Author: Craig Daliessio

Publisher: The Morgan Group

ISBN: 978-0-9845336-6-4

I opened this book a week ago, thinking it might spark my own childhood memories. I am 75. The author is 50. Thus,  I have been reading about my children’s childhood, and with even greater attentiveness than if it were my own. A high school teacher told celebrants at my 20th class reunion (in 1975) that we were the last drug-free class (the last innocent age). Craig Daliessio interprets innocence differently; he paints a much larger canvas of childhood from about age 7, which documents a young life surrounded by a “community watch” that pretty much guaranteed he would survive to write this book. The details are fascinating to me, then one of those stay-at-home moms. I didn’t know about the chances kids took sledding, or rituals they performed to succeed in Little League baseball. So, I suppose, I am the innocent here.

You have to be in the right mood to wade through someone else’s childhood, however intriguing. This author has organized well, giving each chapter a theme. “New Kid on the Block” is his remembrance of waiting on his front lawn for kids across the street to acknowledge him and finally invite him to join their games. Soon there is more serious bonding around baseball (which he credits for making up for a less than perfect family life).

Characters with Character” describes with gratitude the families that included him and everyone in the neighborhood in their celebrations; he appreciates that everyone knew everyone’s business and, more importantly, their needs; they would be there for each other. A professional roofer was never needed within their talented and generous domain. He got to know a friend’s tobacco-chewing grandfather with tattoos, who told wonderful stories; he’d be kept at arm’s length today. This is where sadness creeps in as Daliessio begins to ask what has happened to neighborliness. It is not all about regrets, however. He revives the sensibilities of childhood, e.g., “late summer nights….cottony and warm and the lightning bugs seem like miniature turn-signals flashing through the yards.” His fine-tuned memory evokes the 1970s with laundry on the clotheslines, cars being washed by hand, kids piling into a station wagon for the drive-in movie. He recalls the silhouettes of their dads gathered in someone’s garage at night, listening to the Phillies game on a transistor radio. His was the childhood of paperboys and the Beatles Yellow Submarine lunchboxes. Daliessio lets me believe my children might have fond memories out of small and inexpensive moments: Sunday night, bathtub, jammies, then settling down on the floor to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney.” This was before Disney started sexualizing children, he mentions. I admire him for ending most of his chapters with criticism and regret at what we’ve lost. I am heartened by how wise he is. He’s in the generation in control. Perhaps there’s hope.

The author ends his memoir the way it begins, by moving to a new house. He has chronicled 16 years, and points out that the average length of stay in one place today is 3-5 years, not enough time to love and therefore value your neighbors. In a personal way, Daliessio has described what Robert Putnam documented in his 2000 work, “Bowling Alone,” the decline in membership in civic groups and engagement with neighbors, so important to any democratic society. Among other things, Putnam blames the automobile.

As a mother of three professional planners, I feel obliged to note that cities are trying to bring back engagement and neighborliness by creating new communities with built-in social amenities, notably the urban “villages.” But as an elder, I observe that there have been unintended consequences of Progress that make this nearly impossible. The Pill and women’s “liberation” have harnessed us to materialism; there is no return from two income families, hence there is little family life. Longevity and the Sunbelt separated active grandparents from their grandchildren; we are dealing instead with ageism and fear of aging. Integration and immigration, for all their good, have excited our fear of strangers. Social media have killed discourse. Tragically, illegal and OTC mind-and-body-altering drugs are threatening the effectiveness of future generations.

We need more 50-year-olds who look back and care, then look ahead and act.

Follow Here To Purchase Remembering America: Looking Back at the Last Innocent Age

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