Thursday, October 12, 2006

I look younger than my age. This is usually a good thing, and I’m not complaining, but it actually takes a while before my college students realize I am much older than they are. They could have just asked my kids who would proudly inform them that I am older than dirt because their father thought it would be cute to teach them that phrase (thanks Dear). But by the end of the semester, if any doubt remains as to the chasm of nearly 20 years that spans between teacher and students, I put it to rest when we get to the sculptures of Claus Oldenburg.

Oldenburg uses modern materials like plastic, stainless steel, fiberglass and enamel to construct large-scale versions of everyday objects. I show a whole series of Oldenburg’s works in my class and we talk about his sense of humor as well as his wry commentary on the value we give to objects – the materialism of our culture. We laugh at the giant tube with toothpaste squeezed out of it, the upside-down flashlight, the balancing tools, the bridge made of a spoon with a cherry on top, and the colossal baseball bat in the middle of downtown Chicago.

Then I show this one and the room goes silent. I realize, with a keen mixture of smugness and the sensation of my own rapidly expiring mortality, that I am the only person in the room who knows what this object is. They all think it’s a 19 foot-tall piece of abstract art.

I try not to sound like my father describing the deprivations of the Great Depression as I explain that this nifty object came in handy back in the day of that other mechanical dinosaur – the typewriter. We used the rubber disk to erase mistakes off the page (and *grrrrr* scratch a cursed hole into the paper). The brush on top was for sweeping eraser bits out of the way…and into the keys and all over the desk. I share with my captive audience students many fond memories of high school typing class where we also acquired the finer skills of using White-out™, correcting tape, and – wonder of wonders – them newfangled electric typewriters with a backspace button and self-erasing ribbon. Believe me, I try not to sound too condescending since by this point in the semester, my students have walked me through many a technical glitch and PowerPoint hangup.

In addition to the fact that my own children now start taking keyboarding classes in 2nd grade, I’ve noticed a fair bit of evidence to the generation gap in my own home.

When I was growing up, what did we yell when we were outside playing sardines and someone got hurt or Mom said it was time for dinner? We yelled, of course, the universally respected “Ollie Ollie in come free!” Where on earth it came from or why I always pictured a boy named Ollie rather than the word “All-ee” which really makes more sense is beyond me. But that was the procedure. What do my kids yell when they need to call a time-out to their game of tag? “Pause the game!” As in what you do to a DVD player or an X-Box.

Speaking of games, my sons play a decidedly post 9/11 variation on Cowboys and Indians called Parakeets and Terrorists. The boys play the good guys/parakeets who fend off the attacks of the terrorists – ruthless imaginary foes with names like Abdul and Frank. Don’t ask me why terrorists have a vendetta against parakeets. I have a hard enough time explaining to my kids why they hate Americans.

And the last sign that my own children are growing up on an entirely different planet from the one I remember, as left on the fridge yesterday by my 4-year old son:


The Lazy Organizer said...

How cute! My kids are always looking for the "dot coms" on food and toy packaging.

Here's my favorite one. Our new washer and dryer actually have Pause and Play buttons. So now I get to say, "Will you go pause the washer and throw this towel in?" Yet that makes more sense than, "Playing the dryer."

Julie said...

Now there's a bright idea. I wonder if it will encourage the kids to help more if we make it sound more like a game than work. Why not playing the vacuum...and playing the lawn mower? You think they'll fall for it?

Radioactive Jam said...

You'll know things have gone too far when you clean the fridge and a child changes the url to

Might be reason enough to forever delegate fridge-cleaning detail to someone else.

Pamela said...

Sadly, I recognized that object. I'd like to thank you for making me feel 'older than dirt'.

That thing was pretty funny.

misskrob said...

I recognized the object, also. However I had to dig about 25 years back into my memory.

I heard a Mom the other day using the term "pause" for a time out and when the kid was OK to resume his activities she announced "play!" Frightening.

I had to laugh out loud at the .org part of your post. Brilliant.

Julie said...

Now I have to agree that I ought to qualify for the designation. I certainly have the non-profit status well established.

scribbit said...

My husband looks very young, always has, and our first New Year's together when we checked into a hotel in Frankfurt, KY they carded him (obviously I wasn't with him). No one ever thinks I'm the younger of the two--just because I'm taller they must assume I'm also older. Sigh.

And what is up with my RSS/Sage feeds? It keeps kicking your URL off my list and it's been a pain (not that it's your fault of course) That's the great thing about technology, I love and praise it until something goes wrong and then I'm grumping around. So spoiled I am.

Julie said...

Thanks for making the extra effort to keep coming back even after the vanishing URL thing. I'm sure it's my fault. Apparently I haven't been doing enough votive dances to the technology gods lately.