I took my kid and his friend to McDonald's yesterday, because nothing else quite encompasses that feeling of "I'm a terrible parent/I'm a great parent" so well. They got Happy Meals. I got a mocha.
"Nonfat or whole milk?" the clerk asked.
And I thought--forget the internet. The absolute best change that's happened during my lifetime is that we've gone from bad drip or percolated coffee to espresso drinks being so common that McDonald's is offering me options about my drink. Then I noticed their coffee ground recycling program--instead of tossing their grounds, they're letting patrons take them for their gardens.
Now, I am a creature that tends towards nostalgia as my default setting. In middle school I started a photo album for my Camp Fire Group, and appointed myself the title of Group Historian. Still, this got me thinking--what else in my lifetime has actually changed for the better? And thus was born a non-book related post. (Except since I'm writing it, books will most likely sneak in in some form or another.)
1. Coffee. I've already explained that one, so I'll just share a semi-related anecdote. When I was in Peace Corps 20 years ago (ouch), our group was divided into TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) and Ag (agricultural advisors). You can imagine the cultural divide between the two groups. Well, okay, 95% of us were recent college grads, and 100% of us had joined PC, so we also had a lot in common. Anyway--one of our Ag volunteers was teasing another one for liking lattes. "Rednecks don't drink lattes" she scoffed. The latte drinker, however, was from Startup, WA. Being from Oregon, I was able to assure her that his response was accurate. "In the Northwest, they do!"
2. Okay, fine, the Internet. Sure, there are downsides to it (the comment section and the potential for time suck leap to mind), but if it weren't for the internet, I'd be writing my thoughts down in a blank notebook--or not bothering. Yes, we did just fine without it for millennia, but rather like air conditioning, once you've gotten used to it, it feels like a necessity.
3. Public attitudes about sexual and gender identity. Yes, there's a long way to go. (See: public attitudes about race, gender, religion, and disabilities.) But the changed during my lifetime are incredible. Many (not all) middle school students in the podunk town where I work are accepting of GLBQT people. When I was in middle school, nobody was accepting of GL people, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one that didn't even know BQT? people existed. What I've learned about transgender people in the last decade alone represent significant change.
4. The rise of the library as EVEN MORE than a repository of books. It started with libraries adding books on tape and VHS videos. Then a few computers with databases. Now we're talking Maker Spaces and family movie night and this terrific bike repair station I just found outside a local library. Board games, 3D printing labs, and yes, even cafes serving espresso drinks. It's like a wonderful love affair, where the other person just keeps giving you more and more reasons to adore them.
5. Speaking of books, the second golden age of YA lit is pretty terrific. It's almost hard to imagine now, but I went from reading children's books to reading adult lit. Sure, some of both categories would now be considered YA, but overall, there is so much more available now.
6. I feel a certain nostalgia for the days of rotary phones, but I have to admit that having a phone/camera available at all times is pretty cool. Let alone all the other things you can do on a phone.
7. After our McDonald's stop yesterday, the boys and I went to check out a new park in our suburban city. It's a wooded area, and 1.5 acres are set apart for "off-trail play," meaning the kids can wander out directly into the woods, and allowed to climb trees, build lean-tos, etc. So, clearly this is not a new thing as much as a return to an old thing, and it is a little weird that we have to designate places like this, but--man, did they love it.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Any quibbles? Those of you who grew up with those things, isn't it crazy that my generation didn't? Kind of like talking to my mom about washing the device that separated out the cream after she milked the cow.