Recently, a friend sent me a forwarded email that outlined for those individuals under the age of 30 how lucky they are to have all the modern conveniences they take for granted. It was a sarcastic, flippant message, the kind I wish I had written myself. Even though my kids are a bit young for it, I read it aloud to them (omitting the choice language I’d rather not hear repeated). The responses from my oldest son were both incredulous and terrifying.
When told that when I was a child if I wanted an answer to a question I would have to go to the library, research the topic in the card catalog, and then go find the book and READ through it for the answer, he responded: “You didn’t have computers? Seriously?”
When told that we didn’t have handheld Nintendo DS video games with 3-D graphics, and that we had to play Atari where our “guy” was a little square and the screen stayed the same and there was no way to win so we just had to try to keep playing while the game got faster and faster, he gasped: “That sounds horrible.”
While his comments amused me somewhat, I found myself actually feeling a bit sad for him. Children born in the 21st century have to do so little for such an easy, quick payout. It got me to thinking about how grateful I am for the things I had to learn how to do while I was growing up. These are the things, I realize now, that make it possible for me to problem solve when the high tech solutions are not available. I was actually in an airport restaurant once when they were having a trouble with their ordering and payment software. We needed to catch a plane so we asked for our bill, only to be told that we’d have to wait because their system was down. We couldn’t believe that it never occurred to any of them to write out a bill, figure the total manually, and hand it to us so we could pay cash. Sometimes that thinking-out-of-the-box thing we learned growing up comes in handy. You know, the kind of thinking out of the box that you acquired when you didn’t have cartoons available 24/7, and you had to use your MacGyver brain to imagine that the braided oval rug in front of the kitchen sink was actually a ship sailing on an ocean of linoleum. After my son's comments, I couldn’t help but wonder if our children will ever be able to extrapolate solutions to the tough problems facing our planet when they are adults because so much has just been handed to them, and I kept feeling grateful for having been raised in the world I was raised in.
With Thanksgiving nearly here, I thought it would be timely to write a few quick notes of gratitude for things I feel incredibly fortunate to have in my life. However, instead of reaching deep into my heart and recounting the blessings that come to mind first (my loving and patient family, my incredible friends, my health, our warm and comfortable home), I thought I’d be a bit more shallow and give thanks for the things I could do without if I had to, but I’d really hate to have to do without. Might as well celebrate the conveniences that my children don’t realize are true conveniences.
First, I am grateful for my cordless telephone, the one that allows me to wander aimlessly around my house during a conversation without becoming entangled in a 100-foot cord that I then have to stand on a chair with receiver dangling to unwind again before the next call. I’m thankful that when I want to have a private conversation, I can actually disappear with that phone knowing that there is no cord by which someone could track me through the house and ultimately to the closed door behind which I am hiding.
I am uber-thankful for our DVR, which provides me the opportunity to pause television to shush my kids so I don’t miss one hilarious word Tina Fey is uttering on 30 Rock. That DVR is my lifeline during episodes of LOST; how invaluable it is to be able to rewind the show 5 minutes to point out to my less-detail-oriented husband how the numbers on the soccer players’ backs are, in fact, the LOST numbers of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, ad 42. And, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how our DVR assisted in potty training our children by making anytime during a show a good time to visit the bathroom.
I am thankful for my luxury SUV. I pay homage to its heated seats that warm my backside in the winter, its back-up camera that ensures I do not run over my boys’ bicycles while backing out of the driveway, and its computerized gauge that warns me that I will be walking with gas can in hand if I do not hit a service station in the next four miles. The remote-operated rear door that I can open as I am walking to the car with my groceries rocks. The automatic sunroof and the in-dash CD changer are also treasured, but what I love the most are the two easily accessible plug-ins for my technology so I can listen to and charge my iPod Nano while simultaneously using my GPS to direct me to the nearest Starbucks.
Speaking of, I need to give a grateful shout out to that mega-giant of coffee and espresso convenience. Starbucks, thank you for rescuing me when I realized that I would never survive staying home with two, non-napping boys full-time without a ubiquitous fountain of caffeinated goodness. Thanks too, Starbucks, for the WIFI, the story time hours for kids, the numerous drive-thru locations, the personalized Starbucks cards (the one I got from a dear friend reads: “Given enough caffeine you could rule the world” -- and it’s true!), and for the invention of the Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte that is my life’s blood.
I am grateful for the Victoria’s Secret Miraculous bra that gifted me with an absolutely ludicrous (and yet totally awesome) D-cup and saved me thousands on surgery that would have appointed my girls the only not-sagging part of my body twenty years from now. I give thanks for the iPhone apps that make life less frustrating, apps like Shazam (so I can figure out who the heck is singing the song I can’t get out of my head) and Video Poker (so I can practice for Vegas while I’m on the flight out there). I am thankful for debit cards, pay at the pump gasoline, and satellite television on airplanes. And, I give thanks for the ultra-quiet dishwasher with a timer that washes dishes for me while I sleep.
There are so many modern inventions that I am grateful for and for good reason. While my life is more complicated than my grandmother’s life ever was, it’s also full of travel and adventure, which hers was not. And, I know, that someday when my sons are grandparents they will sit down and tell their grandchildren about how hard things were for them when they were kids in the days before hovercrafts. I’m sure they’ll also tell them about how in the olden days their mom used to tell them stories about how hard life was when there was no Caller ID or voicemail, just the same way my mom used to tell me stories about how she had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school. I’m thankful that some things will never change.