Childhood memories confirm limits can be good

| 10/19/2016 |

By Lori Pankonin

A flood of childhood memories flowed fluently for those few minutes in the hotel breakfast nook. It started when the kind lady overheard me tell my granddaughter that sometimes we ate our cereal right out of the little individual-portion cereal boxes.

Who remembers that? The boxes actually had perforated slits which when cut open made a bowl that would hold the cereal and milk. Cheerios. Fruit Loops. Coco Krispies. Those particular varieties came to mind.

The woman manning the breakfast area also remembered what a treat it was on those few occasions when she got the cute little personal-size cereal boxes. Shared memories continued for both of us. The simplest things thrilled us.

When our family of six would stop for gas on a trip, Dad occasionally would return to the car with a little bag of Planter’s peanuts. He’d shake a ration into our outreached hands and we’d savor each crunchy morsel.

Do you suppose we truly had just one bag? It probably cost a quarter. We certainly didn’t buy water. In fact, a tank of gasoline probably compares in price for what we spend on water these days.

Dear Mother probably passed on her share of peanuts to allow each of us to have more. I certainly don’t recall complaining that it wasn’t fair. My older brother seems to think I need reminded on occasion that I was a tattle tale so I’d guess we also did our complaining if we ever felt cheated.

Years later a friend and I were miserable from too much junk food on a high school band trip, yet we continued to eat from the three-pound bag of peanut M&Ms. I recall discussing at that time how much better off I was to get my rationed portion of peanuts.

Who knows why I seem to have a memory from at least five decades ago when we were allowed to share a bottle of Coca Cola. Four kids and a babysitter. One bottle of pop. You know the size that you would then return to the store and cash in the empty bottles. Looking back, I’d bet my one-fifth ration was very possibly more satisfying than the Big Gulp size youth drank in later years.

We also accepted limits on how many rides we could go on at the Chase County Fair carnival. I recall trying to choose which two rides I wanted for my thrills one night after the evening show. Two rides. In later years, we rode and rode for hours, probably needing to quit earlier than we did sometimes.

Back to that stop at the gas station which we called the filling station. The reason Dad was inside to pay for the gas was that he didn’t pump the gas himself. No customer did. A station attendant was always there to assist.

“Fill it up and check the oil, please,” seems to be a request I recall Dad making every time we stopped. Yes, the attendant would fill the tank, wash the windshield and open the hood of the car in order to check the oil every time we stopped.

I’d say engines must have needed lubed more in those days since it was a constant check. Can’t say that I ever recall how often we needed oil in addition to the gasoline. Whether a bag of peanuts was part of the transaction was more important to me.

SUVs or station wagons weren’t something our family of six experienced. Why would that be necessary when we all fit sufficiently in the two seats? Three in front and three in back. Seems that we argued who got to sit in front and riding by the door was also a preferred spot.

I had the misfortune of regular bouts of car sickness and front seat by the door with air blowing on my face was the best option. Once again, my brother accused me of faking it so I got the favored spot. I’d have traded the misery with him.

Oh the good old days. I like the progress but do miss some of the simplicity. We probably had limits mainly for financial reasons but limits weren’t all bad. I could use some of the discipline today of being satisfied with less.

What I truly treasure are the memories. I’m blessed with the fortune of a happy childhood as well as the opportunity to make new memories as I witness grandchildren in their childhoods. Where will life take them in future decades? Hopefully they’ll also reflect on the good times.