If you don't count 1950, when I was just a month old, the first decade change I lived through - and obviously the first one I remember - was 1960.
I recall how eagerly I sat with my father and watched a news special recapping the 1950's. I have no recall of what was covered, but it likely included the Korean War, hula hoops, Joe McCarthy, I Like Ike, Dien Bien Phu, the Suez Canal, Elvis Presley, Levittown, Sputnik, the Game Show Scandal, Howdy Doody, and Fidel Castro.
My personal memories of that decade include the aforementioned hula hoop, plus:
- Elvis on Ed Sullivan. Good Catholic families turned it off, we were told. My family, along with the family of every other second grader at OLA, other than that of Francis George, kept watching.
- Seeing some of the Mouseketeers - including Annette - at their appearance at the Stop 'n Shop in Webster Square. My friend Bernadette and I were nearly trampled by packs of howling early-teen-aged boys lusting after a glimpse of Annette, who was wearing heavy makeup and a leopard fur coat.
- Watching lots of television, most of which was terrible. (Has anyone actually sat through a Red Skelton Show or episode of Gunsmoke lately? Golden Age, my rabbit ears.)
- Moving from my grandmother's three family house to our own little home about 100 yards away from Nanny's.
- The appearance on the scene of two brother and one sister.
- My Uncle Jack's wedding in Chicago. (Alas, it didn't last, although trips to Chicago did.)
I do know that, as of December 31, 1959, I was absolutely looking forward to the 1960's, which would be - thanks to my cameo appearance in the 1940's - the third decade I had actually lived in. Does it get any more exciting than that? Far better, even, than - on those rare car jaunts when we went out of state - pushing your foot under the front seat of the car so that you could arrive in Connecticut, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire before one of your siblings. (I got there first!)
I now realize that the 1950's were bland, boring, and repressive, but from my viewpoint at the time, they were pretty darned good.
Fast forward a handful - count 'em and weep - decades, and I can't quite rekindle the awe I felt as we welcomed in the 1960's.
By now, I've lived during eight different decades, and probably have two, maybe three, left in me. Oy!
I'd like to say that I'm as optimistic about the twenty-teens now upon us as I was, somewhat naively, as it turned out, about the 1960's. Sure, way back then, we got our Catholic president and The Beatles, civil rights and more opportunities - thank you very much - for women, now free to be you and me. But we also got Viet Nam, race riots, assassinations, Richard Nixon redux, and - if that's at all possible - even worse television. C.f., Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, F-Troop....
And this Brave New Decade, with such people as us in it?
Maybe we'll get serious about climate change. Or maybe we'll wait until the ice caps melt, Worcester has become ocean front property, and my little Boston condo, built of submarine landfill where the Flat of the Hill meets Back Bay, is underwater. Literally.
Maybe we'll have an economy built of a solid foundation of production, rather than the ephemeral, run-off-the-end-of-the-cliff-just-don't-look-down economy of mindless, endless, fathomless consumption of crap. (Okay, okay. I confess. I got my nieces remote-control SuperMonster Cars from the Home Shopping Network for Christmas.)
Maybe we'll usher in a new, rational age of sensibly (not bitterly) partisan politics, where the different parties can put forth their arguments, politely listen to the other side, and either hammer out a compromise or concede that the other guys have the votes. Or we can keep playing the politics of emotions, built on sound bites and/or lies designed to discredit and undermine the opposition, and - in the process - imperil the stability of the country. But, hey, who cares as long as you win?
Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
As we used to sing in the 1950's.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Decade!
May it be better than the one we've just lived through, but not as wonderful as the one that comes after it.