I have a friend that once admitted that he actually liked those little Hormel “tamales” that come in a can wrapped in greasy paper. You know, of course, they are not really tamales. They’re…well…I’m not sure what they are. But you know what? Whatever they are, they’re not too bad. There, I said it, too. I’ve kept a can in my desk drawer for a while as an emergency backup lunch. I should check the expiration date, probably.

Given the choice, however, between those things and the REAL thing, there’s no contest. The ones from Don Juan’s Cocina are the real thing, and I miss the tamale lady that used to sell from a cooler on the bench in front of Smith’s, they were pretty good, too. And as a matter of fact, I’ve written before about my tamale-making at the kitchen table, and even though I’ve never been very adept at spreading masa dough on a damp corn shuck it’s every bit worth the trouble. And you make ’em the way you like ’em; red, green, hot, hotter, or “I don’t need no taste buds.”

Growing up in the American south, those Hormel canned tamales were regrettably what I thought tamales were, so to speak. That was it. How I ever survived childhood without real tamales I’ll never know.

Heck, I don’t even know how I survived at all. For example, I was reading a recent article about how so-called “helicopter” parents may be overprotecting their kids these days, as opposed to maybe a generation or two back; things like extra safe playground equipment and being overly fearful of accidents and abductions and such. I don’t know if that line of thinking is justified or not, but as a parent, I completely understand, and believe me, I was as watchful as I could be. And yet, some of us remember what it was like growing up in an era of fewer constraints and fears, and wonder if today’s kids have it better, or worse.

To put those times in perspective, that was back when kids were allowed to do things that are unheard of – or at the very least unacceptable – nowadays. For instance, we rode in a car that didn’t come with seatbelts and a child’s car seat was a flimsy thing that hooked over the seatback. Oh, and on long trips, the little ones slept on a quilt laid out in the back of the station wagon.

We did other chancy things like going trick or treating at night without adult supervision and actually ate the popcorn balls and other homemade treats. Kids went out bike riding – sans helmets – for hours without a cell phone to be in touch with parents and in the summer we were sent outside and told not to come in until lunch and then not again until supper, or dark, whichever came first. We played war with slingshots and whittled with pocket knives, and if there was a mishap a little Mercurochrome would fix you up. Luckily the now-banned lawn darts weren’t invented yet.

In gym class, you would get pounded in dodgeball and at recess, there was “red rover-red rover, send (John) over.” For the uninitiated, it involved barreling full speed across the yard trying to break through the linked arms of fellow classmates. Is that still a thing? Too dangerous?

And speaking of school, it wasn’t against the law to carry a pocket knife in your jeans pocket in case you were challenged to a round of mumblety-peg. But at the same time, you would get paddled for transgressions like passing notes or talking back to your teacher. I think I got a whipping once for “dropping” a smaller kid on the teeter-totter. Also at school, we were allowed to play around with (gasp!) mercury and got a little buzz from sniffing fresh handouts from the ditto machine.

Speaking of risky, my parents encouraged me to earn my own money by selling flower seeds and magazine subscriptions door to door all over town. And if the Civil Defense siren went off while you were out doing that, you knew to jump in a ditch and lay face down as adequate shelter from the H-bomb that everyone was expecting; one of the variations of duck and cover, of course.

All that seems weird now. But likewise, it would’ve sounded weird back then if someone said they’d be reading this newspaper from a pocket-sized phone or having an electronic fridge that tells you when you need to go out and stock up on more tamales.

Anyway, if you’re too young to have any idea what I’ve been talking about in the above rambling reminisces, don’t worry, you’ll have your turn in a few years and by that time I’ll have no idea what you are talking about.