When I was young, we lived in a small west Texas town that received 2 1/2 TV channels. We got CBS (Channel 13), NBC (Channel 11) and sometimes we could receive ABC (Channel 28.) To get good reception, my dad had to go outside and use a pipewrench to turn the antenna the right direction to get a better signal. In addition to the school library, we had a bookmobile, a panel van that occasionally came to town with books that could be checked out. You could say we lived out in the boonies.
Last week I went online to The Mustard Museum and ordered three jars of Plochman's Chili Dog-flavored mustard. They arrived yesterday, and upon tasting, the mustard does indeed taste like chili. We had hot dogs for supper last night, and it was like eating chili dogs.
I asked around, and chili-flavored mustard is not available locally, even at Market Street. Forty years ago my family would not know about such things. If you wanted mustard, you got mustard; there were no flavors or varieties, only what was available at the local grocery store.
Now when I need to find something I look online before I look anywhere else. The world has exploded into view for me. I'm reminded of Robin Williams' character in Moscow on the Hudson. A Russian refugee, he wanders into a grocery store and is so overwhelmed by the variety of products available that he passes out.
While I'm not quite that overwhelmed, I am aware enough to realize that I have lived in a transitional era. Like Henry Adams, I often find myself unprepared for the scope of the changes that have occurred and continue to occur. Like Adams, I have had to continually educate and re-educate myself in order to cope and take advantage of what the brave new world has to offer.
It doesn't take a lot of self-awareness to realize that my parents -- who didn't have indoor plumbing until they were nearly adults -- lived a different life from my children, who have never "dialed" a phone. My job is to ensure that my children realize that there is a connection between the generations.
And so we sit back and eat our chili-flavored mustard dogs, and I explain to my kids what a test pattern used to look like on a black-and-white TV.