laura packardI’ve been thinking a lot these days about the health of our shared Union.

            Especially with all the ugliness that swells up, morphing into something more powerful than ever before heading into election day.

            First to say, I am not a political columnist. I’m a humor columnist, so I will stick to what I know best.

            But I couldn’t help wondering, watching these heated debates with one eye open and an index hovering over the mute button on my tv’s remote, how generational discord about the ways things “should be” is not so unlike politics, itself?

            I feel bad for millennials. I really do. They get a bad rap.

           They can’t even don their $80-dollar Patagonia Fjord Flannel shirt, with 1% for the planet, without a Gen Xer, sporting a pink Peter Millar golf shirt, yelling, “Hey lumberjack, how’s the wood chopping going.”

            Only 30 years ago, a Peter Millar wearer was sporting his own Patagonia flannel shirt, with a Boomer in Jimmy Buffet floral yelling, “Hey homeless grunge guy, how’s the bin digging going at the Salvation Army?”

           I could go on: the greatest generations aversion to long hair, risky investments, and the Rolling Stones.

           Only do not mistake my empathy, for misguided loyalty. My generation, the Gen Xers, were, are, and always will be, the best.

           We could eat two cans of Play-Doh and half a box of crayons and no one would’ve even thought of calling poison control. Pop Tarts weren’t toasted in the morning, spread with Nutella, and topped with wild blueberries plucked individually from woodland bushes trucked straight from Maine while we studied the ABC’s. Ours were left out in the same foiled packaging they came in by the door on the way out, to unwrap, and then eat on the school bus with a thermos of Carnation Milk which meant we got to sleep an extra 45 minutes.

          Don’t forget. Gen Xers brought every single one of us: Duran Duran, DNA, MTV, Windows, Winona Ryder, the Walkman, The Goonies, Camcorders, Scooby Doo, every and all John Hughes movies ever, Email, Beck, dollar egg rolls, giant cookie cakes, Rob Lowe, and Prozac.

          I hear you, though, all you young twenty, thirty-somethings. Millennials can claim the “Holy Grail” …yes, the Smart Phone, not to be confused with the flip phone. But in the words of Monty Python’s own Holy Grail, King of Swamp Castle, “Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue who killed who.” Or the Radio Star. All I am saying is the one possession we cannot be without was birthed through the hunk of junk we Gen Xers owned, that barely operated as a word processor, created by a Baby Boomer named Steve, and called the Apple II E?

         But like anyone else’s time, it’s the moment for the new generation to shine and have a voice. And their voice is real, genuine, deep, all-inclusive, forward thinking, smart, and empathetic. They were raised well. To be independent thinkers and, in recent studies, germaphobes.

         Studies say millennials, all 75,000,00 of them, don’t like to touch raw chicken or any germs, for that matter. Same. I’m not particularly fond of salmonella or throwing up. So, take it or leave it, we are all gifted forever on with the individual wrapped chicken breasts you have to squeeze out in a tube-like form similar to tomato paste and into the frying pan.

          My husband, on the other hand, is having nothing to do with the wrapping and unwrapping of it all – depending on the generational flow to which way your personal wind blows – only mind you, when it comes to one important thing.

          He really, really, REALLY, loves American Cheese. The processed kind… in individual, yellow, sliced squares. Because it’s no longer pretty on a cheese plate, he fears it’s now part of a hostage take-over. Of the cellophaned kind. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoys a nice wine with a pairing of nutty Manchego from Spain that ran on top of a bull and a creamy artisan goat cheese from the Alps that had to cross a few mountains to make. But the Kraft sliced goodness of his youth. He will take that, unwrap it, eat it straight up in his sleep. The combination of texture and experience – the one that marries the perfect crispy grilled cheese with the warm can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup after playing outside in the rain and the mud all day only to be called in for dinner.

           Because it’s what is familiar, a sensory memory. An imprint on the brain.

           It’s certainly different for every individual, but especially generationally. We were taught what our parents were taught, then we sifted through it all and came to our own conclusions. Then we passed those on down the line, to be sifted through again. And again.

           We are each given a precious gift of being able to peel back the layers from what we were unwaveringly taught, unwrap the protective packaging, and figure out fresh what we can bring to make a better future.

           In the midst of it all, we will end up agreeing on how much we like cheese, chocolate, friendship, coffee, love, wine, family, depth, growing, learning, protecting, finding things fascinating and recording it, leaving something better behind, and everything else in-between.

          Maybe that is the meaning all along, of the way things “should be”?