Column, Looking Back

Then and now

By Mary Ellen Shaw

If someone could come back into the world that they departed from many years ago they would certainly find that a lot has changed.

In my case I wonder what my parents would think about the changes that have occurred to my family home since they passed away. Time has not stood still since my father died in 1965 and my mother in 1980. I have never been one who needs the latest of everything but even I have done some upgrades over the years.

During my parents’ time the back porch of our house was totally screened in. That meant some snow blew in during the winter and rain in the summer. My husband, Peter, suggested we put in sliding windows that allow you to have a screen on one side. I would never have thought of that as the windows are almost as large as sliding patio doors. But what a treat they turned out to be! Since the porch is over 30 feet long with south and west windows the sunny days of winter mean lunch on the porch and reading out there. My parents would have loved it!

Stepping into the kitchen they would wonder what that “thing” called a micro- wave is all about! My mother’s idea of a quick meal was to put a Swanson TV dinner in the oven. It provided meat, potato and a vegetable all cooked in one aluminum tray. Those dinners took about 1⁄2 hour to cook. She would be amazed that a microwave meal could be ready in about five minutes.

Back in my parents’ day our TV was a piece of furniture. It was in a cherry wood console and had a prominent place in our living room. The antenna on the roof had been replaced by cable while my mother was still in the house. However, there were very few channels to choose from. Walk- ing into our living room today she would see a flat screen TV with a remote control that she would love. Getting out of the chair to change a channel sometimes meant that you didn’t! You watched the same channel until you had a reason to get up!

I am sure my parents would wonder why there are so many phones scattered around the house. The stationary land line is still here but a cordless phone and cell phone have been added to the mix.

Our living room has a fireplace that was never used because it would have needed some updates to safely burn wood. Apparently, my parents didn’t want to do that. Peter and I found a way to use the fireplace when we had a gas model installed. The safety issues were taken care of during the installation and the room is toasty warm. Reading by the fire is perfect on a winter day.

I think the biggest surprise to my parents would be our walk-in shower. We took out the original bathtub from 1938. It was very high to step into. Now we can walk right in and take our showers. What a great convenience for “seniors.” Of course, my husband had already had two knee replacements before that happened! But if I ever need to have that done I will be all set. Lucky me!

My parents would also see that my former bedroom has been turned into an office… no bed in there these days! However, there was always a small desk in my bed- room with a manual Smith Corona typewriter on top. I had to roll paper into it, type, and then roll out the paper when I was done. My handy husband, Peter, built me a larger desk that was needed to accommodate a computer monitor, keyboard and modem. No need to roll paper in and out of a typewriter these days. Just “send an item to print” and it magically comes out of the printer/fax/copier machine.

Life moves forward and improvements usually come along as we forge ahead. Wonder what changes the next 50 years will bring? Too bad I can’t come back to find out!

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