I was trying to find some old photos recently when I came across one of me sitting in the front seat of Granny’s old Oldsmobile.
“What were you sitting on?” Cole asked, looking at the photo.
“That was the car seats of the ’70s.”
He looked puzzled. “It was in the front though.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“Nennie thought that was safe?”
The things that were considered safe back then would give most people nightmares today but were perfectly fine decades ago.
We didn’t know better, so we didn’t know to worry.
Each generation had its own things to worry about though, I’m sure.
Granny worried about me being a latch-key kid, something she made sure she affirmed to everyone I was not.
I worried about quicksand, thanks to cartoons and the tale that my great-grandfather had lost a donkey in some.
Mama’s worries were vast and covered just about everything; they persist to this day, as a matter of fact.
In hindsight, I wondered how some of the things that were considered safe back then passed muster.
Cribs contained lead paint. We ate things with mayonnaise that had sat out all day at barbecues and licked the beaters with the raw egg.
Advertisements presented smoking as cool.
Seat belts weren’t enforced and every parent thought the back area of a station wagon was meant to pile as many kids in as possible.
So things like car seats were totally off our radar.
The car seat I had looked like the same thing I sat on at the salon so Mama’s hair dresser could cut my hair; it would have done absolutely nothing to keep me safe if an accident had occurred.
Probably more dangerous was the fact I normally rode in the car with Mama, engulfed in second-hand smoke from her Virginia Slim 120s.
Add in the fact both of our clothing were probably very flammable and it was like a death trap on four wheels.
Lamar’s childhood was even more hazardous.
There were many days he would take off as soon as the sun rose and not come home until nightfall; sometimes, the next day.
With little to none adult supervision, he was running wild during the day, something that when he was a kid was normal.
I can’t even wrap my head around a child — let alone a 9-year-old child at that — hitchhiking across town during any decade.
He had quite a few serious injuries, including being knocked unconscious when he ran into a tree on his bike. A couple of times.
Instead of taking him to the hospital to make sure he was OK, he was put in the tub, mainly so he wouldn’t bleed on the carpet.
He also had plenty of car rides with the windows rolled all the way up, embraced in a fog of cigarette smoke, as well as accidents on motorcycles when he was way too young to be riding.
He’s even been shot by an arrow.
Any time I’ve asked him how he survived childhood, he’d simply reply ‘with God’s grace.’
“Your guardian angel must be exhausted,” I replied.
My childhood was far more sheltered of course, but the parental supervision was probably tighter than Fort Knox. As a kid, I thought the worries my family had were silly and I didn’t understand why Mama wouldn’t let me spend the night with someone unless she knew five generations of their family and Granny had done her own background check.
But that’s the thing about being a child to a degree.
You’re supposed to be free of the worries and fears, and be able to enjoy just being a kid.
Riding in the back of Mama’s Monte Carlo, facing out the back window and eating ice cream cones was perfectly normal and carefree, just as walking across town with a friend to hang out in the pool room when I was a teen just seemed safe.
“You did what?” Mama shrilled, 35 years later. “I did not know about that! If I had, you would be in so much trouble. In fact, you’re grounded now!”
There were so many things that could have happened, that thankfully didn’t.
It’s a parents job to worry, just like it’s a kid job to do some pretty stupid things that at the time seem perfectly safe.
Back then, the world was totally different, or at least it seemed like it was. We may not have heard about all of the terrible things that happened back then like we do now.
Some of the fears were just not that realistic to begin with. And some of the real things that happened were far worse than the fears.
As I explained to my son about how different things were, it made me think how as a parent, I can foresee tons and tons of potential risks and dangers, and try to take steps to mitigate them from happening, but yet they do.
How in the world did we make it, I wondered to myself.
Somehow, we survived.
Hopefully, through that same grace, our kids will too.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.