When I was in seventh grade, I memorized “If” by Rudyard Kipling because the Sisters of Notre Dame required us to memorize poems. Kipling wrote “If” to his son, Sister said, to teach him about the importance of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off whenever life throws you a curve.
If you can “. . . watch the things you gave your life to, broken. And stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools,” is a line I didn’t pay much attention to when I was young, but it’s one I think about now because Kipling assumed — as I did, too — that whatever was broken, physically or metaphorically, could be fixed.
But what if the things you gave your life to aren’t just broken? What if they’re gone?
My granddaughter, Charlotte, who is 11, thought I was kidding when I told her that in my kitchen to the right of the sink, there used to be a beige telephone attached to a wall. “Attached to a wall? You’re joking, Mimi,” she said, then laughed. The only innovation to that telephone over 30 years was swapping out a short cord for a long, Slinky-like one, which stretched and made it possible to talk and walk around the kitchen at the same time!
All Charlotte has ever known is a cellphone. It’s not attached to any wall. It doesn’t have a cord. And it’s hardly ever used to speak to anyone. You type into it and you read what’s on it. Ma Bell would never recognize it as one of her offspring. It’s a different species. Just as it is a different world.
Sunday mornings I sometimes listen to Ric Edelman on WBZ radio in an attempt to keep up with this different world. He’s a financial adviser and predictor of trends. Last week he was talking about the future of cash money, how no one will be using it in 10 years and how already in Sweden some 3,000 people have had microchips implanted in their hands, to replace keys, credit cards, and train tickets. A cashless society is our future, he said.
I don’t balk at change. I walked past a man at a urinal the other day. Gender-neutral bathrooms? No problem. But the idea that soon there will be no physical money, no $10 bill to find in a coat pocket. No “emergency funds” stashed in the Bible. No pennies? No more peering at the date they were minted, wondering who held them, hoping that just one is a “rare” coin worth thousands of dollars. No more counting them and rolling them? “Find a penny pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.”
“There used to be this thing called money,” people will say in the future. And children will laugh. “You’re joking,” they’ll say.
“Who remembers gimp?” Nadine Lyons asked on “This was Randolph, MA,” a Facebook page I find myself clicking on lately. (Before children made “string” bracelets, gimp, a thin, somewhat flexible plastic string, was the rage.) I lived in Randolph for 14 years in a small Cape across the street from Nadine Lyons. “Who remembers the Blue Laws?” people ask on this site. “Who remembers Howard Johnson’s where the Comfort Inn is now?” Who remembers sixth-grade dances at the Devine School? Girl Scout camp? Double features? Leon’s? The old Turner Free Library?
Every time a question is posed, I want to raise my hand, leap out of my chair and shout, “I remember!”
“In the first millennia, one’s great great (add eight more greats here) grandmother could experience the same level of technology and social interaction as that of their distant offspring.” I read this in Psychology Today.
Today, technology, with its many twists and turns, gives us whiplash.
Who remembers when there was a single knob that turned on a TV? Who remembers being able to turn on any TV? No remotes. No passwords. Just “on” and “off.” Simple.
Who remembers being excited when the telephone rang? Racing to see if the call was for you? No caller ID. No voice mail. “I’ll get it!”
Blockchain and bitcoin are going to change the world. I don’t understand them. I can’t wrap my head around a world without physical currency.
I remember rolling pennies and taking my 50 cents to the Randolph movie theater for a Sunday afternoon double feature. I remember rolling pennies with my kids, then with their kids. I still roll pennies with the youngest who is 5 and for whom pennies remain a treasure.
“Who remembers pennies?” someone may ask him someday. I hope that he will raise his hand, and grin his little kid grin as he leaps out of his chair and shouts, “I remember!”
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.