Sure, there are advantages to growing up in the 21st century, but I do feel a little sorry for my kids, who will never experience any of the following joys of childhood that I did:
Arcades: Before there was a gaming system in every house and on every phone, there was the local arcade, a magical place where a quarter held your place in line and everyone knew your initials.
UHF: The only good thing about being home sick was unlimited access to this endless supply of black-and-white sitcoms on these channels north of the networks. The bad reception only added to the charm.
A love letter: Texted acronyms don’t hold a candle to a letter reread and refolded hundreds of times and kept in a shoebox somewhere in your teenage bedroom.
A surprise party: It’s absolutely impossible to pull off one of these in the age of Instagram, Facebook, group texts and Find My Friends.
Battle of the Network Stars: Where else could you see Mr. T and Mr. Drummond go head-to-head in an inflatable canoe in a swimming pool? Now that’s reality TV.
Puzzling over the lyrics to a song: Before Google, you had to listen to a song over and over to try to figure out the mumbled lyrics. Arguing with your friends that “I’m a desk, I’m a desk” made more sense than “Amadeus, Amadeus” provided hours of hilarity.
The fat envelope: Most colleges let you know your fate by email nowadays.
ABC Afterschool Specials: While there are many other places to learn about anorexia, teen pregnancy, divorce, illiteracy and drug use, none of them do it with the same cheesy, ’80s poignancy of these made-for-television masterpieces.
Crossing off days on a calendar: My kids have countdowns to their big events loaded onto their phones. I don’t think it gives them the same satisfaction as using a red pen to cross off each interminable day until summer break.
Waiting for your favorite song to play on the radio: In the dark days before YouTube and iTunes, if you didn’t own the cassette tape, you didn’t hear your favorite song unless you happened by it on the radio dial. (If you had lots of time to kill, you might have actually called the radio station and requested it.)
Limited edition glasses at McDonald’s: Remember collecting these and fighting with your sibling over who got to have their Strawberry Quik in the Hamburglar glass?
Schoolhouse Rock: There was no better way to learn your times tables or the preamble of the Constitution (minus the words “of the United States,” which were removed for musical timing and likely responsible for millions of kids losing points on social studies quizzes in the late 1970s).
The way-back of a station wagon: You rolled around like ice in a glass, but where else could you combine a tumbling class with a trip to the supermarket?
The Love Boat: Before Dancing With the Stars, this is where the Hollywood B-listers and has-beens hung out. Meet me on the lido deck!
I think it’s time to put on an oversized Benetton sweater and find a Brady Bunch marathon on TV Land. Maybe I’ll invite the kids to watch with me.