1930: Mickey Mouse make his first appearance. Mahatma Gandhi begins civil disobedience against the British Empire and Don Bradman scores a world record 309 runs in one day.
2004: Social media behemoth Facebook launches, Googles releases Gmail and the Cassini probe passes the Saturn moon – Titan.
1940: World War II rampages across Europe, Disney releases its second full-length feature – Pinocchio and Bugs Bunny makes his debut in ‘Wild Hare’.
2008: The Space shuttle makes another delivery to the International space station, the Australian Government makes a formal apology to the Stolen Generation and in London the first bionic eye operation goes ahead.
Confused? History? Grandparents? Where is this idiot going? Time machine, trivia facts, no none of that. Let me take you back to the last week of the school holidays, which for the non-Australian among you was the week commencing the 18th April. The boys and I were fortunate enough to be down the south coast hanging out with the maternal grandparents. This is our home away from home. The boys are lucky enough to have their own room (as are we), we have a beautiful sandy beach 5 minutes from the front door and the most welcoming of hosts. The weather was sunny and autumnal, the food, tasty and comforting and the company, warm and engaging. Although L&V are not my parents, I have always and I mean, always been made to feel part of the family. The peace and tranquility afforded me the time to think about Grandparents, what part they had played in my own life and how important they are (although they don’t know it yet) to my own kid’s life.
The years listed above are the years that L&V were born in comparison to my little sods. The changes that the world and society have experienced in that period must be the most dramatic in history (I say ‘must’ in the knowledge that some smarty smartarse will flick me an email saying that no, the most dramatic change in human history occurred between the agrarian and industrial revolutions – I don’t care, it’s my blog so it’s my facts). But I do think it’s fair to say that a shit-load of stuff has happened in the last century and the boys’ grandparents have been and seen a great part of that. That’s a walking history book, which talks, has insight, has direct personal experience of world events and as a result, has wisdom.
The greatest pleasure I get when watching the boys interact with L&V is when the boys are asking them questions about their own childhoods – “Are you serious? You didn’t have a TV? How did you cope?”, “Did German bombers really fly over your house?”, “You actually like tripe?” and so on. I didn’t say they were the most insightful questions but what is slowly happening is the boys are learning of a life before multiple screens, long-distance travel, advanced medicine, ample food and indoor plumbing.
Of course, it’s great having grandparents around to help out, take the kids for a weekends, collect from the school etc. but for me, I think the real benefit is in the captured history of their minds. Being the product of a single-parent family, I and my brothers, spent an awful lot of time hanging with our grandparents. I loved it. Without doubt, we were overfed and spoiled, while being perpetually scolded for being “stupid boys”. We had massive free reign, as I think they did in their pre-war youth, and that afforded us plenty of time to get into mischief. When we weren’t busy being little buggers, I loved to hear about their childhoods, their war experiences and the best bit? Getting the dirt on my mum and uncles when they were kids. Turns out Mum was a not so goody two-shoes – home-brewed alcoholic ginger beer anyone?
When I reflect on my shared moments with my grandparents, I realise that they instilled in me an inquisitiveness about the world, respect for other people’s perspectives and a huge appreciation for those who have gone before me (oh and sport, my grandad loved sport). I often get the impression that children just see their seniors as old people who have little relevance to them and the world that they live in. That thinking could not be further from the truth, by understanding your own family roots and the life that your grandparents led is the only way to appreciate what you have now and to truly understand who you are.