What the Record Can’t Show

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When I was younger I watched Looney Toons every Saturday morning. It was the same show my father watched at the same age. Rocky and Bullwinkle was a cross-generational childhood influence too. I read A. A. Milne’s poems – much more interesting to me than Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh despite the local connection to the latter character – that my mother introduced me to, as she read them in her young years. I played with my mother’s 1950s Barbie dolls alongside my sister’s and mine from the 80s and 90s. Our experiences were integrated.

It took me a moment to think back to these things, because the idea came across that passing on one’s childhood to one’s children may be new, or revamped, for our generation, as if that’s different from the passing of cultural influences from our parents to us. As grown people my generation still claims fandom to things from our childhood, something that’s come up in cultural commentary as if it’s new and reflecting these darn young people’s refusal to grow up. But these examples came to mind and now I stand corrected. Cultural artifacts are still passed down from generation to generation – as they should be – and the parent-child relationship betwen Baby Boomers and their kids was no different. We – as every generation – just picked up our own things along the way.

Now it’s time to pass these things down. With a cousin recently having a baby a number of references to our childhood have come up, and these are things that we should be committed to passing down. Favourite toys, nicknames, and inside jokes should be passed along, because what made childhood magnificent for us is a treasure worth preserving. The best TV shows we watched as children should also be watched by this newly born generation because that is forming a bond of trust that parents were once children and know how to be children that grow up well. With every extended family there’s a rich history that overlaps broader cultural context with unique personal stories. The unique stories create an oral history alongside the recorded entertainment, and it’s the oral history that ends up meaning more. It’s not just what we watched and read and played, but how we remember feeling when watching and reading and playing that makes things worth passing on. The wealth of these experiences can’t be discarded because there’s a new brand of toys or franchise of cartoons that have been made since we left the demographic. Children appreciate what’s from the past just as much as what’s made in the present.

So keep on skateboarding, Toupée Freddie.

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