kids that latter learned were distant cousins. They showed up at a pioneer “family” reunion. None of us still have the actual pioneer family name so unless someone talks about it, who knew. They don’t count towards the first cousins & second cousins I know about, not only on this side of the family but the other side too. Drives hubby nuts, he knows his folks, siblings & their kids & that’s it, no extended family, period. Thanksgiving at his folks house was 12 people max. Thanks giving at my folks, 60 & lost count.

      • I’m glad I got through the Year of Ramen Noodles, because I can look back on it with pride at having survived with most of my sanity intact, and a lot more skills than I started with. And a much, much better idea about how NOT to be a manager.

      • Yes. I noticed over the 2009-2016 period that there was a great difference between those of us who lived through the 1970s and those who were too young to remember that Dark Age. Too young to remember that victory was still possible.

        • I think that Obama was much worse than Carter. At the time I didn’t think that was possible.

          • I am not sure Obama was worse than Carter or whether it is that America is worse — there certainly wouldn’t have been any support for Bernie back then, and this Identity Politics crap had barely taken hold. I think Carter (and many in his administration) truly loved America, however, and I don’t think that was the case in Obama’s administration. The dry rot has gotten worse and the termites have burrowed deeper.

            Still, as philosopher Chauncey Gardner observed, “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

            • No. Emily61 is right, Obama was worse. Not only did he have twice as much time to do damage, Obama had a dishonesty and contempt for the rule of law that Carter never had. Carter was a fool, but not a crook. Obama was fool, sociopath, fascist, and criminal…the full quadfecta of Democrat follies.

              • Taking advantage of opportunity t revise and extend my remark:

                My thesis is not about whether Carter or Obama was objectively worse but whether the real problem was that America’s immune system was intrinsically weaker. The fact that a person like Obama could even get elected suggests America was less healthy, less vital and more susceptible to the opportunistic infection Obama represented.

                A healthier MSM, for example, would have hauled Obama up short for the many abuses of executive authority, from the AFA to DACA to Iran and all such unconstitutional efforts along the way.

                Whether Carter or Nixon had attempted to enact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with its insulation from political accountability the MSM would have called it out; that Obama was able to enact this should be blamed on America’s MSM, Legislature and Judiciary at least as much as the Executive branch.

                It isn’t that Obama was worse than Carter, it is that the nation tolerated such abuse.

              • Waggles hand on Carter not being a crook. BUT let’s say he wasn’t as ACCOMPLISHED a crook as Obama.

            • When I went to college, they were just starting the PC police. They were, in fact, so innocent that they actually told me that the purpose of PC language was to prevent my engaging in thoughtcrime.

  6. Time has the habit of gilding past experiences. Most times we are too focused in the now to sometimes really appreciate how much good their is. Knowing what you are doing in the now to build those memories is the key point in it all. I hope I can keep that in mind on the rough days.

  7. The good old days were when you were an adrenaline junkie, less risk adverse, and had less to lose if you did. Still a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

  8. Linked here from Chris Muir’s DayByDay cartoon in which you are quoted today…that’s quite the endorsement; nice place you have here.

    As to the good old days, as others have said the soft focus of the past helps us recall and yearn for the times we had…I know I do.

    Can’t see that line without also hearing Carly Simon’s voice and admonition from almost fifty years ago, proof that the more things change, etc.

    It’s hard to imagine that our current time will be remembered fondly that many years from now, just like it must have been for my parents at that tumultuous time. I do hope for my childrens’ and grandchildrens’ sake it will be as my time will be done. One way or the other as you say upthread, a rapturous eternity awaits all who believe.

  9. Is Lakeside the one with the roller coaster that gives you an amazing view across the Lake Erie? Been there, liked that. Don’t want to return, lack the spring in the joints required to enjoy such things.


    Oops, no – I’m thinking Cedar Point. Never mind – different location but same conclusion.

  10. I rather suspect that the most predictable ‘good old days’ for the majority of people are when they have children to raise.

    Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, after all.

    -Albert

  11. I think part of the “good old days” stems from the changing perception of time.

    I know that while the days may have sped by, the actual minutes and hours dragged horribly when I was a youth. This means the green and hot days of summer vacation lasted forever, but summer vacation itself was gone in a flash.

    There’s actual science behind this: The human brain has a variable time perception rate. A shot of adrenaline can slow perceived time enough to allow perception of things that otherwise flash past too quickly to be perceived. And as the brain ages, that time perception rate changes too.

    So the golden hours of summer vacation lasting forever, or the magic minutes of time spent with family, or the instant eternity of crashing chaos in combat, or the dragging monotony of the line at the DMV all get perceived and recorded into memory at different rates.

    So combine that variable time perception rate with the brains selective editing functions on memories and you get the good, or bad, old days.

  12. One thing to ponder….
    What sucks is having a time in your life when you can’t look back and find anything “golden” about which to reminisce. And I don’t mean you’re just being a Sour Sally, but you actually had mangled your life enough that what you see and remember is a haze of hurt and failure. Because it’s time you will never get back.

    I say that in order to then say, “No time like the present.”
    Embrace the graces you have been given. Celebrate whatever joy you have. Share that grace, that joy, with the ones you love. And never let go.

