From Clarabell to COVID-19. Have Baby Boomers Come Full Circle?

spaghettipie

 

 

From Clarabell to COVID-19.

Have Baby Boomers Come Full Circle?

As a child, Wednesday was my favorite day. Why? Well as any Baby Boomer knows that was “Anything Could Happen Day.”

This piece of information means little to anyone under seventy of course, but to my generation not privy to the wonders of Alexa and Instagram, “Anything Can Happen Day” meant mystery, excitement and something unique was about to enter our unsophisticated worlds.

For those of you who don’t remember and I’m sure you’re few, “Anything Can Happen Day” was the weekday on the Mickey Mouse Club when we could be surprised by a guest, adventure or anything out of the ordinary.

The other days we pretty much knew what to expect. Monday was “Fun With Music” Tuesday was the guest star, Thursday was “Circus” and Friday was “Talent Round Up.” We were also treated to serials like Spin and Marty, Corky and White Shadow, Annette, The Hardy Boys, all shows we anticipated and watched faithfully? Okay, why?

Was it merely because we secretly longed to be Mouseketeers or Meesketeers like Cubby and Karen? Were the Mooseketeers, Roy and Jimmy with his “mouseguitar” so appealing? Beats me, but I’d love to hear some thoughts and opinions about why we were so dedicated to those mouse ears.

As you probably guessed I have some theories or I wouldn’t have brought this up in the first place.

I think it was partly the thrill of belonging to something that was not only featured on that great new innovation that possessed us called television, but also that these kids were our age.

Our worlds back in the fifties were very small and protected. Most families had one car and we walked to school. Our friends were in our own neighborhoods and within walking distance, which is why we socialized with kids on our block.

Suddenly there was this new great invention that took us to worlds far away with people outside our sphere.

We became interested in their lives and adventures and felt a part of some strange new unique planet we could reach by simply turning a knob.

The Mickey Mouse ears were a symbol of something beyond ourselves and outside our comfort zones that made us feel energized and curious.

We were joiners back then, Soupy Sales had his Birdbath Club with its membership card and we could also buy and wear our own mouse ears.

We were cub, brownies, girl and boy scouts and this belonging seemed to come natural to us.

The delight in the assurance the world was far larger than our small corner made us hunger for more.

After we outgrew the Mouse, and I’m not certain we ever really did because Disney has remained a big part of all our lives, it was all about American Bandstand.

We rushed home from school to watch ABC’s daily dose of teen addiction as all the regulars danced their way through the show. There was a guest singing and chatting with Dick Clark or as I refer to him, the Dorian Gray of our generation. That man never aged and although he was a nice man I’m sure he had a picture in the attic somewhere that was growing old while he stayed young.

Just like the Mickey Mouse years we reveled in the feeling of being a part of the Bandstand phenomenon and bought magazines to keep up with the lives of regulars like Pat Molittieri, Justine Carrelli, Bob Clayton, Arlene Sullivan, Kenny Rossi and Carole Scaldeferri.

Wow! I’m freaking out right now that I remembered those names without having to look them up. Please don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday but fifty years ago, no problem. Actually the sixties are much clearer to me now than when I lived them.

But I digress.

What does it say about our generation that we were so willing to leap on the bandwagon and embrace Howdy Doody, Soupy, Micky and Bandstand?

Can we judge it as negative or was it truly one of the most positive things we ever encountered?

Okay, I’m going with positive here and not just because all my readers know how I feel about Black Tooth and White Fang.

Those early shows actually shaped our characters more than we knew and the lessons were subliminally woven through the fabric of our lives.

First, we became eager participants in society. Our experiences with these shows or the clubs they offered were positive reinforcement for the importance of being a part of something greater that existed outside oneself.

Second, it provided a better sense of the vastness of the universe. Our worlds were small and contained, but we were suddenly able to travel to distant lands and observe places that offered us new adventures in addition to reading. Sure, we had the cardboard spaceship of Flash Gordon, but no one was buying that whole flying-through-space-on-that-primitive- paper-cutout were they?

Third, it taught us that knowledge could be obtained anywhere. Outside of the schoolroom we continued to learn and grow as individuals.

And perhaps one of the most hidden and obscure subliminal messages came from Clarabell, Howdy’s favorite clown. No, I haven’t lost what’s left of my mind. Although he could only honk his horn to converse we realized that speech isn’t the only path to understanding and communication, and often we need to listen with our ears, instincts and at times our hearts.

