Childhood and Parenting in the 1960s
Was very different from today…
I don’t think I had a normal upbringing, but perhaps most of us didn’t? I’m not sure, because I don’t run around polling people, “Was your family normal growing up?” or “Did you have a normal childhood?” Anyway…
We drove seven hours to grandma’s house regularly; the four of us packing into the car along with our lab, Cleo, and our suitcases. Kids were expected to live with boredom in those days, so amusement came with a cost at times. My mom had put the back seat down, and my little brother had decided to repeatedly nudge the dog in the stomach due to being three hours into a dull trip.
I must have tattled on him, for mom looked back and told Stevie to knock it off. He didn’t. Cleo managed to turn around and defecate on him. The poo happened to be rather runny, so my brother was covered in it rather than having a turd or two on him.
This being the 1960s, rest areas sat on the sides of many busy roads, so dad pulled into one. While mom took a sheet and a towel to the creek to clean up Stevie, my dad opened the cooler and pulled out a beer. He sat at a picnic table and relaxed while mom dealt with a howling toddler covered in dog doo, and a three year old (me) running around with Cleo on a leash. The dog most likely was running me around, but whatever.
Mom decided to just dig through the clothes and put new ones on my brother, and I believe she tossed his clothes into the trash can along with his shoes. Think warm runny poo goo, no air conditioning, and a long five more hours to go, and perhaps throwing away the items made some sense.
Once everyone clambered back into the cleaned car and dad had us back on the road, my mother and father had a bit of an argument. She expected him to actually help rather than sitting down and leaving her to clean one kid, watch the other and the dog too. I can’t say I blame her.
My dad had four sisters, and since he was the only boy in the family my grandmother thought the sun and moon revolved around him. Even as an adult dad could do no wrong. My mom? Hell, yeah, she did plenty wrong in that grandma’s eyes, but she had married the crown prince of Frackville.
As a child I’d sit in that grandma’s kitchen, and I’d see how only my father was served food by his mom. My aunts had to fend for themselves, while I watched my dad clearly enjoying his mother’s attention. She leapt up to give his him seconds or refill his coffee cup.
That same idea of service didn’t work so well when it came to my mom, his wife. She hailed from a home where her father died when she had just turned ten, so that grandma went to work full time while mom and Aunt Cathy fended for themselves or ran across the street to their aunt’s house. They could run down the hill and visit their mom at her little grocery store, but nobody waited on anyone.
Which brings us to the aftermath of mom cleaning everything up alone, while dad enjoyed a cold beer. The idea of feminism hadn’t started just yet, but a clash of cultures occurred. In that car. In the 1960s. My mother, full of indignation and frustration over so many situations that played out like this one in the rest area, told my dad it ended now.
Dad changed. It took time, sure, but he left that stereotypical man at a rest stop somewhere in Pennsylvania, and dad grew to become an involved parent. To this day he and I talk about deep subjects or nothing at all and laugh.
As for my little brother? He never pushed at our dog again, though they definitely cuddled. Just not on that specific trip. My brother knew mom had thrown his poo-filled brand new shoes out, and he was mad. Spitting mad. Some life lessons are learned quite early in life, while others are learned later.
Wait until I write about the turkey.