On the afternoon of my 58th birthday, I found myself in the car with two of my nieces and a nephew, trying to navigate a time warp the size of the Milky Way.
My nephew, Brycen, had purchased a $7 package of official Spider-Man gear that included, among other things, a telescope and a flashlight -- two things I've never known Spidey to use, but it was cheap, and Brycen was happy.
I was absorbed in thoughts of the birthday key lime pie that was waiting for me back home, when I heard Brycen and his older sisters, Dani and Mia, discussing one of the items in the kit, a strange, rectangular plastic box.
The weird device had a knob and a button, and it opened up, but they couldn't figure out what it was. At a stop light, I glanced back and saw the thing that so perplexed them was an instamatic camera, which sold for way more than $7 back in the day and didn't come with a flashlight or a telescope.
I laughed and told them it was a camera.
Insert sound of crickets.
"How does it work?" Mia asked.
You put film in it, I replied, a bit stunned they couldn't recognize a camera. I'd been sticking my digital SLR in their faces since they were born.
"What's film?" came the question from the back seat. And where do you get it?
It was like trying to explain canned cheese to a Martian. I did my best, and they, who live in the middle of a digital universe, were actually intrigued but only to the point where I told them we probably couldn't buy film anymore, and even if we did, we probably couldn't get it developed, and if we did manage to do both, it would take at least an hour to see the pictures, maybe longer.
The encounter left me shaken and with an ominous revelation. A lot of things we grew up with don't exist or have relevance anymore.
I sat down and made a list. In addition to film and instant cameras that weren't so instantaneous, kids today are growing up without:
I'm not so sure any of these things are greatly missed, although I will forever be disappointed by Cracker Jack. I can't tell you the last time I bought a CD or wore a watch. I like having the world in the palm of my hand, as long as it's fully charged.
I'm sure that decades from now, when Mia, Dani and Brycen are driving their children home, they'll have a hard time explaining gasoline and the relative crudeness of the iPhone 6.
Wallowing in the past can make you appreciate the present and anticipate the future, but it also makes you want to jump into a 1964 (and a half) Mustang, cruise the Sonic and remember how cool we thought the world was then.
We should have taken more pictures.
Are there things you're missing too? Send your lists to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1700 Cavallo Road, Antioch 94509, and we'll compare notes.