We also discovered that “Anything Can Happen Day” is not only a metaphor for life because each day is unknown, but something we should embrace and if we’re open to the unexpected many amazing journeys await us.

There was nothing overt about these lessons and they seeped into our souls without our awareness they’d found a home. Yet they colored our lives, helped create the people we became and still today remain part of whom we are.

So by now you’re wondering how COVID-19 enters into this discussion. Well sadly it seems to have brought us full circle.

All the lessons of our childhoods that propelled us out into the world to travel, socialize and absorb are now stifled by this horrible invader that has us locked down. Once again we are watchers in front of the television and sadly at a time when most of us are free and able to move about in the world.

Okay, so it’s a flat screen nowadays and a great deal larger than the twelve-inch RCA black and white, but we’ve returned to living vicariously once again.

We must be content with travelogues instead of that trip to Tuscany we planned. We watch that chef prepare his special lobster bisque instead of visiting his restaurant in New York to taste it first hand.

We watch the Disney channel to keep up with our grandchildren’s favorite new shows, talk about coming full circle that damn mouse never left.

Sure, we’re back in front of the television again and of course there are far more options than the couple of channels we had as kids, but we’re prohibited from socializing, traveling or seeking those adventures we were programmed to undertake and embrace.

So life has changed and I know I’m not the only one anxious to get back out and live.

So please Clarabell, honk your horn for a cure for COVID so we can hear, see, love, live and engage without the need for Netflix.

Spaghetti Pie

1 generous serving of spaghetti cooked

2 eggs

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup of spaghetti sauce

6 Meatballs broken up

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

1-8 ounce package of cream cheese

1 tablespoon of chives dried or fresh

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and pepper

Place your cooked spaghetti in a bowl and add Parmesan cheese and 2 eggs and mix together well. Spray a 10-inch pie pan and place spaghetti inside pushing it up the sides to form a piecrust.

Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for 10 minutes until partially set. Set aside

Mix together your cream cheese and chives.

Scatter meatballs in a layer over spaghetti crust. Cover with a layer of sauce. Dollop the cream cheese on top and sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top.

Roll out piecrust to fit over top of pie pan with enough to tuck edge of crust under rim.

Cut in pie slices and serve hot. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nostalgia Or Delusion: Was Childhood As Great As All That?

lellis

Nostalgia Or Delusion: Was Childhood As Great As All That?

Okay. I do it too. I remember the past, especially my childhood with enormous longing. Simpler times, great friends, peaceful, unfettered days filled with innocence and fun.

We join groups on Facebook that provide us with a non-stop stream of memories, many long forgotten and we commiserate about the haunts and foods of our youth. Sharing with others that lived the same existence adds a new dimension and warmth to the entire experience. It can also get impassioned when the topic of the best neighborhood pizza arises.

One post and the flow of incoming additions are abundant. I can almost picture the look on everyone’s face as they reminisce about the restaurant where they held their tenth birthday party. Or perhaps a favorite teacher that filled them with confidence or fear.

Yet, although I’m incredibly guilty of these moments of reflection, I wonder if perhaps there is a bit of sugar coating mixed in with the feelings of warmth and longing.

Do we remember the past wearing rose-colored glasses? Is it because we see life back then only in terms of abstracts and happy memories designed to cover up any unhappiness we might have once felt?

I remember growing up in Detroit as idyllic. Not in a fairy-tale manner of course, nor do I believe it was Utopia, but rather a peaceful and vibrant city filled with fun activities, great friends and no lack of great restaurants, movie theaters and tree-lined streets with manicured lawns.

Recalling youthful snippets flashing by like a trailer from a new Hollywood movie, I always choose to recall joyful images.

Going to the movies was a regular occurrence and my favorite was the Mercury Theater on Schaeffer. I’m afraid it spoiled me for other movie houses with its sidewalls lined with light-reflecting murals of the galaxy. Many times I enjoyed staring at the artwork more than the feature and sadly came to expect a great deal from any future movie venues I frequented. I also remember noting a giant banner under the marquis reading “air-conditioned for your comfort.” Bet my grandsons wouldn’t believe there was a time without it. Boy, am I aging myself here.

Yet it’s so odd that these memories seem to eclipse other more personal ones that were unpleasant. The high school mean girl who singled you out as her victim one day, or a boy you liked asking out a friend. Yep, guess it wasn’t all wine and roses.

