The circle of life |

The circle of life

Have you ever noticed how the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same?

As one who’s had almost a century of observing things, it’s almost comical at times. My son Doug and I were talking about this over breakfast one day.

We discussed how as children, we’re totally dependent on our parents to protect and nourish us. That means diapers, feeding us and making sure we have a safe environment. It also means being pushed around in a walker. Fast forward about 80 years or so. The parent is now being protected by the child, being pushed around in a wheel chair as required, and quite often, is availing themselves with diapers.

It seems God does have a sense of humor. There are many other things that we take for granted in our daily lives that have come full circle. Take for instance, our cars. Back in the “good old days” cars had cranks to start them. Now we have drivers on “crank.” Then starters were invented and you had to turn the key and then push a button to start the car.

Today’s newest cars have no key; they have a handheld device you point toward a button that you push to start the car. A few years ago, Doug rented a car at the airport in Orange County, Calif. For about 10 minutes he sat there, looking at a piece of plastic he’d been given and wondering about its purpose. Finally, the attendant came over and showed him how to start the car.

Washing machines are another story. Long ago rocks were used along the banks of rivers to wash clothes. Then along came the washing board, followed by the early washing machines with their wringer tubes that were better at crushing fingers than wringing out the water from the clothes. Doug remembers fondly how adept his grandmom Hill was at doing this. Today’s new washers seem to crush and grind the clothes into submission.

Drying clothes has also changed. We used to hang the clothes out to dry. Now we bake them in devices that throw them round and round. I’ve often wondered, based on the amount of lint that comes out of the dryer, why the clothes don’t disappear over time? Many years ago, and living Back East, we hung clothes up on lines in the yard. The clothes often weighed down the line toward the ground.

We used wooden poles called “clothes props” to raise the lines so the clothes stayed off the ground. Most kids today have no concept of how much work it was to do the laundry. They pop items in the washer or dryer and push a few buttons and walk away. How I wish they could see dozens of diapers on a line being freeze dried in the cold Pennsylvania winter.

I remember asking my first husband Don to get me a dryer.

He said, “What for, it will cost too much.”

So I went out to Sears to get one on my own. I found out that if I said I was married I had to have my husband’s permission to buy one on time. Can you believe that? So I told them I was a widow, and got the dryer.

Don didn’t like the idea. So I told him that he could begin hanging the clothes outside. As he looked at the foot of snow on the ground with the temperature in the teens, he decided the dryer was a good idea, and it stayed. The dryer used natural gas, as did our refrigerator. It was almost silent and did a great job for us. Bet many have never heard of a “gas” fridge.

Food needed to be eaten right away, salted down to preserve it or stored in cooler cellars. Then along came canned goods, Mason jars, the fridge then frozen foods. I remember when we had to check to see what we needed at the store. Now we have fridges that tell us what to get by sending us text messages. I guess those without “smart” phones will starve or ask their grandkids for help.

You have to ask yourself it we’re really better off today then we were when things were simpler? Everything is computerized. Ever notice how kids today can’t add or subtract when they give you change at the store? Please pardon me while I get my trusty abacus.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at