I will, at the risk of revealing certain factors that may make it possible for you to guess my age group, admit to being a child of the Seventies, and loving every moment of it. A decade like no other before or after it (yet), the 70s espoused the wild and carefree spirit that the 50s didn’t have, but was less rebellious than the 60s and less daringly anti-establishment than the 80s and the 90s. The 70s were the perfect decade for coming of age (possibly not a very objective view, considering that they were, after all, the years that I grew up in), but I will dare to venture that proof of this fact lies in the vivid recall of memories of anyone who was a child in the era of America, Bee Gees, and James Taylor.
(And for total ambience: America’s Ventura Highway, folks!)
The 70s taught me a lot about life and love, and the lessons are inextricably intertwined with childhood memories. Allow me to share both–the memories and the wisdom–of those wonderful years with you.
Lesson 1 – Follow, Fella
When I was about 6 years old, my paternal grandparents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and, because we had the house with the largest space, ours was chosen as the venue for the big party. Great excitement filled the air as household help prepared the place (and hired men butchered numerous chickens in my first exposure to real-life gore). We had a jungle-gym of sorts in our backyard, and at six in the evening of the big party, I was still busy turning somersaults, my hands holding on to the bars of the gym while I threw my legs up in the air and left my head suspended midway like an astronaut in zero gravity. My mom told me to stop playing as it was time to get ready for the party and performance–oh yes (groan), who kid didn’t get asked to perform for relatives back then? I decided I could afford to do just one more somersault before going inside, so I did–and promptly hit my face on a rock whose existence on the ground I hadn’t even noticed until it caused me to see stars before my eyes. Wonderful: more real-life gore, on me this time, and a bad gash on my face which registered in all the photos of the grand event.
Lesson learned: Listen to your parents because they really do know more than you do. And obey. Immediately. (I have the scar to prove the importance of this lesson).
Lesson 2: Dance in the Rain
These days, when a little rain falls, many children will easily be seen in thick plastic raincoats, shielded additionally by umbrellas carried by their loving nannies. It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 70s, my brother (who’s two years older than me and therefore, by default, my partner in many crimes) and I would wait till the heavens poured down water in torrents and then we would gleefully grab our towels, shampoo bottles, soap bars, and run. In the wide expanse of our backyard we would dance and play and yes, take a full bath in the rain! Fully clothed. With mud stuck to our legs. Boy, it was a load of fun. Today I still try to get my kids to attempt this, just to experience the utter joy of feeling raindrops on their faces and arms, but they look at me with a mixture of doubt and amusement. (And then I almost see the thought-bubble forming in their minds: “Ah, mom–she is so charmingly nuts!”)
Lesson learned: Take time to frolic in the rain–or in the sunshine, for that matter. Happiness is a decision. It certainly doesn’t cost much, and it can be found in the simplest of things.
Lesson 3 – Fly Like the Wind
As a child I loved spending weekends at my cousin’s house. There was a park nearby, with great big mango trees that were perfect for climbing, and we would sit on the thick branches and contemplate deeply on the answers to some of life’s most troubling questions, such as which flavor of ice cream should we buy, and should we buy it now or later on? There was a big swing set, a serious one, nothing like the unremarkable Little Tykes plastic ones all over the place nowadays. No sir, these swings were made with wooden seats and real metal chains that squeaked as you pedaled with gusto. Unbeknownst to my mom and dad, I would pump my legs on those swings, trying to reach the sky, pedaling harder and stronger and faster, till I reached the point were the swing seat was almost parallel with the top of the swing bar. Then, at that point of greatest height, I would let go, push off, and soar through the air, landing on the grass feet first.
It’s a miracle I broke no bones. But in my 41 years of life, few things have topped the exhilaration of flying through the air.
Lesson Learned: Be fearless (within reasonable limits, of course. We’re talking about launching from swings here, not from roofs of houses). Dare to push the envelope. Don’t be afraid to fly. You may just discover talents you never dreamed were hiding inside you.
Lesson Four: A Little Dirt Never Hurt
We would start right after the requisite one-hour-rest-after-lunch (“or you’ll get appendicitis if you run around right after eating,” warned my grandma each time, like the broken ’45s that played on the turntables back then). We would end our playtime only when the sun threatened to set, our backs wet (no cloth diaper corners hanging out of our shirts because we never used diapers past the age of 8 months, much less on our backs!), our faces and hands grimy from a whole afternoon of Tumbang Preso or Patintero. When there were no neighbors to play with, I would “cook” leaves and sticks with mud in clay pots over coal. And I could do this all summer long with never a single whine about being bored.