Or is it just that at a certain stage of life we refuse to acknowledge time spent unhappily? Is there a great need to embrace those happy moments and hold them close before they may fade forever?

Whenever I tell people I’m from Detroit they look at me as though I’m packing a gun. This image was especially true during the more lawless years when crime was rampant before the rest of the nation caught and far bypassed the motor city. When I replied that Detroit was an awesome city in which to grow up, they were incredulous.

Yet, I’m certain I’m not dreaming when I remember Palmer Park ice skating, Livernois Avenue shopping, turning and seeing Smokey Robinson driving next to you on Outer Drive, downtown Hudson’s, the Eastern Market, great schools, amazing food and crossing the Ambassador Bridge or driving through the tunnel to Windsor. It was always fun to see the flags change between America and Canada on the tiles halfway across.

Now I wonder if it’s just age that makes us long for those simpler days, when the community was small and holidays seemed to be shared by everyone, or you could walk alone to a friend’s house five blocks away or play outside until the street lights came on.

People knew their Sanders, Awry’s or Good Humor deliveryman by name and when we heard the bell we ran into the house to let our mother know great goodies were available curbside.

Perhaps one reason those days seem so unfettered and blissful are the turbulent times we’re living today. So often I feel badly for my grandchildren in such a chaotic world, but will they also look back someday on their childhood with rose-colored glasses?

Is it merely that mankind keeps muddling the waters and the years fill with more chaos as they fly past?

Was it really so Utopian or am I choosing to overlook the cold war and neighbors building fall-out shelters in their back yards?

Forgetting hearing the bell in school as we walked downstairs to the basement of our elementary school to sit next to an asbestos-covered pipe to hide from an atom bomb? I imagine many more people died from that asbestos than an atom bomb, that thank goodness never came.

Am I forgetting the Detroit riots, eating my Frosted Flakes while watching a black girl my age on television being escorted into school by the National Guard, the McCarthy hearings or Viet Nam? Or watching Hitchcock’s Psycho and needing my mother to sit in the bathroom with me until I was, well, I still do, and believing it was all so stress free?

Or is this a result of the fact we are in the midst of true craziness where the world seems upside down?

It was easy when we were children to figure it all out. Good, bad, hard, easy, right, wrong; the lines seem so blurred now.

So I just sit and commiserate with friends about those simpler times when whether or not things were good, we believed they were. When life was less confusing and neighbors sat out on the porch on a summer evening to catch a cool breeze and smoke a cigarette.

When I rushed home from school to watch American Bandstand and we spent the weekends reading Archie, Superman or Katy Keene comics and exchanging movie star pictures cut out of Photoplay or Modern Screen.

After school eating a creamsicle on the porch watching the neighborhood boys play baseball or football in the street. Or jumping on the pile of leaves my father had raked to burn at the curb filling the air with the smell of autumn and visions of Halloween soon to come.

I’d rather focus on those good times than turn on a news report, or think about the fact I have to miss my grandson’s graduation or birthday party because an evil virus has created havoc.

As time goes by the years fly faster and any time not spent in the here and now seems so wasted. Yet if I gain some small modicum of happiness holding on to some pleasant memories where is the harm?

Many may say it’s more important to live your life in the present than dwell on the past, and yes it is. Still in these times when we are not able to create as many happy memories with friends and family I will default to the ones I possess. Someday we may even choose to remember how good it was back then, even in this very turbulent moment in time.

 

Lelli’s Like Minestrone

1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 cans (16 oz. ea.) Veg-All
2 cans (14 oz. ea.) chicken broth
20 oz. northern white kidney beans
1 can (14 oz.) whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pkg. frozen spinach (or fresh)
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. chopped parsley
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. basil
1/3 c. cooked small macaroni
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
a small amount of chick peas (optional). I never use these.

  1. Sauté onion and garlic in butter
    2. In a large soup pot, put Veg-All, chicken broth, northern beans, whole tomatoes and all liquids from cans.
    3. Add spinach, tomato paste, garlic powder, parsley, salt, pepper, basil, sautéed onion and garlic.
    4. Cook slowly for 1 1/2 hours.
    5. Take 1/2 of the soup and blend in food processor. I use an immersion blender and it’s so much easier.
    6. Pour it back in the soup pot.
    7. Add macaroni and heavy cream.
    8. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
    9. Stir.
    10. Cook slowly 1/2 hour.