Today we live in a world of a new danger. But danger isn’t new for us Baby Boomers. We were lucky our parents didn’t do us in right from the start!
Second-hand smoke. White sugar by the fistful. Red meat by the mouthful. Processed meat like there was no tomorrow.
And talk about no tomorrow … Car seats? What car seats? Tell the truth … How many of you recall sitting on your mother’s laps while she drove AND smoked?
No. Danger Isn’t New for Boomers
And the litany of Baby Boomer death traps goes on:
Pregnant women smoking and drinking! Oh, my. I mean, oh, my mama!
Unsafe cribs with slats spaced wide enough to trap our soft, tiny pates and side rails that dropped like the French Revolution’s guillotine! Sacre bleu!
Couple those killer cribs with the now medically rejected notion that babies slept best when placed on their bellies, it really is a wonder we made it to our first (month’s) birthdays.
And the Dangers Continued
Then, once we became footloose and fancy-free — i.e. once we sprung the crib and escape the playpen — and started crawling, man, we faced a veritable Adventureland of risks.
Electrical outlets? Perfect for little fingers!
Under-the-sink cleansers? Man, talk about opportunities for us junior boom-boom-boom Baby Boomer-chemists!
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em!
And then we got older, the danger opportunities only expanded:
Inspired by our parental role models, we “smoked” our own cigarettes in the form of candy cigarettes. Remember those sugary delights? How did we not all turn into nicotine addicts with that kiddie smoker-in-training treat?
Bikes (and then, motorcycles) without helmets. Why does the song, “Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door” come to mind?
Still More Examples that Danger Isn’t New for Boomers
We walked to school alone, managed to set up “play dates” without parental interference (or using that term), drank unbottled water from hoses, played on the front lawn — and in the street — without parental supervision, and came home to empty houses devoid of nannies or au pairs.
When I grew up, my father imposed but two restrictions: I wasn’t allowed to get on a skateboard or the back of a motorcycle.
Big Julie was a Pushover
My father, aka Big Julie, as he was known, was a tough guy with everybody, but me. Here’s the almost verbatim” negotiation about what time I had to come home from the high school senior prom. Important note: I was 13, but dating somebody from the nearby high school. This, of course, was a BIG DEAL.
“Be home at midnight,” Big Julie declared solemnly, lighting his cigar.
“But Daddy, I said sweetly, “The prom ends at 11. The parties will just be getting started.”
“Alright,” Big Julie mandated, puffing on his stinky cigar. “Be home at 2.”
“But Daddy, Mark’s best friend’s party starts at 3.”
“Be home at 5,” my father said, biting down on his cigar.
“But the band teacher is making breakfast for everybody at 5.”
“OK, just come home, will ya?” he said, biting through the cigar.
Of course, my father knew he needn’t worry. I was pretty safe. The boy was safer. I’m not sure I even let him kiss me on the lips when we arrived home at 7:15 a.m. I just wanted to brag to my junior high school friends that I went to a senior prom.
That said, it’s fair to say, my parents, especially tender-hearted, tough guy Big Julie, had plenty of sleepless nights to survive raising a daughter especially after the comparatively “easy” time of rearing three rough and tumble boys — two of them 18 and 21 years older than I!
And as I observed in my Sheltering-in-Place Journal: Day 9, my parent’s generation definitely needed superior survival skills to make it through the 20th Century. In my parents’ case, both lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and WWII, and, of course, the challenges of life in general.
Now, it’s our turn — Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z — to be tough.
Yes, we’re scared. We should be. This is a real crisis and a test of our resilience and courage. We need to draw on our strengths and friendships to get by. Let’s come together even as we stand six feet apart. Let’s wash our hands like we own stock in soap, sanitizers, and paper towels. And let’s NOT hoard toilet paper (or anything else). This pandemic will end. Until then,
Keep smiling! Muddle on! And most important of all, stay healthy!
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