…San Jose used to be a small town…
Jason slid on a T-shirt and combed his hair in front of his bedroom mirror. He then grabbed his keys, wallet, and change and left his room for the kitchen. The morning sun shone through the windows and the remains of breakfast were on the kitchen counter. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.
“Morning,” Jason announced as he entered the kitchen.
“You’re up early for a weekend,” mother observed.
“Yeah, couldn’t sleep in as late as I wanted to,” Jason said. “Going to see Christine’s nephew’s little league game. The whole family is going to be there.” He looked around for something to eat, then picked up a pancake from a plate on the counter and took a bite. “Why don’t you have a seat?”
“Can’t, in a hurry.” Jason looked around as he ate. “Where’s Dad?”
“Flea market,” mother said, “he took David with him. He’s looking for a phonograph.”
“A record player?” Jason laughed. “What’s he doing buying other people’s junk?”
“He calls them bargains.”
“Didn’t anyone tell Dad they stopped making vinyl?”
“You know your father,” mother replied, “thinks everything made these days is crap.”
“I don’t know about that,” Jason said as he took another bite. “Technology isn’t all bad, computers are just about everywhere these days, can’t imagine life without them anymore. Plus you got VCRs, cordless phones, fax machines, and CDs are a definite improvement on LPs. No scratches or warping, and they take up less space.” He finished eating.
“Oh sure, they’re an improvement,” mother said, then looked up from the newspaper. “But you know what, everything moves a little too fast these days. You buy a stereo or a computer or anything electronic, and before you get your use out of it, it goes obsolete and you have to buy a new one.”
“Well, that’s progress,” Jason conceded as he opened the refrigerator got out a pitcher of orange juice. “Out with the old, and in with the new and improved.”
“Yeah, and prices sure aren’t going down,” mother pointed out.
“But at least wages are higher than they used to be,” Jason said as he poured himself a glass of juice. “I remember Dad saying how he used to only get paid a dollar an hour when he started working.” He put the pitcher back in the refrigerator.
“More money to buy more stuff,” mother said facetiously, “and everyone has to buy the newest and latest thing or fad just to keep up with the Joneses. All these new things are supposed to make life better, but sometimes I just don’t know.”
“But that’s what makes everything go round, supply and demand,” Jason asserted. “And it’s what keeps people working.” He took a drink.
“It feels like we’re being supplied with things that we’re not demanding.”
Jason thought for a moment. “People like to buy things,” he shrugged.
“Shopping, the latest drug,” mother criticized. “Whatever happened to just being happy for what you have?”
Jason leaned back against the kitchen counter. “A few extra things can’t hurt, might even make life a little more enjoyable.”
“You know, I was at least ten or eleven when we got our first TV, only three channels back then. And you know what people did before that? They went out and did things, and actually talked to each other instead of vegging out in front of the tube.”
“But you did have radio back then. I remember grandma talking about how you all used to gather around and listen to Bob Hope.”
“Yeah, but at least with radio you can do other things while you’re listening, and it leaves something to the imagination. And if you wanted to see a movie, you had to leave your home, go out, be among other people, and it didn’t cost a fortune like it does now. For twenty five cents you could see a double feature, a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short. We even used to watch movies at the Burbank before they started showing skin flicks.”
“Did you also have to ride around on horseback?” Jason kidded.
“I tell you what,” mother went on, “there was enough open space back then that you could ride around on a horse, now look at this place. You know, there used to be horse stables here in the valley, there even used to be one where they just built the 87 freeway.”
“Yeah, I remember, it was right by the cemetery.” Jason thought some more about the past. “Maybe things aren’t like they used to be, and I suppose people are more materialistic now. But you know why I think it’s like that, it’s because capitalism won the Cold War, so now everyone is living it up.”
“I like to think that it was things like freedom and democracy that won.”
“Aren’t they the same thing?”
Mother looked at Jason amusedly.
“Am I wrong?” Jason asked.
“You know, there was a time when there was more to life than just material stuff.”
“People have always liked having nice things.”
“But it seems more so now. There used to be issues, civil rights, war, marches, protests, Watergate, cultural changes, a lot was happening. And people used to talk about these things, and argue about them, and sometimes it got ugly, but people were engaged. Now nothing seems to bring people together anymore,” mother said forlornly. “All anybody cares about these days is how much money they’re making and what car they’re driving,” she sighed. “I guess you were too young to remember those times.”
