We Rode the Bus

It has been 2 years since my last entry. What happened to my plans for daily writing and creativity, especially in my new found place in life called Retirement.  Don’t get me wrong, not going to work is great, a childhood dream come true, but there has been an uncomfortable transition period for sure. But, that is a discussion I will save for another time. What somehow entered my brain surges enough to open my laptop today were thoughts that streamed my subconscious entry to sleep last night.  The statement went something like this “We are the first generation whose children will not make more in earned wages than their parents.”  Yeah, I’m the one holding that corner of the world in our nighttime darkness.

In my mind’s eye I traveled the years back to my childhood. Images scrolled by.  Hmm, funny. When I was a child images would have “flashed” through my mind. The small town I grew up in had a population of less than 800 people! I pictured myself with my siblings waiting for the one school bus that carried all elementary and high school students.  The big kids sat in the back of the bus sleepy and grumpy in the morning, happy and free at 3:00. They were our big brothers and sisters.  Some even wore the belt of bus patrol, helping us littler ones to cross the road upon boarding and departure. There was never fear of the Bully on the bus. Honestly, that was a word that had little dealings with back then, not because it never happened, but it was never allowed to fester.  Bullies’ behaviors were not pointed out but snuffed out, not held up as poor examples but dealt with at the quick before they materialized. The only time I heard the word punctuated was on Leave It To Beaver. And just like with the Beaver, we were taught that the other kids, our friends or even ourselves, could act sleepy and grumpy but we didn’t mean to be mean. And so, we all rode the bus.

Kickball, Kick the Can, Statue, Baseball Cards, Hitsies, Jump rope, Hopscotch, Swing sets & Playgrounds. These were the days before town leagues for our little village.  We played in the yard, in the road, in the brook but almost never in each others’ homes. It was always an adventure to enter in…for a chocolate milk and a snack or better yet to go to the bathroom! The marvel of another families living space fascinated me but before questions could come, we would skirt out as Mr or Mrs arrived home from work. Back outside to our hide and seek until the setting sun or Dad’s whistle from the porch step. “See ya later. Yeah see ya tomorrow.”  We didn’t have Play Dates. We Played!  No Moms, no Dads, no electronics, no money, no guns, no fights…just our laughter, imagination and the outdoors.  And so, we all rode the merry-go-round.

School shootings, guns in school, should teachers carry guns?  Bullied in school, bullied to death, death by the bully.  I want your sneakers. Bang Bang. I want your jacket. Bang Bang. I want. Bang Bang.  You can’t. Bang Bang. Look at my Dad’s gun. Bang Bang.  I ‘ll kill you.  Bang Bang.  Stop. Bang Bang. Put your hands up.  Bang Bang.  I have a gun. Bang Bang. Guns? Yes, we had them.  Shooting them was a family recreational event.  I remember the ceremonious unlocking of the little gun closet where they hid.  My father carried them all the way outside to the well where my older siblings and I stood…always behind the well.  The target, a peeled Cambell’s soup tin can, hung way across the field from a limb of the little old apple tree. We kept score. Before we counted shells, we would pick them up from the grass and try to make a “whistle” by blowing across the empty casing.  Other than that, the only guns we had were sticks. How did we go from this to Riding in Cars with Guns?

My youngest daughter has a $30,000 school loan debt from a 15 month program where she recently received her certification. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree and a $10,000 debt back in 1982. Upon receipt of my first paycheck from the one and only career job I ever had, I remember my mother’s look of grief carefully covered with her pride as she stated, “I just retired with this salary.” At that moment, I knew I had been given a gift of promise. Promise, where a kid who just graduated from college readily got an above average salaried job in her field, with health benefits, a retirement plan and longevity. Thanks to our parents, our government, our veterans and our economy, we had been given a ride Back to the Future.

So hand me downs turned into Designer Labels only. Manicures and Pedicures taken by storm by teenage girls who under the pressure were just trying to keep up with the norm.   Kissing booths to laying in bed. Computer cards, keypunching and gigantic machines entered our homes like what now seems a lightening strike in devices so small we can hold them in our hands. Technology so advanced, we can access the world and beyond. No more black and white but a colorized screen display.  And channels in the thousands instead of ten and thirteen.  So quickly things came and went, not keeping up with the money we spent.  The dollar lost its value. Everything was fast obsolete and thrown away.  Then came the day, that even the disposal of others became okay. Daycares, Preschools, Mothers at work, Dads behind strollers, Stranger Danger, Parent Taxied kids everywhere, T-ball, Soccer, and the Soccer Mom.  How did we get the idea that we could all live like we were Rockefeller strong? Society told us so. Media dumbed us down. Money in politics. Corruption abound. Competition turned inward.  We collapsed in on ourselves from the winners on top. Greed and Separation defined the wall. I am the most important to myself. Me not We. I have the right. I will sue. I am Entitled. You owe me. You don’t deserve. I am right. You are wrong. And by the way, there is no more take it or leave it…I will make the rules. You will obey. You have no say. What happened on our ride in the Freedom Train?

So, given the odds, yes, I am afraid it is true.  Our children will not make the earned wages we were blessed with. But, have we no greater legacy to leave behind? Can we not offer a promise too? Will our children only see grief in our face? We are in the midst of an historic election year.  With the hype, the lies, the farce utilized as tools of divisiveness rather than unification, the last man or woman left standing has  a most frightening task ahead. Because, unless We the People each realize and live with pride our great American pledge of allegiance to the flag, red, white and blue, this powerful Republic of Democracy will continue to suffer and crumble.  And it will be an even harder time ahead yet to come for our children’s children.  We must return. We have to believe again. There was a time when.  And at our age, we know its the simple things in life.  I do. I dream of that America, where a kid can be a kid. We must give that to them. Let them ride the school bus again.

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