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Mike Bellah

My thoughts of the good old days often revolve around the concept of time. I remember Saturdays when I could finish an hour or so of chores and then have the whole day to spend as I pleased.

 

 

 

 

I wish I had known how good I had it as a youth. For though I had so much unstructured time back then, I didn't always take advantage of it.

 

 

 

 

"These are good, good days," he might say. "Squeeze all the life you can from each of them."

Longing for the Good Ol' Days

Note: This column appeared first in the spring of 1998.

Do you long for the good old days? I do. Today, my wife wants to see James Cameron's "Titanic," but I've got this column to write, and then some papers to grade, and then; you get the picture. I just don't have time in my schedule for a three-hour movie. "Maybe next weekend," I tell her (words that sound suspiciously familiar).

And so I long for the good old days, those pre-adult, pre-Day-Timer days when I had plenty of free time for a movie, maybe even a double feature, plus cartoons, plus a double-dip ice cream cone on the way home.

My thoughts of the good old days often revolve around the concept of time. I remember Saturdays when I could finish an hour or so of chores and then have the whole day to spend as I pleased. My siblings and I would organize a neighborhood talent show, or build a stand and sell lemonade on the corner, or fish for perch and catfish at the creek. Sundays were almost as long, with time for family drives in the country or a whole afternoon of sandlot football or pick-up basketball with my buddies.

And I'll never forget those seemingly endless weeks of summer: swimming every afternoon at the city park, spending whole days exploring the countryside on my paint mare, playing little league baseball, and camping overnight under the stars (in the back yard if we couldn't get an adult to take us somewhere more picturesque).

I didn't measure time in the good old days the way I do now. To assure that I complete all my tasks efficiently, today's schedule is divided into 15-minute segments. Yet, I wonder if efficiency is measured only quantitatively? What about the quality of a life that must be broken into dozens of artificial units, then compressed, and then forced back together like oversized pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. Wordsworth was right: "We murder to dissect."

I wish I had known how good I had it as a youth. For though I had so much unstructured time back then, I didn't always take advantage of it. I spent way too many hours at home, complaining that I had nothing to do and no one to do things with. Like most teen-agers, I slept too late, I watched too much TV, I let peer pressure keep me from old joys (playing "kid" games wasn't cool anymore).

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and visit with the boy who was I. I'd explain to him that time is a non-renewable resource, that you can recover lost money, but never lost time. I'd tell him to look around himself and see all the opportunities that will be gone tomorrow. "These are good, good days," I'd say to him. "Squeeze all the life you can from each of them."

And, if he could see into the future, I wonder if that boy also might want to talk to me, to the adult who is he. If he did, I doubt if he would be impressed with my full schedule. He probably wouldn't buy the explanation that I plan to relax and enjoy life more next year, after this present craziness is over.

Perhaps he would repeat my words to him: "These are good, good days," he might say. "Squeeze all the life you can from each of them."

That does it. I'm going to the movie.

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