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What has happened to my America?

As a small child, I watched my dad start a new business. I was 2 when he bought his first store. All I knew at that time was I no longer had to ride in to the city with mom in the morning and again in the evening to take daddy to work. Mom, a wonderful, intelligent woman with a BS in Biology from Pitt in an era when most women didn’t go to college, let alone in a science field, laughed with my younger brother and I as we threw a sheet over a card table to create a fort. In her house-dress, she crawled into our fort with us to share some tea on rainy afternoons. She gladly became the “pitcher” as we got older and gathered the neighborhood kids to play kickball. She and dad went out two or three nights a week, to choir practice, a neighborhood bridge club, and a couples bowling league. One or both of our grammas (ingeniously called Ging ging B or W by moi) would babysit.

Easter 1959

America, was a land where a man who was willing to work hard could save money to buy a home. Dad never had the chance to finish high school. His dad and brother died before he graduated which left him as sole supporter of his invalid mother and baby sister. So he did work hard, long hours. He added a store every few years until he had acquired 5. I was in high school by that time. He was home when I left for school. He was home for supper and long enough to help me with my math homework. He turned off my radio when he came home from work at about 1 am, and then he went into his office to count the day’s cash and prepare the deposit for the morning. At some point, my dad was given an honorary degree from what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for his business prowess.

America was a place where family meant fun time together in backyard picnics, family dinners, board games, or interactive TV shows like “Sing along with Mitch!” Amazingly enough, when I was small, motherhood was an honorable position. So honorable, in fact, that most mothers needed no career outside the home to bolster their identity, but rather they derived enormous satisfaction pouring out their life, their beliefs, their priorities in the nurture of their own children. I knew of no daycares … NONE! If a mom had to run to the Dr or a place where kids were not permitted, a neighbor watched the kids without charge. It was the neighborly thing to do. Similarly, if one became ill or suffered a loss, the “neighborhood” took care of them. Casseroles were brought. Children’s clothes were passed around the neighborhood. Neighbors also watched out for one another’s children and property long before there was a “Neighborhood Watch” organization. This was my America.

High School innocence

I remember the early 60’s and the bomb shelter fear … the horrible scare with Soviet missiles in Cuba. Dad was not afraid. I vaguely remember the partial stocking of the basement pantry with canned goods and bottled water, just in case, but nothing changed at home. I remember the riots in LA and Chicago, the Black Panthers, the Flower Children, Haight Ashbury and those early images of Vietnam. These events seemed so foreign to my experience. Strange things came before my eyes, but I had no frame of reference, no way to file this new information. “Happy Days”, “Leave it to Beaver”, the “Nelsons”, “The Patty Duke Show” and “Father Knows Best” evolved into “M*A*S*H”, “WKRP in Cincinnati”, “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son.” A sadness swept the nation (from my perspective), a sadness that was palpable.

My family was Presbyterian, sort of. I was actually baptized Methodist, confirmed Presbyterian, mentored by an Anglican priest in college and a Nazarene Bible teacher, befriended by Catholics, Unitarians, Jews, and atheists, and married by a Baptist Army Chaplain. This is America to me.

  • I was taught the notion of the American “melting pot” with neighbors from just about every imaginable European background. There were the McCutchean’s two generations out of Scotland. The Henrici’s with 5 daughters, the Midocks with a back yard ice-skating rink, the Amslers, the Dills, the Allens, Amicis. It was not a big deal. The Polumbo’s were “rich” because they had a NEW car. The Perez family talked funny, but they were really nice. America was different than other places because we could be different and still be friends.
  • I was taught to be polite to everyone and to respect people. I was taught to behave. I was taught not to lie or cheat. That when I did, I really only hurt myself.
  • I was taught to treat others the way I wanted them to treat me. To plant seeds of respect to reap respect. To plant seeds of kindness and it would come back to me in my time of need.
  • I was taught to respected every person equally – There really was such a thing a “color-blindness,” maybe not everywhere, but where I grew up, it existed. A person’s sexuality was a completely private thing and simply not an issue. I know how foreign this sounds, but … it was real once.
  • Where has THIS America gone?

  • I believe there are more people who care and want to help one another than there are those who only want to take.
  • I believe there are more people who believe in God than those who choose not to, but I also believe NEITHER side needs to shove their beliefs on the other.
  • I believe there are more people who understand responsibility and accountability than those who don’t.
  • I believe there are more people who live by a moral code than those who don’t know right from wrong, but those who don’t need instruction.
  • Well … if anyone actually reads all this, I’ll be amazed, but the writing of it has been therapeutic, a birthday gift to myself!

    Where has America gone?

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