Sharing Crappy Memories Across Generations

The grandparents are in town, and because of a recent segment on 20th century American history at their school, my kids were more engaged in nightly dinner conversation than usual.

“Bratz dolls were a total waste of money, punkin’.”


“What was it like when you were growing up, grandpa?” one of them asked.

“Well, I’m old enough to remember Saturday afternoons when the Mennonites would come into town in a horse and buggy,” gramps said.  “We didn’t have a television when we were growing up, and when we finally got one in the ’50′s, the pictures were in black and white.”

Mennonite convertibles, with top down.


“Sort of like the noir films from the ’40′s they show on Turner Classic Movies?” my fourteen year-old, a budding film critic, said with wonder.

Joan Crawford


“That’s right,” his grandmother replied.  “Joan Crawford wasn’t just a gay icon–straight men liked her too.  In a masochistic kind of way.”

“Golly,” my youngest said.  “You’ve seen so much in your lives!”

“Oh, pshaw,” grandpa said dismissively.  “We were just livin’ our lives.  You kids are the ones who’ve seen change.”

Red Power Ranger, with young apprentice.


“Really?” the older of the two asked, incredulous.  “You think so?”

“Sure,” his grandfather said.  “Think of all the change you’ve witnessed in your lives.  You used to watch the Power Rangers every Saturday morning, didn’t you?”

Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger–she’s from Massachusetts!


“Yes,” the kids replied together.

“Well, where the hell are they today?” their grandfather said.  “Nobody gives a flying . . .”

Grandma cut him off before he could lapse into the easy profanity he acquired in the Army.  “And think about Poke’mon Cards,” she reminded the kids.

“Yeah, where did we put those?” my eldest asked, looking up at me.

“I don’t know,” I said, trying to hide my guilt.  “Maybe gypsies broke into the house and stole them.”

“Poke’mon cards?  No, I haven’t seen them.”


“Doesn’t matter,” grandma said.  “You kids used to fight over them like they meant something.  Weren’t worth the match it would take to set ‘em on fire.”

I could see my youngest wince just a bit.  He was always a big Pikachu fan.



“No, you kids are the future,” their grandfather said, leaning back in his rocking chair and staring off into the distance.  “N’Sync, on the other hand, is like totally over.  Nobody gives a rat’s patootie about them anymore.”

I could see my eldest grow a little misty-eyed.  The group was one of his favorites, and he would imitate their lame dance moves in front of his bedroom mirror for hours on end, inflaming his little knees and hastening the onset of Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.



We eventually found a cure for his ailment at a shrine in Hollywood, Florida, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the faithful on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich, hold the tomato.  For a while, however, we considered whether we should ban all boy-band music from the house.

Could be the Virgin Mary, or maybe Mary Pickford.


It was time for bed, and I started to scoot the kids up to their rooms.  “G’night, grampa and gramma,” they said at the foot of the stairs.  ”Good night, you two,” their grandparents replied.

“I really enjoyed talking to you about transitory phenomena of the recent past,” my eldest said with a tone of sincerity that tugged at your heart.  “Do you think we’ll ever run out of ephemeral frippery?”

“No, scooter,” their grandfather said wistfully.  “Keeping up with the trivial crap the great engine of the American economy cranks out every day is like drinking from a fire hose.”

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Kids: They’re Cute When They’re Young.”

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