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I’m in my upper 40s but do not subjectively feel that differently from the time I was in my 20s. Yet there is much evidence of increasing…. “maturity.” I know I’m older when:

-The first president I remember on television is Lyndon Johnson. The first president the students remember is Bill Clinton.

-I tell my students the first house I lived in as a child had no running water, an outside well, and an outhouse.  They stare at me. And stare.

-I find that women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s are more attractive to me than women in their 20s.

-I remember my granddaddy telling me of days when there were still horses and buggies and blacksmith shops (as there were as late as the 1930s in parts of rural Tennessee). My granddaddy had met some veterans from the War Between the States. History touches me at every turn. For my students, there is no history before their birth–reality began with them.

-I remember using my first typewriter, a manual. My students do not know what a typewriter is.

-Before I was in college, my parents did not own a color TV.

-I worked getting up hay. Everyone who worked with me could speak English.

-In my childhood church hymns were the old 19th and early 20th century gospel songs such as “Sweet Bye and Bye,” “There’s a Great Day Coming,” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” We actually used hymn books. The notion that church should turn into chaos with contemporary music was foreign. Today…. God help us.

-No one was offended by someone calling them “sir” or “ma’am.” Today, in the bizarro world of academia, some people get bent out of shape by being addressed with these terms. Perhaps for these individuals we can find substitute terms such as “Yes, a..hole.”

-In my youth the Democratic Party was the conservative party in the South. Today the tables are turned.

-My favorite shows as a child were “The Red Skelton Show,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and the Bob Hope specials. Today I like “The Simpsons,” “Southpark,” “Family Guy” and “House.” I suppose something has been gained, but I also consider the simplicity and strong sense of right and wrong that has been lost.

-As a child one of my favorite things to do was go to the Sears on Lafayette Street in Nashville with my parents. We’d stop by my great-uncle’s Texaco on the way. Today that area is a wasteland.

-I remember the days that people would say “Merry Christmas” to perfect strangers near Christmas time at shopping centers.

-I remember when almost all store clerks were polite.

-I remember when the mini-tootsie rolls were a penny apiece.

-I remember when gas was under 30 cents a gallon.

-I remember when Cokes were a dime, and any store had RC Cola and Nehi Grape or Orange.

-I remember a rock building, a store, where old men would sit and talk.

-I remember the whittlers on the courthouse lawn in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.


Of course we’ve advanced in some ways–I am grateful for what contemporary medicine, for example, has done to help family members and friends. And I know we tend to idealize the past. But to me, a time when I could play outside as a child and not worry about a pervert kidnapping me or someone cursing at me from the highway was a better time. It was simpler, less hectic (at least in the rural south), and relativism had not yet poisoned the minds of most people. We may not be able to turn back the clock technologically, but if we could focus on family, friends, sitting on the porch shelling peas or beans and talking–all those wonderful, simple things that held people together–I believe the world would be a better place. The fact that this sounds sentimental reveals how far our society has sunk, but what sinks can rise once more. I am glad to be middle-aged since I can remember that simpler time in rural Tennessee. Thanks be to God for the small, precious things of life.