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by Bryant Adkins
published in The Reflector
January 20, 1995
I am a child of the eighties. That is what I prefer to be called. The nineties can do without me. Grunge isn't here to stay, fashion is fickle and "Generation X" is a myth created by some over-40 writer trying to figure out why people wear flannel in the summer. When I got home from school, I played with my Atari 2600. I spent hours playing Pitfall or Combat or Breakout or Dodge'em Cars or Frogger. I never did beat Asteroids. Then I watched "Scooby Doo." Daphne was a Goddess, and I thought Shaggy was smoking something synthetic in the back of their psychedelic van. I hated Scrappy.
I would sleep over at friends' houses on the weekends. We played army with G.I. Joe figures, and I set up galactic wars between Autobots and Decepticons. We stayed up half the night throwing marshmallows and Velveeta at one another. We never beat the Rubik's Cube.
I got up on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. to watch bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons like "The Snorks," "Jabberjaw," "Captain Caveman," and "Space Ghost." In between I would watch "School House Rock." ("Conjunction junction, what's your function?")
On weeknights Daisy Duke was my future wife. I was going to own the General Lee and shoot dynamite arrows out the back. Why did they weld the doors shut? At the movies the Nerds got Revenge on the Alpha Betas by teaming up with the Omega Mus. I watched Indiana Jones save the Ark of the Covenant, and wondered what Yoda meant when he said, "No, there is another."
Ronald Reagan was cool. Gorbachev was the guy who built a McDonalds in Moscow. My family took summer vacations to the Gulf of Mexico and collected "Muppet Movie" glasses along the way. (We had the whole set.) My brother and I fought in the back seat. At the hotel we found creative uses for Connect Four pieces like throwing them in that big air conditioning unit.
I listened to John COUGAR Mellencamp sing about Little Pink Houses for Jack and Diane. I was bewildered by Boy George and the colors of his dreams, red, gold, and green. MTV played videos. Nickelodeon played "You Can't Do That on Television" and "Dangermouse." Cor! HBO showed Mike Tyson pummel everybody except Robin Givens, the bad actress from "Head of the Class" who took all Mike's cashflow.
I drank Dr. Pepper. "I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?" Shasta was for losers. TAB was a laboratory accident. Capri Sun was a social statement. Orange juice wasn't just for breakfast anymore, and bacon had to move over for something meatier.
My mom put a thousand Little Debbie Snack Cakes in my Charlie Brown lunch box, and filled my Snoopy Thermos with grape Kool-Aid. I would never eat the snack cakes, though. Did anyone? I got two thousand cheese and cracker snack packs, and I ate those.
I went to school and had recess. I went to the same classes everyday. Some weird guy from the eighth grade always won the science fair with the working hydro-electric plant that leaked on my project about music and plants. They just loved Beethoven.
Field day was bigger than Christmas, but it always managed to rain just enough to make everybody miserable before they fell over in the three-legged race. Where did all those panty hose come from? "Deck the Halls with Gasoline, fa la la la la la la la la," was just a song. Burping was cool. Rubber band fights were cooler. A substitute teacher was a baby sitter/marked woman. Nobody deserved that.
I went to Cub Scouts. I got my arrow-of-light, but never managed to win the Pinewood Derby. I got almost every skill award but don't remember ever doing anything.
The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.
Did a teacher come in and tell your class?
Half of your friends' parents got divorced.
People did not just say no to drugs.
AIDS started, but you knew more people who had a grandparent die from cancer.
Somebody in your school died before they graduated.
When you put all this stuff together, you have my childhood. If this
stuff sounds familiar, then I bet you are one, too.
We are children of the eighties. That is what I prefer "they" call it.
Here is something along the same lines, the source is not known to me.
We are the children of the Eighties. We are not the first "Lost generation" no today's lost generation; in fact, we know just where we stand - or are discovering it as we speak.
We were the ones who played with Lego Building Blocks when they were just building blocks and gave Malibu Barbie crewcuts with safety scissors that never really cut.
We collected Garbage Pail Kids and Cabbage Patch Kids and My Little Ponies and Hot Wheels and He-man action figures and thought She-ra looked just a little bit Like I would when I was a woman. Big Wheels and bicycles with streamers were the way to go, and sidewalk chalk was all you needed to build a city.
Imagination was key. It made the Ewok Treehouse big enough for you to be Luke and the kitchen table and an old sheet dark enough to be a tent in the forest. Your world was the backyard and it was all you needed. With your pink portable tape player, Debbie Gibson sang back up to you and everyone wanted a skirt like the Material Girl and a glove like Michael Jackson. Today, we are the ones who sing along with Bruce Springsteen and the Bangles perfectly and have no idea why.
We recite lines with the Ghostbusters and still look to the Goonies for great adventure. We flip through TV stations and stop at The A Team and Knight Rider and Fame and laugh with the Cosby Show and Family Ties and Punky Brewster and what you talkin' 'bout Willis? We hold strong affections for the Muppets and The Gummy Bears and why did they take the Smurfs off the air?
After school specials were only about cigarettes and steo-families, the Pokka Dot Door was nothing like Barney, and aren't the Power Rangers just Voltron reincarnated? We are the ones who still read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, Richard Scary and the Electric Company (the bloodhound gang?).
Friendship bracelets were ties you couldn't brake and friendship pins went on shoes - preferably hightop Velcro Reeboks - and pegged jeans were in, as were Units belts and layered socks and jean jackets and Jams and charm necklaces and side pony tails and just tails. Rave was a girls best friend; braces with colored rubberbands made you cool.
The backdoor was always open and Mom serves only red Kool-aid to the neighborhood kids - never drank New Coke. Entertainment was cheap and lasted for hours. All you needed to be a princess was high heels and an apron; the Sit'n Spin always made you dizzy but never made you stop. Pogoballs were dangerous weapons and Chinese Jump Ropes never failed to trip someone. In your Underiis you were Wonder Woman or Spider man or R2D2 and in you treehouse you were king.
In the Eighties, nothing was wrong. Did you know the president was shot? Star Wars was not only a movie. Did you ever play in a bomb shelter? Did you see the Challenger explode or feed a homeless man? We forgot Vietnam and watched Tienemann's Square on CNN and bought pieces of the Berlin Wall at the store. AIDS was not the number one killer in the United States. We didn't start the fire, Billy Joel.
In the Eighties, we redefined the American Dream, and those years defined us. We are the generation in between strife and facing strife and not turning our backs. The Eighties may have made us idealistic, but it's the idealism that will push us and be passed on to our children - the first children of the 21st century. Never forget: We are the children of the Eighties.
Updated: March 29h, 1997