Joe D’Amore says tomorrow will not be like Happy Days. He ought to know. Joe and his family are excellent representatives of a contemporary family, and they don’t look anything like the Cunningham’s. Joe is Italian. His wife of 36 years, Karen, is a red-freckled Irish lass. Their adopted daughter Alex has Mexican heritage, her fiancé Doug is Germanic, and their eighteen-year-old son Christian is a copper-skinned blend of ethnicities.
Joe retired from a successful career as a chemical process engineer, Karen is a speech pathologist still teaching after thirty years. Alex is a video editor, Doug an IT guru, and Christian is attending culinary school, though his true passion is mixed martial arts. They all share the house near downtown Red Bank that Joe and Karen purchased shortly after they were married and have improved ever since. Alex and Doug, who will marry in October, recently bought their own house. The rest of the family will miss them when they move.
Joe swears he will not die in the house he thought would be their starter home. A few years ago he even bought a lot on the water and planned to build their dream house. But ultimately he and Karen sidestepped the deeper debt that accompanies the trading up habit. Their nice though modest house provides them more financial independence than most Americans.
Joe, Karen and I are old friends who have sweet tooth’s in common. Alex, Doug, Karen, Joe and I sat around their sturdy dining room table eating chocolate covered pretzels, nonpareils, cocoanut patties, and taffy and talking about tomorrow. Our divergent points of view were as telling as the commonalities we found in our discussion. Then Christian joined us and spun the question in a completely different way. Perhaps we all had his carefree focus at age eighteen and just lost it along the way.
How will we live tomorrow?
“We will do our best to make ourselves and our loved ones happy.” – Doug
“People are in silos. People are less sociable with our devices.” – Joe
“People need to find more commonalities and not focus on their differences. Our values are the same but their packaged differently.” -Alex
“The terrorism stuff is scary, but we are going to figure that out. When we were young, we had the atomic bomb. We survived that threat.” – Joe
“I don’t feel as hopeful as I did growing up. I don’t think the world is a safer place. I think terrorism will continue. I see us moving towards more violence and more attacks. The result is that I feel less hope for my children than I did at their age.” – Karen
“Every generation has its threats. Ours are not worse than any other.” – Alex
“You have to balance your love and your capabilities. There’s been a lost appreciation and respect for educators. Parents say, “It’s not my kid, my kid does nothing wrong. I’ve been in education thirty years. The onus is on the teachers. Kids are not held responsible.” – Karen
How will we live tomorrow?
“Live like we live every day. You’re one person, you’ve got one life; you’ve got one way to live. If you’ve lived it the way you want, you’ve lived well.
“The world is full of problems. You are just one person. There is no right or wrong way to live your life. Each day is a new day to explore, experience. If I died now I’ve enjoyed the eighteen years I existed. Living tomorrow is living any day just like your last. You don’t think about the little things. Take an ant. You step over it. But it has a system, a way of being organized, of raising new ants. Or a bird’s next. How many places does a mother bird go to gather that nest? You don’t think of an anemone or a starfish or a sponge on a day-to-day basis. We cannot know their lives.
“Tomorrow is like any other day, but thinking about how you live, it’s all about flow. There is life everywhere in everything. It’s too hard to comprehend reality. So you just give up and live it. That’s how you live tomorrow: you live today.” – Christian