When I was growing up, all the family sat around the fireplace in the evenings. My parents sat in each corner with the ‘kids’ sitting in a half circle between them. I was the youngest of eight and the most ‘at home’ during my time was six in the evening. Daily activities were discussed, along with plans for work in the coming days. We lived on a farm of 160 acres, usually with two gardens of vegetables for our food. ALL of us worked on various ‘jobs’ in those gardens.
We also had many fruit trees, including peach, pear, pomegranate, blueberry bushes, and a pecan orchard of eighteen trees, with three of another kind in our yard. We had a scuppernong vine, along with a purple grape called bullaces. My Mama made preserves and jelly, canned vegetables to be used the following winter. There were no freezers; we didn’t have electricity at that time. We had an icebox which held a 100 pound block of ice, delivered twice a week by the ‘iceman’.
As the ice melted, the water went down a pipe to a ‘dishpan’ on the floor. When I got old enough, it was my ‘job’ to empty the dishpan by throwing the water in the yard and replacing the pan under the icebox. Occasionally I would forget and the pan would overflow onto the floor. What a mess that was for my Mama to clean up! I was just a little kid and Mama didn’t get angry; she just scolded me a bit as she reminded me to remember my job.
As we grew up, each was given certain jobs, according to age and ability. We learned to work together for the family’s benefit. We might have whined a little but we knew to do what was expected of us. That fireplace allowed most of the heat to go up the chimney. The best heat was from the kitchen woodstove, which gave various jobs to bring in the wood for the stove, along with ‘fat’ wood, called ‘splinters’ to help start the fire.
The only kids who had bicycles were those who sold a weekly newspaper called ‘Grit’, now published in a magazine format; still popular and full of news. When these kids gathered a certain number of regular customers, they ‘won’ the prize of a bicycle. These kids were envied by neighboring kids and often shared their ‘bikes’ by allowing others an occasional ride. We learned about ‘teamwork’ and the advantages of being part of a loving family.
This isn’t true today. Too many families seldom eat a meal together. They eat as they arrive home from wherever. There are few family ‘discussions’. Each is busy with a private agenda which others might or might not know. There is seldom any ‘togetherness’ that was so important in the past.
First it was television that had the attention of everyone. No one talks when all eyes and ears are focused on the program. Technology has brought many new items that keep members too busy for an informative family discussion. With cell phones, ‘smart’ phones, I-phones, I-pads and other electronic marvels, there are few chances for the family to know what the ‘others’ are doing. We might be too ‘busy’ to even wonder or care.
Sadly, many are unable to drive a vehicle unless they have a cell phone in the other hand. I, for one, want to say, “Turn your cell off or at least put it down and give your attention to driving.” That labels me a ‘crank’ who isn’t ‘with it’. Even while riding together in a car, there is often no conversation because the driver is constantly talking with others on the cell phone. When that conversation ends, the passenger says a silent thanks but, wait – suddenly another conversation is going on. So it goes for most of the trip. No opportunity to make plans for lunch or whatever we might enjoy together.
Frankly, I object to the modern electronic gadgets that cause us to move further away from each other, rather than bringing us closer. I often long to be sitting in a circle in front of the fireplace. At least we knew what was happening in the family from day to day. Now the best we can do is guess.
Too many are too busy with too many electronic gadgets to consider what many of us want and need most…..and that is ‘family togetherness’.