Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golden Memories: Leave Them In The Past

Lincoln LogsReliving the past is not nearly as satisfying as we think it should be. You can't recapture your youth, not to mention your childhood, no matter how golden those days seem to you. It's just your memory playing tricks on you. The things that were so important to you in your youth are no longer important, things you enjoyed then are boring now, events you were afraid to miss then seem pointless today.

And that's normal, of course. In childhood, and even in our teens, everything is new, exciting, to be experienced before they disappear. We had to stay up and watch television - all the other kids were allowed to, so why couldn't we? It was important! We didn't want to miss it! And we certainly missed a lot of things, didn't we? At the time they were very important to us. But as the years go on we realize, if we think about it at all, that they were nothing to worry about. We really missed nothing. There would always be another cake or Christmas cookies, summer re-runs of television shows would allow us to see what we may have missed the first time around, the Ice Cream truck would show up again when summer did, and we should have learned that we missed darned little. But we, as children, don't seem to realize that. And that's natural, I think, for the young human.

an ice cream coneAs we grow older we remember all those things we may have missed out on as bigger, grander, more exciting than they really were. We get nostalgic about our childhood and seek to recapture it by experiencing the familiar things of our past. And re-experiencing those things so often leads to disappointment. Why? Because we have matured - I hope! - and moved on to adult things. Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches give way to Hoagies, applesauce gives way to salads, Saturday morning cartoons are pushed aside by the News, blocks and Lincoln Logs are replaced by cars and computers. And yet, we still want to go back to the simpler pleasures of the ice cream cone from the Ice Cream truck, the Huckleberry Hound cartoons with a bowl of Cocoa Puffs while we wear our jammies. We felt safer then, and our memories are softened by the difficulties of living as adults.

But we still try to go back.

The Jetsons

In September 1962, ABC aired The Jetsons for the first time. This was Prime Time, folks, the Family television viewing part of the day, and the cartoon was intended to be enjoyed by adults. The Flintstones had pioneered the Prime Time cartoon idea in 1960. I remember, vaguely, the Flintstones airing in the evening, but since I was still six-years-old when The Jetsons premiered, I recall them a bit better. But, as is usual with memory, my memories of The Jetsons is different from reality. I have matured since I first saw The Jetsons in late 1962.

Trying to recapture some of the fun of my childhood, I recently watched the very first episode of The Jetsons. I expected to get a few chuckles from it. What I got were a few smiles and a lot of head-shaking. I now understand why the show lasted for only one season. (A second season would not occur until 1985.) Based on the formula for adult sitcoms of the day, including a laugh track, the cartoon simply isn't funny. What I remember as very funny turns out to be fairly tame stuff devoid of even the laughter that The Flintstones would generate. I was disappointed, to say the least.

After all, the Warner Brothers cartoons I still enjoy - Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig - remain funny to this day. Created for adults, the Looney Toons rarely were less than full of laughs. But Hanna-Barbera somehow missed the boat with The Jetsons. Of course, this is borne out by the show not being picked up for a second season after March of 1963, while The Flintstones were still going strong (still being produced in 1966.) One was funny and kept its audience, the other was not and did not. So why did I remember it as funny?

Rosie the Robot MaidBecause I was a little boy. The funny flying cars, the robot maid - Rosie, who appeared in only two episodes - the push-button world that The Jetsons inhabited, were all things of wonder and delight for a little boy. As an adult the cartoon is such tame stuff that it surprised me I recalled it so positively. That's the difference, I suppose, between our childhood memories and our adult experiences. My memory of summers as a child are nearly uniformly shaded in golden hues. In my mind summers were almost always early evening with the sun reaching for the horizon, the heat of the day becoming a cooling breeze, the trees all in full, green splendor, the games of baseball finished, an ice cream cone in my hand, and so on. I have to think hard to remember the scary things of those days.

The Three Stooges

Not all of my childhood memories are like The Jetsons, of course. I still laugh out loud watching the Three Stooges, old comic books can keep me interested just as they did in the old days, I still like macaroni-and-cheese, and my M&Ms mania has never abated. But I had to learn all over again that what I remember from my childhood was colored by my own innocence, inexperience, and fresh eyes. Better to leave those memories where they are, and enjoy them at a distance, rather than seek them out to relive them. You can't relive them.


Gayle said...

No, you can't relive them, but you sure can still enjoy some of the things you enjoyed then, like macaroni and cheese. I still enjoy it immensely, although I can take or leave M&M's. I'm lacking a sweet tooth! :)

shoprat said...

There are ways to enjoy old things that no longer seem exciting. Share them with those who are younger for example.

The only episode of the Jetsons that I remember was the one where George got to test an indestructible suit. The movie The Jetsons that was made some 20 years ago was so PC it was offensive.

BB-Idaho said...

I used to go down to the railroad
depot, eat chokecherries and watch trains. Once in awhile the engineer would let me help oil the huge driver wheels on the steam locomotive. The steam locos left
quite awhile back, and the depot was razed. You can still find the Jetsons and Three Stooges, but old trains are ephemeral *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk...