Children of the Eighties
We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first "lost generation" nor today's lost generation; in fact, we think we know just where we stand- or are discovering it as we speak. Grunge isn't here to stay. Fashion is fickle and "generation X" is a myth created by some over-40 writer trying to figure out why people wear flannel in the summer.
We are the ones who played with lego building blocks when they were just building blocks and collected Garbage Pail Kids and Cabbage Patch Kids and Hot Wheels and He-Man action figures. Big Wheels and bicycles with streamers were the way to go, and sidewalk chalk was all you needed to build a city.
Imagination was the key. I would sleep over at friends' house on the weekends. We played army with G.I. Joe figures, and I set up galactic wars between Autobots and Decepticons. We stayed up half the night throwing marshmallows and Velveeta at one another. We never beat Rubik's Cube. Imagination made the Ewok Treehouse big enough for you to be Luke and the kitchen table and an old sheet dark enough to be a tent in the forest. Your world was the backyard and it was all you needed. With your portable tape player, we listened to John COUGAR Mellencamp sing about Little Pink Houses for Jack and Diane. Sang along with Debbie Gibson, Material Girl, Bruce Springsteen, The Bangles and Michael Jackson. I was bewildered by Boy George and the colors of his dreams, red, gold, and green.
I went to school and had recess. I went to the same classes everyday. My mom put a thousand Little Debbie Snack Cakes in my Charlie Brown lunch box and filled my Snoopy Thermos with grape Kool-Aid. I would never eat the snake cakes, though. Did anyone? I got two thousand cheese and cracker snack packs, and I ate those. Field day was bigger than Christmas, but it always managed to rain just enough to make everyone miserable before they fell over in the three-legged race. Where did all those panty hose come from? "Deck the Halls with Gasoline, fa la la la la la la la la," was just a song. Burping was cool. Rubber band fights were cooler. A substitute teacher was a baby sitter/marked woman. Nobody deserved that.
When I got home from school, I played with my Atari 2600. I spent hours playing Pitfall, or Combat or Breakout or Dodge'em Cars or Frogger. I never did beat Asteroids. Then I watched "Scooby Doo." Daphne was a Goddess, and I thought Shaggy was smoking something synthetic in the back of their psychedelic van. I hated Scrappy. We flip through T.V. stations and stop at The A Team and The Love Boat and Knight Rider and Fame and laugh with The Cosby Show and Family Ties and Punky Brewster and what you talkin' 'bout Willis? MTV played videos. Nickelodeon played "You can't do that on television" and "Dangermouse" HBO showed Mike Tyson pummel everybody except Robin Givens, the bad actress from "Head of the Class" who took all Mike's cash flow.
I got up on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. to watch bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons like "The Snorks," "Jabberjaw," "Captain Caveman," and "Space Ghost." In between I would watch "School House Rock." We hold strong affection for the Muppets and the Gummy Bears and why did they take the Smurfs off the air? After school specials were only about cigarettes and step-families, the Pokka Dot Door was nothing like Barney, and aren't the Power Rangers just Voltron reincarnated? We are the ones who still read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume, Richard Scary and the Electric Company.
At the movies the Nerds got Revenge on the Alpha Betas by teaming up with the Omega Mus. We recite lines with the Ghostbusters and still look to the Goonies for a great adventure. I watched Indiana Jones save the Ark of the Covenant, and wondered what Yoda meant when he said, "No, there is another."
Friendship bracelets were ties you couldn't break and friendship pins went on shoes - preferably high top Velcro Reebox. Braces with colored rubberbands made you cool. The back door was always open and Mom served only red Kool-Aid to the neighborhood kids- never drank New Coke. Entertainment was cheap and lasted for hours. The Sit n' Spin always made you dizzy but never made you stop; Pogoballs were dangerous weapons and Chinese Jump ropes never failed to trip someone. In your Underoos you were Wonder Woman or Spider-man or R2D2 and in your treehouse you were king.
I went to Cub Scouts. I got my arrow-of-light, but never managed to win the Pinewood Derby. I got almost every skill award but don't remember ever doing anything.
In the Eighties, nothing was wrong. Did you know the president was shot? Star Wars was not only a movie. Did you ever play in a bomb shelter?
The world stopped when the Challenger exploded. Did a teacher come in and tell your class?
We forgot Vietnam and watched Tiananmen Square on CNN and bought pieces of the Berlin Wall at the stores. AIDS was not the number one killer in the United States and you knew more people who had a grandparent die from cancer. We did not start the fire, Billy Joel. Half of your friends' parents got divorced. People did not just say no to drugs. Somebody in your school died before they graduated.
In the Eighties, we redefined the American Dream, and those years defined us. We are the generation between strife and facing strife and not turning our backs. The eighties may have made us idealistic, but it's that idealism that will push us and be passed on to our children - the first children of the twenty-first century. When you put all this stuff together, you have our childhood. Never forget: We are the children of the Eighties. That is what I prefer "they" call it. If this is familiar, you are on of us... pass it on to others.
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