Take us back to a specific time or event in your past.
Somewhere out in the vast stratosphere is a room filled with everything I have ever lost. I’m not being poetic about ideals, or loves, or even virginity; I’m speaking to the very mundane pile of physical items lost during my lifetime. Among the piles of gloves, books, and pretty much every piece of good jewelry I’ve ever owned, sits a small, inexpensive item that still haunts my memory.
It was 1964, at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry’s gift shop. I used my own money to purchase this item. It was small, about 1.5 inches square and had a bronze-like finish. I ignored the bracelets and necklaces, even overlooked my favorites, the fossils. What had I bought? Time travel, that’s what. I’d purchased a perpetual calendar. You worked this nifty device by lining up the cube’s sides to the year, month, and day desired; it then displayed the day of week.
I was entranced. The very first thing I did was to look up my birthday in the year 2000. It was a Wednesday and I would turn 46 that year. Forty-six years old! My 9-year old mind boggled at the thought I’d ever reach such an ancient age. My parents, who were the gold standard for age as far as I was concerned, were nowhere near that old. My grandparents were only in their early 50s, and the idea of being closer in age to my grandmother than my mother was staggering.
I stared at this twisty little calendar wondering about that magical, far off year 2000. The 36 years between 1964 and 2000 seemed a lifetime, actually 4 of my 9-year-old life times. I knew the world would be vastly different. Would we be driving cars in the sky, like George Jetson? Certainly, the US would have a colony on the Moon, and most likely be getting ready to send space ships out exploring for other planets. The future world would be exciting and wonderful. Everything bad would be better. Poverty, hatred, disease: all would be eradicated.
In the year 2000 I wanted to be living in a space-age house, wearing stylish clothing that looked something like mod fashions, but more geometric and space-suit like. What would I be doing? The New Frontiers, early 1960’s, post-modern, futuristic viewpoint of popular culture updated houses and cars and clothing, but not women’s roles. I fully expected my future life would be similar to my Mom’s, though of course with more glamour and excitement. I would be a famous actor and a great writer, but more to the point, I would be a married lady with kids and a suburban house, albeit a nifty futuristic house and perhaps a station wagon that could fly.
The future was exciting; what terrified me was the whole idea of how I’d get there. Somewhere, I was sure, existed a list that laid out step-by-step plans to get from my current self to that future self, but I had no idea where it was. I was sure to fail without it, and then instead of the future me wearing a nifty silver mini dress and boots, I’d be more like the scary people sitting on the curb drinking from bottles hidden in paper bags that I saw when we drove through skid row. I knew those people hadn’t found any instructions.
I lost the perpetual calendar at some point, but never forgot that feeling of mingled fear and anticipation regarding the year 2000. When I had my birthday that year I remembered back to that long ago little girl who couldn’t imagine ever being that old.
A lot has changed between 1964 and now. I think the biggest changes are the societal and cultural ones that weren’t even being considered back when I bought that toy. My life has been nothing like my Mother’s was. I’ve worked full time throughout my adult life, not to “help out”, but for the same reason my father worked: to support a family. I’ve worked most of my life in an industry that didn’t even exist back in 1964.
Some things haven’t changed. I still have that same fear about the journey from whatever my current state is to the future. But there’s one thing I’m sure of. I still want that flying car.