Jason finished his orange juice. “Yeah, I suppose things are kind of shallow right now,” he admitted, “but I think people just want to relax and enjoy life now.” He rinsed out the empty glass and placed it in the dishwasher. “People were stressing for so long over so many issues that they just got tired of it, but I’m sure it’s just a phase. Someday we’ll go back to arguing and fighting with each other and everything will be just fine,” he joked.
“We’ll see,” mother said. “So you’ll be home tonight?”
“Your sister is going to be home for dinner.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Jason remembered. “I was wondering when she was going to come and see us. School’s been out long enough.”
“She took a charter bus trip with her friends to the Grand Canyon.”
“Chartered bus? That sounds pricey.”
“I don’t think it’s anything fancy, it’s called Green Turtle or something like that. The way she described it it sounded kind of hippie-ish.”
“What, like a Deadhead bus?”
“Just as long as there are no crazy people on board,” mother said warily. “I did tell Kathy that if she wants to travel and see the world she should do it while she’s still young.”
“Well she better stay out of trouble,” Jason said with older sibling authority.
“I’m sure she knows big brother is watching,” mother kidded.
“So when is she going to be home?”
“She said by three or four. I’m making chicken enchiladas, she says she’s taking a break from red meat.”
“Uh oh, she’s getting weird on us.”
“I hope I’m not going to have play referee again,” mother warned. “I did enough of that when you two were growing up.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise,” Jason said mock seriously.
“I’ve heard that one before,” mother said with a laugh.
“But this time I mean it.”
“Of course you do,” mother replied humorously. “But you know, Jason, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” she said as she folded the newspaper. “Now maybe I should have noticed this sooner, but lately I’ve been wondering if you might be feeling a little envious about Kathy going off to college because you didn’t have the same opportunity.”
“No, no, I’m not jealous,” Jason assured as he sat down at the table.
“I’m happy for Kathy, and I’m very proud of her,” he said with sudden sincerity. “She worked for it, she deserves it, and we all know she’s the brains of the family.”
“Yes, she is quite clever,” mother remarked. “It’s just that I see you going to junior college and trying to get an education so you can get ahead. And looking back, I realized that your father and I never pushed you toward college, and I think we may have denied you.”
“No, you didn’t deny me anything,” Jason reassured.
“Well, neither of us went to college, and we did all right, so I guess we never thought about it when you were growing up. You were a happy kid.”
“All I needed was a street to play on, friends to hang out with, and a ball for to throw around.”
“And me telling you all to watch for traffic,” mother recalled. “But when Kathy started going to school, all her teachers raved about her, how she was a good student and college material, and so it went. It didn’t occur to me until lately that she got the support and some of the breaks that you didn’t get, and that wasn’t fair to you.”
“Mom, I wasn’t into school the way Kathy was, so nobody pushed me in that direction. I didn’t even think about college until I was done with high school. It seemed like everyone else was going to college, or at least junior college. I just didn’t want to fall behind.”
“That seems to be the trend. When I was young I knew a lot of people who dropped out of high school so they could work full time, seemed like a normal thing to do. Nowadays it’s a stigma if you don’t have that diploma.”
“Growing up I was just looking to have fun, I never really looked ahead. Now everyone these days is saying that you need a degree or you won’t get ahead.”
“Which I suppose means that the next generation are all going to have to get master’s degrees,” mother concluded. “And who knows what tuition will cost then.”
“Too much,” Jason predicted sullenly, then leaned in closer and put his hand on mother’s hand. “But you know what, I had a whole lot of fun growing up, a ton of great memories, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.”
“Yes, you were quite the handful.” Mother reminisced as she smiled.
Jason smiled back. “Thanks for letting me move back in.”
“Least we could do. If your dad and I had easy credit when we were your age I’m sure we would have done the same thing.”
“What do you think you would’ve spent it on?”
“I’m sure your dad would’ve wanted a brand new Corvette,” mother said with a laugh.
“Good choice,” Jason said as he enjoyed the moment, “before they started making them out of fiberglass.” He leaned back into his chair. “Didn’t know I was going to have money problems so early.”
“See? Progress,” mother said as she looked back at the newspaper.
Jason smiled in agreement, then got up from the table. “Ought to be a good game,” he said as he looked around the kitchen for one last thing to eat. He grabbed a plum from a bowl of fruit.
“So which one of Christine’s nephews is playing today,” mother asked, “Eric?”
“Well have fun.”
“See you later.” Jason kissed mother on the cheek, then headed to the front door.
“Oh, could you pick up something to drink on the way home?”
©2016 Robert Kirkendall