  13. I have been very, very fortunate to recognize when I’ve been living in the Good Old Days, and to savor the moments. The days when an aerobatic flight went perfectly, seeing sunrises from 14,000′ turn storm clouds into pillars of rose and gold, working and laughing with friends until late in the night, sweet mornings alone with my thoughts as the rising sun turned the fog rising off carp ponds into liquid silver below a castle in the Czech Republic… “These are the days to remember/ ‘Cuz they will not last forever,” as a different song put it.

  14. Yep, that song annoys me too, to the point where i have a ‘special’ name for that band.

  15. It’s taken me a few years this time to appreciate where I am at now. If I could go back to the “good ole days,” I would go to Pensacola beach, the red van, and Otto.

  16. I’m “old”, and the days are good, so the “good old days” are here and now. The bad old days were when my wife was dying, and that’s 2+ decades back.

  17. “But at the same time I’m neither stupid nor senile. Those days are encircled with a gold nimbus, because memory has elided their struggles and problems. I know that they were there and were real. And just because I know how the biggest struggle I was involved in in those days turned out — I did end up selling my writing. Who knew? — it doesn’t mean I knew then.”

    From the inestimable and irreplaceable Gene Wolfe:

    “Llibio stared into my face and gripped my hand with his own, which was as hard as wood. Seeing him then, I saw the vanished years as well. They must have seemed grim enough at the time, though the future they had spawned–the future in which I sat with him, my sword across my lap, hearing his story–was grimmer than he could have known at the time. Yet there was joy in those years for him; he had been a strong young man, and though he was not, perhaps, thinking of that, his eyes remembered.”

    Also, diverging a bit from your point, somebody, I cannot recall who, noted that war stories are very different for those who tell them than for those who hear them: The teller did not know if he would survive. For the listeners he obviously did.

  18. I remember a day as a young odd living in a place that was very much intolerant of odds, sitting in the school counselor’s office because I had been (once again) having problems getting along with my peers (a constant struggle for me back then), and she imparted the sage old wisdom of “These are the best days of your life, you should be enjoying them”. My odd mind took that literally, and I remember seriously considering suicide. Logically doing the math. “If today was the best day ever, and looking forward every single day is going to suck worse than today, is there a point to continuing?” I decided to think on it for a few days before making a decision… only to get completely distracted by something and forgetting the whole thing.

    yea… odd, weirdly logical (in my own head anyway), and a complete air head. That was me as a kid.

    • Sounds like an ordinary Odd to me…

    • If these are the best days of my life and I should be enjoying them, why am I wasting them on school? I mean, if the purpose of going to school was to enhance my life, that it might get better as I grow, this would make sense, but if these are as good as it gets I shouldn’t I run with the “Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse” crowd?

      • My mom’s response to the “best days of your life” crowd, when I asked– at about…13? 14?– was a face as blank as I have ever seen, about half a minute of thought, and then quiet instruction that it was true for some people, and that I should be very, very nice to anyone whose life was so terrible that they were saying it as an adult.

        • Yeahhhh….

          I actually had a good time in high school! In some ways I feel like I peaked there in the very specific sense of excelling at certain things and being admired for them. (Nerdy things, mind, but nonetheless.) And I hadn’t made some later regrettable mistakes in terms of letting my procrastination run away with me. But the idea that it’s inevitably all downhill from there is both false (thankfully) and disturbing.

        • Oh, yes. My 10th high school reunion was interesting, the 20th more so…because I found myself pitying my classmates. And I had just begun to make really serious professional waves at the 20th.

    • Folks finally figuring that out is why, for a bit, there was a slogan to the effect of “it will get better.”

    • I actually make it a point to pass on to teens some wisdom I heard in high school: “Anyone who tells you these are the best days of your life is lying (or amnesiac.)” And then I point out that once puberty finishes up (major work by 19, final touches by 21-22), it’s amazing how awesome it is to not have the hormonal mood swings.

      And I tell them this exactly because of that logic that had you consider suicide, since the risk of suicide for teens is way too high and “these are the best years of your life” is the worst thing you can say to someone who’s suffering like that.

    • I think it was Churchill who said of his teenage years that they were the worst time of his life. Certainly they were the worst of mine.

      • Churchill’s teenage years were about the worst time of my life and I wasn’t even born then!

        More seriously, from what I understand of the English schools in that era I think the process was to ensure those would be the worst years of your life.

  19. David Hume – “The humour of blaming the present, and admiring the past, is strongly rooted in human nature, and has an influence even on persons endued with the profoundest judgment and most extensive learning.”

  20. I will admit that I’d like the figure and eyesight I had when I was in my late 20s.

  21. Sarah, the eARC for your Uncharted magically appeared on the Baen web page.

    http://www.baen.com/uncharted-earc.html

  22. On the positive side of kids growing up, it is really fun to start relating to them like adults, and realizing that you and they are – in a twisted sort of way – friends.
    I also love hearing all of the stories of their childhood, this time, NOT edited to avoid punishment/censure. I’ve heard hair-raising stories that I’m glad I didn’t know about, at the time. I’m even more mystified/grateful that they survived.
    They have become more than brother and sisters, but friends.

  23. Why yes, these are the good old days. But:

    It’s time for them to adult.

    That does not excuse a blatant act of verbing!

    (tee hee)

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