Xxx by Chuck Green – yes, that Chuck Green

Posted on November 29, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It’s certainly a sign of advancing age when you find yourself resurrecting fond memories of “the good old days” – especially when they didn’t seem so special at the time. And there’s no better time to recall tender memories than at Christmastime. As the decades pass, there is no better gauge of time marching by than the change in kids’ gifts under the Christmas tree. In the case of my lifetime, the change can be summed up with one word: technology. By modern-day standards, there was no technology under my tree when I was a child. The two favorite gifts I received in my single-digit days remain my lifelong favorites – and both had a changing effect on my life. One was a puppy. My father delivered mail on a rural route from our home town, Longmont, and his Christmas wasn’t complete until he had gone down to the Post Office that morning, after our family had opened the presents. He couldn’t stand knowing that on Christmas Day the boxes that had arrived overnight were sitting undelivered in the Post Office building, so he retrieved them and made an unscheduled trip around his route. I must have been about 5 at the time, and on this particular Christmas morning he returned with great fanfare, honking the horn as he pulled into our driveway. Someone on his route had given him a puppy, a farm mutt that became my best friend for the next 13 years. Her companionship was probably the most important relationship I had as a child, teaching me loyalty, compassion, responsibility and a whole lot of other values that I’ve carried through life. When I left home and went to college, I wanted to take her with me, but her severe arthritis and other ailments prevented that, and my parents cared for her during her final year. The other favorite gift came in a gray metal box, about 15 inches high and eight inches deep – a Gilbert’s Chemistry Set. Inside this little treasure chest was a world of discovery. It was stocked with test tubes, a beaker and a flask, several vials of chemicals, a guidebook, a microscope and some laboratory slides. It was definitely low-tech. A specimen in the microscope was illuminated by a candle, and chemicals were heated by the flame of a Bunsen burner. Like the puppy, the chemistry set opened a whole new world to me, a fascination with science that carried through the rest of my school years and has entertained me ever since. Neither the puppy nor the chemistry set came with an electric cord. I can’t help but compare those gifts, and the long-term impact they’ve had on my life, with the popular gifts that kids are opening this morning – cell-phone cameras and I-Pod music players and compact MP-3 video players. The cell-phone craze is fascinating to me. It seems that everyone from 7 to 70 has one. They come as standard equipment with teenagers, absolute necessities with moms, vital work tools for men and lifelines for grandmas. I’m mostly amazed at the ability of a person in La Junta, Colorado, to use a little hand-held device to instantaneously connect with someone in Africa with the touch of a few buttons – no wires attached on either end, using a satellite in global orbit to bounce the signal. It boggles my tiny mind. But I’m also intrigued by the absolutely frivolous use of this technology – a mother in a discount store calling her teenage daughter to find out what aisle she’s on, for example. The amount of money in a family budget to support this convenience is probably equal to what my parents’ mortgage was when I was a kid. The I-Pod and the MP-3 things – neither of which I actually have touched – is way, way beyond me. — Chuck Green, veteran Colorado journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Denver Post, syndicates a statewide column and is at chuckgreencolo@msn.com and 303-588-4138.

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