Lesson Learned: Go outside. Get your hands dirty. Experience life with all your senses. There is no substitute for playing in the sunshine, sweat trickling down the side of your cheeks. (You don’t just give your muscles a workout, you also learn what it’s like to win and lose with grace).
Lesson Five: Of Canals and Combantrin
A cousin of mine and I always wanted a swimming pool. We didn’t have one in our house. So one hot day, we decided to take our wishes into our hands and pronounced the kanal outside the gate as a pretty good substitute. (Our kanals, as opposed to “canals”–which are large waterways–were about a meter wide and were meant to serve as sewage waterways… you can see where this is going). So into the kanal we jumped and splashed around, not minding the green moss floating but being careful not to dip our heads and open our eyes in the knee-deep water. Our older brothers and sisters mocked us, but we laughed right back in their faces and said they were missing out on the best thing… till something that did not belong in a swimming pool came bobbing by. We scrambled out just as my mom came around, her eyes wide open with mixed amounts of worry and anger. She made us take a bath in alcohol and water, and then made us drink 2 bottles each of Combantrin (I swear I can still taste that sticky deworming syrup).
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you’ll be ashamed of certain things you’ve done. But you’ll live through it, don’t worry. What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. And one day you’ll laugh about it. And if you were lucky enough to learn something from it, you’ll have even more than just a funny story to pass on.
Lesson Six: Humor Is Never Overrated
My brother would get his kicks from teasing me and mispronouncing my already-difficult-to-pronounce full first name. I would get back by sneaking close while he was building a tower with several decks of cards and happen to get an uncontrollable urge to sneeze right when he’d be putting the last few cards at the top (thereby sending cards flying in all directions). No matter how we annoyed each other, we continued to play together and have the time of our lives. Our guiding principle back then–to which we still subscribe today–was Picon, talo (“He who gets upset, loses”).
Lesson Learned: When things irk you, you either laugh at yourself, or you learn to dish it out in a spirit of fun as well. Life’s too short to spend wallowing with a morose face in a pool of gloom.
Lesson Seven: Beware the Bangaw and the ‘Bao
Every morning, my father would wake up the six of us, children, at the crack of dawn so that we could walk to Mass at a convent a block away from our home. We kids would trudge along the street, half-asleep, but not for long. See, walking with half-lidded eyes could only result in falling prey to one of two risks: (a) planting your feet deeply into squishy, warm fertilizer material freshly laid by the herd of carabaos that just passed by on their way to the grazing fields, or (b) walking headlong into a sleeping large fly (aka bangaw), your eyes flicking wide open at the instant you realize you’d been hit dead-center on your forehead. And that’s if you’re lucky, because if you had otherwise happened to have your mouth slightly open, there’d be at least a 98% probability that the offending large fly would sleepwalk straight into your throat, causing you to sputter in disgust, all sleep forgotten by your now-revolting body.
Today my father no longer wakes us early in the morning but he, my sisters and brothers, and I still find ourselves attending Mass regularly, some even daily, in our own respective parts of the world.
Lesson Learned: Old habits die hard. So make sure you establish really good ones while you’re young, especially if these habits have something to do with being physically and spiritually healthy and peaceful.
The Gift of the 70s: The Four F’s – Essentials in Life
Taken all together, the best gift of the 70s era for me was my discovering that there are really only four essentials for living a full and happy life: Faith, Family and Friends, and Funniness (i.e., a great sense of humor). You can have all the money and possessions in the world, but none of that can ever come close in value to the joy and fulfillment and gifts brought by the Four F’s.
So whatever decade you grew up in, or are presently growing up in, I wish you all the best of the 70s lessons, and may you be blessed with the Four F’s in your life.
* This was published in my ParenTTalk column, October edition of The Glimpse.
Credits for Images:
- RetroMovies image by saine @ stockexchange.com
- Cassette image by ugaldew @ stockexchange.com
- Carabao image from tiger.towson.edu
- Patintero image by Orville Tiamson for ForexWorld Artwork.