Misremembered Childhood: It’s not what we thought it was

I want to thank my friend, Lynne, for sharing on Facebook an essay from The American Prospect called “The False Glow of Remembered Childhood.” It debunks the myth that an old America was simpler and makes clear that the America that we remember, no matter who we are, is what we were remembering as children. It begins:

“Three years ago, John Boehner was doing an interview when he lamented, perhaps with a tear peeking its way through the corner of his eye, that Democrats “are snuffing out the America that I grew up in.” As Michael Tomasky noted at the time, the America Boehner grew up in (the 1950s) featured things like strong private-sector unions, a 90 percent top income-tax rate, enormous public-works projects, and a moderate Republican party, presumably all things Boehner wouldn’t like, not to mention Jim Crow, terrible discrimination against women and gay people … you get the point.”

Paul Waldman, who wrote the Prospect piece, also quotes from an interview in Salon, where Adam Goldberg, creator of ABC’s The Goldbergs, expresses a similar sentiment:

Why do you think audiences will be interested in a family show specifically set in the 1980s?

“I think the ’80s works for a TV show because it’s the last time the world was simple. It was before the Internet really changed everything and made the world really small. Today the whole notion of family is a bit different: You can reach out and if you don’t get any support at home, you can find a like-minded family on blogs or on Facebook. In the ’80s your family was the people in your house, at your dinner table, and the people you went to school with, those were your friends. You basically couldn’t find other friends. So it was really the last time where the world was still simple and small.”

No, no, no. The ’80s wasn’t “the last time the world was simple,’ ” Waldman writes. “The ’80s was the last time when your world was simple. Can you guess why? Because you were a child!”

You should read the entire Waldman piece. It’s wonderful and reminds us that “…any time you’re tempted to say something like ‘The world was a more innocent place when I was a kid,’ try to remember that that’s kind of like believing as an adult that your dog really did go to live on a farm upstate.”

I thank Lynne and Paul Waldman, who remind us that our memories are tainted, nurtured, affected by age.

I wouldn’t wish to trade this century I’m living in for the last or the life I’m living now for my mom’s. On the other hand, I know there was no twerking. And that is one memory I’m keeping.