Monday, July 1, 2013

Canada Day, Moving, Mad Men and Parenting by Margaret Ullrich

Happy 146th Birthday, Canada!!

On March 1, 2013 Paul and I had celebrated the thirty-sixth anniversary of our moving from our apartment to our first house in Winnipeg.
And today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of our moving to our present home.

After you get to a certain age, it feels like every day is a special day.
Not just because, Surprise!, you've made it to another day.
But because, after 60, every day seems to be the anniversary of something.


In 1988 we were no longer the carefree happy-go-lucky kids we'd been when we were living a slightly bohemian lifestyle in our Winnipeg walkup.
We were still a part of the baby boomer generation. 
But life had stopped being about us and what we wanted.
Just like the folks in the 1983 movie The Big Chill we were in our 30s and confused.
We were parents of an eight-year-old son… grown-ups, responsible, serious.
As Mick Jagger had sung during the opening scene of The Big Chill 
No kidding.

In the late 1980s the West End of Winnipeg was getting a bit rough.
We figured, being from New York, we could handle a mugger or two.
But along with neighbours, we had second thoughts about our kids' safety.
So we searched for a home in the suburbs.
As any realtor will tell a parent: less crime, better schools, perfect for the kids.
Yeah, I know, there's a sucker born every minute.


Picture it… Winnipeg, 1988. 
Each week, after tucking the kids into bed, parents tuned into Thirtysomething.
We were hoping it would give us a clue on what to do next.
Hey, we didn't have Wikipedia.

As far as role models were concerned, I'd gone from The Long Long Trailer's silly Lucy in the trailer, to Barefoot in the Park's smiling Corrie in the attic, to Thirtysomething's stressed Hope in the suburbs.


Two of the main characters on Thirtysomething were Michael, who worked in advertising, and his wife Hope.
Hope, a writer, struggled between being a mom at home and her need to work. 
Hope sometimes apologized because of her decision to be a homemaker. 
Yes, in those days women apologized for staying home with the kids.
And Michael was congratulated when he occasionally helped.
Good Times.

It wasn't that we didn't know how to parent.
It's just that the job descriptions kept changing.
Having trouble understanding parents in the 1980s?
Check out Mr. Mom.
It was regarded as one of the best films of 1983 and of the decade.
Really.

Back to Thirtysomething… Michael was a hero whenever he helped at home.
Hope realized he was doing his best when he tucked in their daughter.
His role model had been his Dad, who'd parented in the 50s and 60s.

Ah, parenting in the the 50s and 60s…

Mad Men, set in the 60s, is also about men in the advertising business.
They are also married and parents, just like Michael and his business partner.
That's where the similarity ends.
Dads in the 60s left the household chores to 'the little woman'.
As someone said about the accuracy of Mad Men
The drinking, the smoking and the womanizing was exactly right.
The 1960s was definitely not a G-rated decade.

Movies and songs can capture a time like nothing else can.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider was not something I'd heard in the 1950s.
We kids learned the songs our parents listened to on the radio.
Dads like Don Draper would've smashed a spider, not sung about it.
The 1950s was not a G-rated decade either.

At family gatherings, after a few beers, my Aunt could belt out Wheel of Fortune almost as well as Kay Starr did.
The first song I remember singing, when I was about 4, was Kiss of Fire.
Georgia Gibbs' Kiss of Fire was to the early 50s what the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction was to the 60s.
I wonder how many pre-schoolers sang along to the radio during the 1960s?
I wonder how many were able to understand Mick's slang?


Did I regret our move to the suburbs?
It was what we were supposed to do at the time.
Living here has had its good times and its bad times.
Just like life would have had anywhere else.

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
Or, as the Stones would say…
You can't always get what you want... but you'll get what you need.

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