“A Good Age” by Harry Kuhn

April is a busy month in my family for birthdays. One sister, one brother and I are April babies. I am not often in touch with the brother but I talk from time to time with my sister. Occasionally there is some kidding leading up to our birthdays. When she commented the other day about us getting older, I pointed out that she was indeed aging, as though I were not.

It did, however, start me thinking about what is a good age to be. I am young enough to enjoy many of the technologies available today and to learn to use them. But I am old enough to remember when I most often stayed in touch by writing letters that took weeks to reach the person and be answered, and to research a topic of interest meant a trip to a library, not Googling it.

As a child, many things were experienced without benefit of helmets, pads and tutorials on safety. You just went and did them. If you got hurt, it was a learning experience not grounds for a lawsuit.

Discipline could be, and often was, physical. I was not psychologically damaged by receiving the strap at school, but I did remember not to repeat that particular offense again. I have not so fond memories of the switch, a willow branch applied to my butt when a serious violation of the rules had taken place. Essentially, I learned that there were consequences for disregarding rules, guidelines and acceptable behaviour. Today, many of those forms of discipline are illegal.

I can also remember when saving the wrappers from loaves of bread, along with 25 cents, would get you into the Saturday matinee at the local theatre. They still played the short serial pieces before the movie and then the main feature. Today, it is no cheap affair to go to the movies regularly and the theatres themselves are a group of smallish rooms while the ones I attended as a kid were actual large theatres where live shows could have been performed.

Childhood was an outdoor life most often. Swimming and baseball in summer. Camping with wolf cubs and boy scouts. Roaming the woods alone or with buddies whenever I had the chance. Soaking bull rushes in gasoline and then at a later date lighting them like torches. Rock fights with the neighbourhood boys. Skating the lakes in winter. Actually cutting down a Christmas tree in December, not buying one at the local market or an artificial one.

Still, though, I can sit down at my computer and in minutes I have caught up on all the major happenings from every corner of the planet. I can access movies and vast amounts of knowledge with a few keystrokes. I carry a cell phone that connects me to a world wide web of information at a moment’s notice and lets me know when I have received mail that was sent to me just moments earlier. I find myself envying the young people I see who text on their cellphones with a speed that seems breathtaking.

I will be 58 this month. What is a good age to be? Why, 58 of course.

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