I know there is a fine line between living in the past and just relishing the memories. I’ve always loved to close my eyes and think about the way the world used to be, when I was young and had my whole future ahead of me, with no clue how complicated and painful adulthood could be. I think we’re all this way to a certain extent, and whatever decades we spent our youth in, those are the bits of nostalgia we treasure the most. I spent my childhood in the ’70s and my teenage years in the ’80s. Here are some of my fondest memories of my childhood in the ’70s.
The First Microwave I Ever Saw
I guess it was around 1978 that my neighborhood friend, Dorothy’s parents bought a countertop microwave. I’ll never forget her saying, “Come on, I’ve got something really neat to show you.” We went into her kitchen and she explained that this strange contraption was like an oven, but that it cooked stuff really fast. She got out a couple hotdogs and a couple slices of Kraft cheese from her fridge, wrapped the hotdogs with the cheese, plated them and stuck them into this mini oven. She turned the knob and after what seemed like only a couple minutes, the cheese dogs emerged cooked, complete with melted cheese. I must have just stood there gasping at this marvel. “See? There all done already. So you don’t have to boil them anymore. Go ahead! Eat one! It tastes really good.” I reluctantly did as she said and to do this day I think those are the best hot dogs I ever ate (and I have always hated hot dogs!).
Today, March 21, 2020, I was supposed to attend the wedding of my oldest son in Candler, NC. Instead, I am sitting in the darkness of our finished basement, my laptop warm and glowing, trying not to think about what could have been, or the sheer strangeness of the times in which we find ourselves living.
Since Evan and Audra got engaged last fall, I have had their wedding on my mind almost every day. My younger sons couldn’t wait to attend the wedding of their older brother. Their chosen venue was a beautiful farm in the mountains where they were to be married in the outdoors they hold so dear. There are several beautiful cabins on the property where wedding guests had planned to stay and we had reserved our favorite. For months I played over and over in my mind how we would visit with one another on one of the cozy porches or perhaps stroll along the beautiful grounds. I visited every store in our area looking for a mother-of-the-groom dress. I wanted just the perfect dress — classy, not-too-old and not-too-young, the perfect fit, the perfect color, the appropriate length. Finding nothing to suit in the stores, I turned to scouring every dress I could find online. I found that most MOG dresses were either frumpy, totally inappropriate for our particular occasion, or just downright ugly. In early February, already feeling I was running out of time, I found a website that seemed like a dream-come-true. I loved almost every dress and now had a hard time deciding just which one I should pick. With the help of my daughter I finally narrowed it down to one. These were the early days of hearing about Covid 19. “Back then” most of us were just worried about not receiving orders from China (or receiving them contaminated) with all the chaos going on over there. This new coronavirus was still pretty far removed from us. After reading terrible reviews of this company online, I discovered it was in China and tried to push their beautiful dresses out of my mind. I made the decision not to order them solely based upon my concern that I wouldn’t receive my order in time for the wedding. I finally found 2 dresses at a well-known department store online and ordered one. It arrived on time and in perfect condition, except it was a size-too-big (never trust those online measurement charts) and covered in sparkles (that you couldn’t detect in the advertised picture). I returned it and stressed about them receiving the return and crediting me back the small fortune I paid for it. I then ordered my second choice dress, stressing that it wouldn’t arrive on time or that it wouldn’t fit or that the pale pink would wash me out. It arrived and it was perfect. I tried it on several times, imaging with what shoes it would look the best, with what jewelry, with what dainty little handbag. I imagined the mother-son dance with Evan, us dancing to Idaho by Gregory Alan Isakov, as we had planned.
Music has been a HUGE part of my life from early childhood. Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, and so my imagination and creativity were redirected to writing. All was not lost, however. My son, Evan Cole Barnes, is a singer/songwriter for BACKTOBEFORE. He is multi-talented and contributed acoustic, classical guitar, piano, electric guitar, as well as vocals to their first album, which just dropped December 24. His band members are a group of amazingly talented musicians: David Sparks (Lead Guitarist/Writer/Vocalist/Acoustic), Tiffany Sparks (Bass/Uke/Vox), Michael Sparks (Writer/Percussionist/Vocalist/Acoustics) and John McLachlan(Drummer/Writer/Vocalist/Acoustics). They started writing this record years ago with the hope that one day it would come to fruition. To quote Evan, “This record had no rules, no producer, and is an honest reflection of who we are as artists.” Not only are these musicians incredibly talented, they have a heart for human beings. All proceeds from this album go to fighting human trafficking: http://eyeheartworld.org
Update (2020) BACKTOBEFORE has officially changed their name to A Place To Rest. Check them out on Spotify.
We really had no Spring this year in the lower half of Indiana and it’s been Summer since about mid-May, with temperatures staying steadily in the upper 80s to mid 90s. Everything in my herb and vegetable gardens went from being tiny to gargantuan overnight. I don’t remember ever having cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers so early in the year. For the first time in my ten years of growing tomatoes I have experienced some type of tomato fungus that has yielded us mottled, thick-skinned tomatoes that look and taste terrible, with most rotting and falling off the vine before we can harvest them.
My cucumbers seem to be babies one day and look like the Hindenburg the very next week, so big and full of seeds I’m not sure how to use them. I have always been of the mindset to “let nature take its course”, but now I’m understanding that this resolve is not without its consequences.
As with everything in life, we have our good years and our bad years. I am truly thankful for a great harvest this year of sun gold cherry tomatoes, beautiful grape tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, summer squash and cucumbers, as well as the usual abundance of herbs (which yield so much goodness with so little effort).
**NOTE: This is an article I wrote 7 years ago and which has been reposted and reconstituted by other sites over and over again. I found it the other day on my old laptop and thought it was worth reposting (with some corrections and updated links). Though my musical tastes are constantly evolving and ever-expanding, I still feel the same way about these amazing songs from one of my favorite decades.
Forget about your traditional Top Ten Songs of the ’70s. I’m going to use this blog post to tell you about MY personal favorites from the ’70s. Everyone has their own musical favorites, and usually there is a memory associated with each one. I’m not sure if any of my all-time favorites ever made the “The Top 100 Seventies Singles”, but these songs sound as magical today as they did when I spent hours listening to my parents’ 8-track tapes looking through the latest issues of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat.
One of my fondest childhood memories is helping my grandma pick tomatoes and beans in her garden in southern Kentucky. She and I would pick big beefsteak tomatoes and sometimes take a salt shaker out to the garden and eat them right off the vine. I helped her pick beans and then string and break them while sitting on the back porch. I remember driving out to the mountain where my great Aunt Flon lived and we four (Aunt Flon, Grandma, Mom and me) picking blackberries, which my grandma would later craft into a delicious pie.
Sometime in the early Summer of 2015 as I was mowing the grass on the side of our house I noticed some unfamiliar leaves growing there. I went to grab the weed eater out of the garage when something made me stop. Somehow these leaves didn’t look “weed-like” and so I decided to forego destroying them until I could identify them. As I continued to mow I made a possible connection. The previous November our uncarved Halloween pumpkins had been moved from the porch to the side of the house only when the Christmas decorations made an appearance. We had waited so long to dispose of them that they never made it to the compost pile; they barely made it to the side of our house before completely falling apart in our hands. They were left to decompose there in the barren area that lines the south-facing side of our home, where we have never bothered to landscape save for some maintenance-free peppermint. So now, seven months or so later, that little “ding” that went off in my brain, that natural instinct that makes even a modern human recognize the sometimes barely perceptible differences between a useless weed and an edible plant, was reminding me that we had dumped pumpkins in that very spot. Could these unfamiliar leaves be pumpkin leaves???