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A generation apart, but still yearning for a simpler time

It was feeling like one of those crisp, Northern fall mornings and the youngest was looking retro cool as I dropped her at school wearing jeans and the short faux-leather jacket she had picked up on sale during a recent shopping venture.

"Have a great day, Fonzie," I blurted out as she swung her backpack over her shoulder and shot me one of those "What planet are you living on today, mom?" looks I've grown accustomed to.

Still Earth, circa 1970s.

Ah, right. Before her time.

"What's a fonzie?" she asked before realizing, too late, that she had just given me an opening.

Not what — who.

Fonzie, I explained, was a very cool biker character on a television show called Happy Days that I used to watch when I was a teenager.

"Oh, okay," she said. Then she was gone, off to class. Saved by the bell, so to speak, from the "When I was your age . . ." diatribe that most kids are loath to suffer.

As it goes with typical parent-teen relations, the youngest and I are worlds apart.

I am of the Wonder Years/baby boomer generation. She is a later-life child who is coming of age in a different century altogether.

And so she has no clue at all that once upon a time, the "Fonz" was a household word; a larger than life, cool character on a television sitcom that offered an idyllic vision of 1950s America via the Cunningham family and a cast of sidekicks, including the leather-clad biker.

Happy Days aired for 11 seasons on ABC beginning in 1974, in what felt like a simpler time, when television was free and options were few. By today's standards, you might say we were roughing it, what with just one TV and three stations to choose from — six if you counted PBS and a couple of UHF stations with typically fuzzy reception, depending on how much you played around with the rabbit ears.

The show was a staple for kids like me who harbored an envious yearning for an older generation's nostalgia. Some of us blew off homework and other chores to tune in. Hindsight hypocrisy, I know, for a mom who preaches priorities.

But we had to.

There were no household television recording devices; no such thing as "on demand." Miss a show and you had to wait months for summer reruns or risk the spoiler kids reliving last night's episode on the walk to school.

Yes, on the walk to school.

Most parents didn't chauffeur their kids to unless it was "on the way." There was an energy crisis going on, and gas rationing meant school-age kids had to endure the insufferable bus ride or trek the mile or so walk, sometimes through wind-blown snow banks or ice-laden sidewalks while wearing trendy dungaree bell-bottoms and an older sister's hand-me-down maxi coat.

There was a recession going on, too — so money was tight all around.

Kind of like now.

These days I occasionally catch a rerun of Happy Days on one of the million or so stations I am paying for and wax poetic about days gone by.

Yes, the cable bill can be a killer.

And once in awhile I saunter into my daughter's room and catch her watching one of her "old shows" on her own flat-screen TV.

Turns out that her nostalgia runs along the lines of Full House, an ABC sitcom that aired in the big-hair days of the 1980s and ran until 1995 — the year the youngest was born.

The show's Tanner family was of the extended variety: a single dad raising his three daughters with the help of a cast of sidekicks, including my daughter's favorite character: a leather-clad biker, bad-boy type named Jesse.

Worlds apart we are indeed — but maybe not so much.

Michele Miller can be reached at (813) 435-7307.

A generation apart, but still yearning for a simpler time 11/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 6:36pm]
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