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Different strokes (11/30/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Instant gratification – we all indulge in it in one way or another. There is every sort of label for it in this non-linguistic society. (Proper sentence structure, grammar and punctuation ain’t where it’s at, if ya know what I mean!)

Anyway, instant gratification falls under such logos and categories as “materialistic,” “charge now – can’t pay later,” Get & Go, remote controls, drive-up windows, Jiffy Lube, room service, instant pudding, passing gas (oops!), Internet Explorer, “Press START,” “heat ‘n serve,” and on and on, off and off.

Speaking of self-indulgence, a three-letter word comes to mind, one that describes something people have been delighting in down through all time. It is an activity we all have craved, ravenously sought, savored, over-indulged in, and drooled for. Survival itself relies on this practice. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. Of course, we all love to dig in with wild abandon. Who doesn’t love to eat?! Gottcha!

I’ve discovered that you don’t necessarily have to enjoy what you have to eat. When we age everything begins to taste like last week’s supermarket special.

Back in the fifties it was a less technical world, when instant gratification was more like Mama’s Sunday dinner, the first snowfall of the season, and helping an elderly neighbor with the yard work without pay. Come to think of it, gratification wasn’t usually instantaneous back then. It was so slow- paced that to see somebody running down the street prompted one to follow to find out where the fire was. It was “take a tater and wait!” and biscuits from scratch, not the “from the freezer to the oven” kind.

Midwestern society today is far removed from memories of the fifties. I shudder to think of the perils our parents put us kids in, sending us out into the big, bad world without bicycle helmets and knee pads, with no disinfectant hand wipes, no means of contact with the safe haven of home (translation – no cell phones), and wearing mismatched socks and Label-X clothes to school!

Remembering when I was a kid is a stretch of the imagination. I wonder how we lived through it! Seatbelts were for bonking a defenseless little brother on the noggin. The smell of the dentist’s office was enough to drain all the blood from a kid’s face, its noisy, grinding drill the most dreaded contraption in town. “Open wide now!” induced plenty of hollering! That snowy, 18” RCA television left a lot to be desired. Those frizzy home perms caused their share of tears.

Life back then wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was a secure and pleasantly livable time. It was predictable and stable. The whole community conformed to a moralistic standard of living and a respectable manner of conducting themselves.

Things aren’t all sunshine and roses today. Heck, in this era television is three-fourth commercials and one-fourth “nothing on.” Kids aren’t taught to be responsible; in many cases they are expected to be that way right from the womb. Young people often follow adult practices by lying to cover up their wrong- doings. There’s no shame in spending beyond one’s means. It’s the guileful way society operates in the new millennium.

One wonders, what does the younger generation do with their spare time, and no chores, since button-pushing households are so efficiently managed? How many moms and super dads greet children as they get home from school? Doing dishes by hand was no big deal! In fact, the teasing and bantering between us sisters and Mom as we did dishes every evening was a highlight of the day.

Parents go to great lengths and expense to protect their families, often while overlooking the most vital and impacting precautions of all…their precious time and attention.

Excuse me for a moment – my microwave popcorn is popped, the oven timer is set for supper, Martha Stewart’s TV show is about to begin, and I’m so ready to ease into my massage chair. Good day.

Janet Burns resides in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.  


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