Our book club recently read Laura Moriarty’s book, “The Chaperone,” which follows the life of middle-aged Cora, a fictional character who accompanies the teenaged Louise Brooks (a real person who was a silent film star back in the 1920s) on a summer trip to New York City so Louise can try out for the Denishawn School of Dance. I won’t bore you with the all the details, but it seemed to me that the theme of the book was Cora gradually learning to shed many of the prejudices, social restrictions and strict morals of the early 1900s to grow into an more open-minded and accepting person. In other words, Cora begins to embrace many of the more modern attitudes we have today, which is of course, a good thing.
I would never want to go back to the days of racial segregation, when it was illegal to be anything other than heterosexual, before women had the right to vote, or when polio, tuberculosis, and a host of other diseases were far too common. I don’t miss cooking before the invention of the microwave oven, and as much as it annoys me, I can no longer imagine living without my cell phone. But I have to admit that there are still a few aspects of “the good old days” that I actually do miss.
I miss the days when it was safe for children to roam the neighborhood, riding bikes and playing with friends, and when games were the products of their imaginations rather than structured leagues, organized and run by adults. I miss the days when television sets had only a few channels, because then I wasn’t tempted to waste quite so much time watching it. (Which is why no house of mine will ever boast a “home theater.”) I miss the days when people often sat on their front porches in the evening, chatting together and watching the world go by.
While I certainly appreciate air conditioning, I also miss falling asleep at night while listening to the sounds of crickets and cicadas, and the sweet smell of the occasional cooling breeze that came in through our opened windows. I miss the excitement of getting an actual letter from a far away friend or relative, and how eagerly I would open it, read the contents, and then carefully tuck it away for safekeeping. I know emails are more convenient and much quicker, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to get one.
Of course I am aware that our world has changed for the better in many, many ways, and I appreciate that. But as an introvert who has never quite mastered the art of multi-tasking, and as someone who really values having a bit of peace and quiet each day, I also believe that some of the changes I have lived through have made the world a bit faster-paced, a bit more intrusive, and a bit more impersonal than I would like it to be. I don’t want to abandon the modern world, but I admit that there are times when I wish I could just take a break from it, at least for a little while.