The 70s

My wife comes from a line of women who have relentlessly prepared for the apocalypse. I could joke about it, except for the fact that since they are survivors of what damn near was an apocalypse for the Jews, the jokes quit being funny immediately. When I disagree with Jordana’s dad about politics, he smiles and, very kindly, reminds me that there is actually evil intent in nations, and I can’t really argue with him about it.

I come from a line of savages. My ancestors worked in the coalmines and probably smoked pipes when they weren’t breathing in black dust. I’m fairly certain that I would be considered middle age if I went back to visist my family in the 1700s. They were probably eating whatever food they could catch or pull out of the ground and lived to be almost 40. Jordana’s family probably had a modest income and a fully stocked larder.

But it’s simply racist to assume any kind of ethnic identity past a couple of decades, and the truth is that Jordana and I grew up in almost identical struggling middle class families. The comparative wealth that her parents and some members of my family enjoy only came into being once we were nearly out of the house, (if, in our cases, “out of the house” is something either of us has achieved, which is debatable) so we have to go by how the seventies and eighties affected our lives.

I was talking to Ian the other day, and I wondered aloud how the hell we ran out of oil for the boiler in England. Then it occurred to me that it happened not once, but *many* times. In one winter. The frickin’ *heater* *GAT NO HEAT*. We were children and no-one filled the heater. We all slept in one bed with a space heater pointed under the blankets. More examples:

1) I started using the oven in first Iowa, meaning I was less than seven. I remember cooking. I burned myself on the oven door when I was nine.

2) I started blowing off school in fourth grade. Often, I just came home. No-one seemed to notice or mind.

3) Our babysitters smoked pot with us. Of course, some of these pot smoking babysitters were brothers of ours, but still.

(I’m not done with this list, but MAN, I’m enjoying the emails that are currently spinning around in my family’s heads right now, HEHEHE)

4) Friends of ours were either dying or ending up in full body casts. Off the top of my head, I can name five people, close friends and babysitters, who died or who almost died.

5) We ate candy.

6) We played a game wherein the object was to jump off the stairs. Sounds simple right? Yeah, well, it was. You just kept jumping off the stairs until something happened. I ended up in a wheelchair.

7) I started drinking in Junior High. Everyone else I knew did as well.

8) We stole my dad’s car and drove around all night. He basically caught us, but didn’t really get all that mad. We were 13.

Okay, okay, enough. This whole list is mostly a joke, because I have a fucked up sense of humor. But the fact is, I rode my bike with no safety helmet from the time I learned how until I was in college and learned better. But, that was the 70s.

Jordana’s family had some of these things (I doubt they had bike helmets either)(in fact, it was only kids whose skulls hadn’t fully developed that wore bike helmets), but her parents were obsessed with making sure nothing bad happened to her, while mine were just trying to survive themselves.

So, there comes the debate. If I just toss my kids in the lake to teach them to swim, but Jordana’s got them wearing water wings (and sunblock)(and insect repellent)(and a snorkel)(and she dives in after them to make sure they don’t drown) which one of us is right? Will they learn to swim, or learn total dependence? Jordana is a million miles ahead of me in taking care of shit, she’s got her everyday and extraordinary emergencies dealt with before they happen. But she sometimes has a hard time letting go and enjoying stuff. I’ll be the life of the party, having a ball and making everyone laugh, only to find myself vomitting all night because I didn’t take even a moment to plan ahead.

My guess is that it’s our job to do it Jordana’s way, and it’ll be the theoretical kids job to take ridiculous chances. Plus, with the way I was raised, there will probably be lit candles in the nursery and unmarked bleach containers right next to the formula. And, if Jordana doesn’t remind me to take care of it, at least one winter, our heat will be turned off.