The Best Years of Our Life

January 10, 2017 — Leave a comment

On February 7, 1964, The Beatles landed at JFK Airport, bringing “Beatlemania” to America.

Five hundred and seventy-seven miles away, a recently retired Professor of Rural Education wrote the following letter to his three grown children, who were each married and raising young families of their own:

Dear Children:

Sometimes we wonder about the “Best Years of Our Lives.”

Nearly forty years have passed since your mother and I (long engaged) decided that we had waited “long enough” and it was time to establish a home and a family (God willing). Money was borrowed for a wedding trip and we started for Fourth Lake, August 1924. One of the excursions, while there, by boat and single-gauge R.R., was an all-day trip to Blue Mountain which we reached mid-day. We climbed to the very top of the tower to view that wonderful vista of the North.

No doubt our thoughts turned to wondering about the years that we might have together; the home we might establish; the children we might bring forth into this world; and their future success, as well as our own. World War I had been fought and the world was safe for Democracy. I had been forewarned at Cornell by Old Jimmie Rice of the three great decisions, namely: What to do? Where to Locate? Who to Marry? All three were quite well determined by 1924; the last one was right at hand.

Perhaps, it was well that we did not know, in advance, which years might be the “Golden Years,” or the “Best Years of Our Lives.” In time we needed to look back to realize that they were the years when we were struggling to furnish homes (rented 10 years); to pay for a home; to keep our little family well, happy and comfortable; to give them educational advantages, social advantages, travel and other basic values in life that were so abundant in an educational center like Ithaca.

Still later, the scenes changed and we realized that childhood days had passed or were passing rapidly and that our little “family circle” was not the same.

When did we cease tucking them into beds and announcing “bed time” for all?

When did we read the last bed-time stories from Book House?

When did we have the last Sunday morning romp on the big bed? When did we cease going to church together?

When were the Thanksgiving and Christmas trips to Grandmother’s house over?

When did we cease going to Aunt Irene’s and Aunt Hattie’s house together?

When did we cease our Canadian trips, crossing at Clayton on the ferry?

When was our last family picnic at Flat Rocks or Taughannock Falls?

When did the family cease to enjoy long trips together?

When did the approval of companions become more important than the approval of parents?

Perhaps this is enough to cause you and your life companion to consider the values in life that you are being awarded now in 1964. Please do not think it may be easier in a few years when there are fewer debts, problems and worries, or less work.

Enjoy the “Best Years” of your lives while your little group is a unit and your children think of you as the greatest of all Moms and Dads; whose joint decisions are all important to them.

No doubt, you have heard the story of “Acres of Diamonds,” and how the Pilgrim searched the world over to find them. He finally found them in his own back yard.

Love to all,

Dad

The author was my grandfather, Edwin Ray Hoskins. He sent this letter to his three children: Earl, Angie and Paul. Paul was my father. My uncle Earl died last year and his daughter found this letter among his papers.

I never asked my grandfather what he thought of the Beatles or the Civil Rights movement or the protests of the Vietnam War. He had retired in 1962 and did not experience how these events changed the students that followed behind him at Cornell. Perhaps unfairly, I always thought he was a bit too old fashioned, too conservative and way behind the times.

But, in truth, the advice he shared in 1964 is as valid and important today as it was on that day in 1964 when Pan Am Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow touched down at JFK.

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