“The world isn’t what it used to be.”
“Things are going to hell in a hand basket.”
Or the every popular…”In my day….”
These are phrases I hear myself thinking and saying more and more these days. I try not to say it as often as I think it; who wants to hear me drone on and on and on? To be honest, it is rather frightening to realize I am that person. I don’t want to be stuck in 1973 or even 2003. While it is true the world is not the same that is how it should be. Change is constant and trying to keep things the same will only result in decay and death. I think the challenge is to be open minded about the changes. We all must learn to discard old and harmful ways of thinking, keep that which is good and be willing to embrace some of the new. What we discard and keep is an individual decision. Learning and growing is the only way to age without becoming bitter.
The Sweet Habits of Childhood
Growing up, our days began with the newspaper.
Sitting here, so many years later, I remember the ritual: going outside to retrieve it from the driveway, removing the rubber band or sliding it out of its plastic sleeve, inhaling the smell and feeling the anticipation. I felt grown up sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper while eating my Cheerios.
In my mind’s eye, I see both my parents reading the paper. Dad worked nights, so he read it later in the day while mom generally read it in the morning. It was a habit I witnessed and then adopted for my life as an adult. Of course, back then I didn’t read the real news opting instead for columns by Erma Bombeck and Ann Landers, local sports and the comics.
How many of us of a certain age cut articles from the paper for a social studies assignment? Newspapers, for generations, recorded and disseminated vital information to their readers. Through the genealogy website Ancestry, I subscribe to newspapers.com which allows me to read newspapers from over 100 years ago. I can read history as it was reported. What an amazing blend of the old and new.
These are sweet memories. In all honesty, until I began writing I hadn’t thought of most of this in years. It feels warm and fuzzy, like I am looking back at a time that was simpler, gentler, better. I know that isn’t true. I was a child and I am seeing things through the fog of childhood memories. I know they weren’t simpler or better, just different.
Newsprint and Caffeine
One of the things I miss the most is physically reading a daily newspaper. I miss the tactile experience the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, and the sound the paper makes as I flick the paper to fold and read something that has caught my eye.
Specifically I miss the event of reading the Sunday paper. It was a ritual. Drink coffee, spread the paper out in front of me on the floor and leisurely turn the pages. The first pass was to meant to be an overview. What did I want to read and what could be skipped. Back then I never read the editorial page, the sports (except during football season) or most of the hard news. I was more interested in lifestyle, comics, and all the interesting inserts such as Parade Magazine.
Continuing A Good Habit
As an adult, living in Houston, I chose to read the Houston Post rather than the Chronicle. I’m not sure why. It was most likely something high brow such as I preferred their comic strip selection. I was a devoted Post reader until they closed their doors in 1995.
It was during this time I discovered a new to me writer whose gentle, humorous and quintessential Texas voice captured my heart and is the inspiration for my style of writing. Leon Hale was a story teller. His articles in the Post and then the Chronicle led to books that became regional bestsellers. Reading his work felt like a visit with an old friend – familiar, funny, sometimes bittersweet, but I was always left with a sense of contentment. Something genuinely beautiful and good left Houston when he died in 2021 at the age of ninety nine.
We currently subscribe to The Fort Bend Herald which is the local newspaper for the county where we live. Small town (county) newspapers are so much fun to read. This is where real life exists for most of us. These papers feature local news that really affects our day to day life: children and youth featured in school and extracurricular activities, sports, garden clubs, local politics, human interest stories that enrich the lives of the readers, and my favorite, the local crime report.
What’s Happening Elsewhere?
So, with this background and my new mission of writing not just an old woman’s opinion of life today going to hell in a hand basket, I am now the proud digital subscriber to not only the Houston Chronicle, but also the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Times as well as the New York Post and Times. I’m thinking about adding others to the list. For entertainment purposes I probably should add a California and possibly a Chicago paper to the list.
Why these papers? Simply, they, for the most part, have a world view that differs from mine. The twenty four hour news cycle wears on my brain. I’ve become good at spotting trigger words used in reports that indicate a bias one way or the other. The battle of the right and left leaning cable news channels for ratings has reduced much of what they report on to sensational finger pointing and name calling. It leaves me exhausted.
I want to be informed on the things that are important to me in a way that removes as much political rhetoric as possible. I am suspicious of nearly everything I see and hear today; someone always has an angle. With the written word the emotions of voice inflection and facial features are removed; I can return to re-read articles and immediately research a topic as it arises in the context of an article. I want the balance of opinion of various papers from different parts of the country on national topics.
Expand The View From Your Front Porch
We all live in our own little worlds and unless we make an effort to at least know what others think, these worlds will continue to shrink. I want to keep my brain active and growing so I don’t become a bitter old woman standing on my porch shaking a knitting needle at the neighborhood children warning them that they will be the end of society as we know it. I do believe that would be frowned upon in most proper societies.
So, that is my challenge to you this week. Read or watch something that differs from your opinion. Evaluate it. Let it roll around in your brain and if something causes an immediate emotional reaction…stop and ask yourself why that is happening. Often those knee jerk emotional reactions are the places where growth happens. Not an easy assignment, but one that has produced growth in me and I believe just might help us all see things through the eyes of others a bit more clearly.
Smile, be kind, and read a newspaper. See you next week.