Janet Sheridan: Things I miss

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The '50s may have been a simpler time, but they weren’t all birthday cake and ice cream. I remember crouching under my desk, hearing my heart thump and my teacher’s hose rub as she patrolled the classroom during an atomic bomb drill. Then, the next day, she distributed iodine tablets that my classmates and I obediently took once each week to prevent goiters. As we swallowed, we imagined growing lumps hanging from our necks until people mistook us for turkeys.

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Janet Sheridan

That was fun?

I do miss some things past decades offered, such as Sunday afternoon drives. After church and dinner, most families in my rural area packed into the family sedan and took a leisurely drive, commenting on the passing sights: Rigtrup’s new silo, the fine crop of sugar beets coming on, the shimmer of Utah Lake under the sun and the shame of Johnson’s cows wandering loose — again. With luck, the trip included a stop in town at the A&W, where root beer was delivered on a tray that clamped to our window, and we children were told to quit scuffling, because if anyone spilled even one drop it would be the last stop at the drive-in — ever.

Speaking of root beer, I miss the taste of my dad’s homemade version and the fun my siblings and I had watching him make it. He mixed it in a washtub using sugar, water, yeast and Schilling root beer extract, exclaiming, measuring and predicting excellence. Next, he poured the mixture into sterilized pop bottles and used a hand-operated capper to crimp lids onto them, allowing us to place caps on each bottle before he lowered the boom. He then placed the bottles on their sides in a sunny spot to ferment before being moved to the cool root cellar for storage.

The greatest fun occurred when Dad misjudged the time needed for fermentation. When eating dinner or playing outside, we’d first hear startling explosions from the root beer pile. Then we’d hear Mom’s admonitions and Dad’s shrieks and profanities as he rushed to assess the damage, causing us to engage in unbridled hilarity.

I’d like to hear the whirling clickety-click of a hand-pushed lawnmower again, though I wouldn’t want to push it. The soft, rhythmic sound of a rotary mower symbolized summer for me as much as bird song, butterflies and sunburn. I especially enjoyed the battles my brothers waged before the quiet clickety-clicks commenced: “It isn’t my turn. It’s yours. You’re a liar. I mowed last week. I did! Didn’t I, Mom? No! I’m not mowing it, and you can’t make me!”

In retrospect, having only three television channels wasn’t all bad, either: fewer shows to argue about, no time wasted flipping through hundreds of possibilities and more family togetherness during which teenagers scoffed at “Lawrence Welk,” everybody loved “Maverick” and Mom knew the answer to “What’s My Line?” before the panel did.

I long for the days of security-free flying when I could purchase a ticket with cash and no ID, saunter to my gate carrying a purse filled with mouthwash, canned Coke, a Swiss army knife, knitting needs and toenail clippers without anyone confiscating my illicit goods, making me remove my shoes and belt or wanting to pat me down.

I could hug my loved ones and tell them one more time to feed the dog seconds before boarding the plane, rather than yelling goodbye curbside amid blaring horns and car exhaust. When my plane landed, other loved ones waited at the gate to help me carry my purse full of contraband. I miss the way we used to fly.

But when I’m honest with myself, I realize that what I miss most from my past is my younger self. And she’s never coming back.

Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.

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