My mother never made it to 60, sadly passing away just two weeks after her 59th birthday. At 21, however, I viewed her as an old lady.
God bless her, but she didn’t dye her hair, although she occasionally had a blue rinse, didn’t wear makeup, had bunions so wore sensible shoes and wore crimplene dresses usually bought at C&A, but only when she needed them.
Jump forward 44 years. As I approach my 70th birthday, times for us seniors have certainly changed.
Mum lived through the austere years when makeup was scarce and nylons non-existent, we have lived with more excess than our parents could ever have dreamed of.
Makeup is no longer a luxury, tights are available in every colour, size and pattern under the sun, and clothes are throw-away, disposable items.
A memory just popped up while I was writing this. My mother told me how they used to draw the ‘seam’ of fully fashioned nylons onto the backs of their legs with gravy powder to give the impression they were wearing stockings!
How different it is for us now.
My 27-year-old daughter and I borrow each other’s clothes. This is something I would never have done with my mum.
I buy clothes most months, and I know I have more than I can ever wear for the rest of my life. And shoes? Well shoes are one of my passions in life. I currently have more than 200 pairs, and I know that is really excessive so please don’t criticise me – I know!!!
Mum had about five pairs of shoes and a couple of handbags – one for summer and one for winter.
The point I wanted to make is not about the excesses of modern life, but about the kind of lives we lead. Mum went to a keep-fit class and bingo, and after my dad died, that was her life. She never learned to drive, so apart from when we went out together, she never really went anywhere else.
My father served his country as a member of the armed forces, so we moved around a lot during my childhood. That meant Mum never had the opportunity for a career, since we followed Dad wherever he was posted, but she was always home when I got in from school, so we could chat about our day.
I learned to drive at 17 and had an interesting and varied career. I think that has made a huge difference to us, bringing mobile and financial independence. I’m not just talking about purchases though. Now we have the freedom to make choices our parents never did.
Changes in education and in the workplace have given women more opportunities, and I think that makes a huge difference to women of today – though it’s fair to say that there is still much to be done on the subject of equal pay.
My parents – and theirs before them – never owned their own homes, since rented accommodation was provided for Forces families. As I sit in my own comfortable home, I thank them for my small inheritance which set us on the road to home-ownership.
We certainly have more leisure time than they did. Washdays lasted a couple of days – from doing the washing in a small twin tub, getting it dry and then doing the ironing… it took forever.
Even before then, I remember Grandma washing by hand in a tin tub and wringing them out with a mangle!
Food was always home-cooked from scratch and watched over all day – meat and potato pie, stew and dumplings and roast dinners took forever to cook. There were no slow cookers, microwaves or pressure cookers, acti-fries or blenders in those days.
And cleaning never stopped! My mother dusted and vacuumed every day and washing up was done in the sink after every meal – no dishwashers for them.
We did have a very small fridge, but food shopping was done most days to ensure freshness, rather than doing a weekly shop. Fortunately, our ‘supermarket’ was the local NAAFI shop so we didn’t have to walk far with our purchases.
Times were much simpler then, and I’m thankful I had such a happy, carefree childhood. Playing in the fields around our married quarters (airfields were always in the country), riding my bike and going to ballet classes were much healthier than sitting in front of a television or iPad playing digital games.
I had lots of friends and plenty of fresh air. I walked a mile to school which kept me healthy and not overweight.
Holidays – when we could afford them – were a week by the sea, paddling in the water, building sandcastles and eating ice cream. And I know some of those simple pleasures remain.
I remember asking my daughter – then aged about nine – which she enjoyed most: our annual family holiday in Greece or our week in a cottage near Whitby with my best friend and her daughter. Guess which she preferred?
So which times are/were the best? Computers and the internet have changed both our working and leisure lives. We have a pandemic now, but there were other threats back then as well. Labour-saving devices have cut down on manual housework, but do we have a better life than our parents?
What hasn’t changed, however, is families. We love our children and grandchildren, and however much time we had then or now, this has to remain a priority. What do you think?
Is life better now than being in the 50s and 60s? What do you miss about times gone by? If you could change one thing about modern life, what would it be? Let’s share some happy memories!