A Letter to My Son About the 'Dark Ages'

You know, it’s like an e-mail but written with an ink pen on actual paper.

Letter To Son Dark Ages Illustration Penelope Dullaghan
Dear Son,

I know you are probably busy taking photos of yourself on Snapchat, but let me tell of a time, aeons ago, when life was brutal and children had few of the luxuries you have now.

I came of age in an era when my mother would allow me to walk to school on my own, and I know you are thinking, “What? All by yourself with no supervision?” but yes. That’s how it was. I would trek for half a mile across the vast supercontinent of Pangaea, where we lived, hoping I wouldn’t be attacked by any sabertoothed cats or stumble into a pond of quicksand, which television assured me was a very real danger. I carried no cell phone because they did not yet exist. Do you understand that? If a child of my day were to say, “I’m going to take a picture of _____ with my phone,” it would be akin to saying, “I’m going to vacuum the living room with my stapler.” 

There was no such thing as coconut water. Coconuts were eaten by men on deserted islands. Kale was someone with a Scottish accent yelling the word kill, and upon hearing it we would run in terror to the cottage Pa had built and hide, trembling, behind the woodpile. “Heirloom tomatoes,” if they had existed at all, would have been rotted fruits found in attic trunks; the only lettuce available was iceberg—similar to what sank the Titanic, only with fewer nutrients. 

It was harder to learn things, as the only information available was at the library. Occasionally a world event or a celebrity death would occur, and for minutes—or maybe even hours—we would just not know. Sometimes we would wonder about things (What’s the best way to spear a mammoth? How tall is Will Smith?) and never get a definitive answer. I was lucky to make it to adulthood. 

It was rough, Son. I was raised in a wild and dangerous world, and yet as I take a closer look at the photo you’re about to post online, I realize I’m much more frightened of Snapchat than I ever was of quicksand. 

Godspeed, and may we both make it out of this wilderness alive.

Love,

Mom