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Paul Turner: Yesterday’s free range baby boomers

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s almost always best to resist the urge to make self-serving statements that begin “Back when I was a kid.”

For one thing, nobody cares.

And for another, you just wind up sounding like a cranky old fool who hasn’t really come to terms with the fact time has marched on since you were 10 back in 1965.

But there is one situation in which an older observer of the passing scene will find it all but impossible to keep his or her remarks to himself: Watching children sledding.

At least that’s the way it seemed while spending time at Manito Park last week.

It was a high-energy happening, full of squeals and happy yelps. Still, there was no mistaking that this was 2018.

The hovering presence of parents at the sledding hill just west of Grand Boulevard was nothing new. The idea of kids spending two seconds of unsupervised time was long ago overruled by a society guided by paranoia, working-parent guilt or prudence (you pick). But if your own formative images of sledding were first etched on your memory many winters ago in an adults-free outdoor playtime zone, the sight and sound of moms and dads standing in the snow and shouting “Good job, Jason!” can make the whole thing seem quite alien to your inner child.

Once upon a time, sledding was something you and your friends did on your own. Parents were not part of the picture – ever.

I suppose a young person reading that would imagine baby boomers were feral creatures as youths. That’s not how I remember it, however.

Free range might be a better way to describe us, looking back.

The sledding hill differences don’t stop there.

Objectively speaking, for those who grew up riding classic sleds, today’s brightly colored plastic sliders can look inferior in every way. Perhaps they are safer in some respects because they are slower.

It’s almost impossible though, to not refer to one of those orange or green products of China as a “piece of sled” or some such. But nobody likes a foul-mouthed old coot.

Maybe the biggest yesterday vs. today difference could be seen in the lack of wild abandon of the sledders themselves.

Kid after kid at Manito seemed intent on dragging a foot or otherwise braking his or her downhill speed. That seemed different than Cold War era sledding, which had a certain “Calvin and Hobbes” go-for-broke vibe, at least in my memory.

Maybe it is because many of today’s kids have been told to “be careful” or “watch out” every three minutes of their lives and now regard caution as second nature. That’s certainly not a bad thing. It’s no indictment to say a child is safety minded.

But it’s different. Or so it seems.

Perhaps every generation regards itself as having experienced the most adventurous childhoods. We can’t all be right.

Still, I’m not altogether worried about today’s kids.

One little girl in a lime green coat and knit pull-over hat rocketed down the Manito hill on a round saucer sled. Her wide-eyed expression seemed to say “Faster! Faster!”

You know how some kids have their picture taken virtually every time they turn around? Well, a parent should have had a phone out and photographed that girl’s melt-your-heart smile as she eased to a stop on the packed snow. She looked so happy, so ready to trudge back up the hill and go again.

Watching her, it felt like winter was in good hands.

Living on Eastern time

So you’ve probably heard that the New Year’s Eve fireworks downtown will be at 9 p.m., as 2019 arrives in the East.

That’s easier for local families than waiting for midnight our time.

But it has made me wonder. What if you lived in Spokane but operated on Eastern time?

I sort of did just that for much of my go-to-the-office career.

Here’s what I found.

No matter how many years you do it, there will always be co-workers who say “Leaving already?” when you head out after your work day is over.

Kids riding trikes will wheel past your house at about the same time you are going to bed.

Every once in a while, you will cross paths with a raccoon that is about to call it a night when you head out in the morning.