As you graduate from high school and begin a new phase of your life, let's look back at the world you grew up in and the specific cultural context that makes you different, a frame of reference that is uniquely yours.
We'll do this with the help of Beloit College's Mindset List by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, as well as my local observations. So let's look at your life.
You've probably never "rolled down" a car window. Many older folks will have memories of burning hands on a car window handle as they desperately tried to get air into a car sitting in 100-degree heat. Cars still get hot, but today everyone "rolls down" windows with a fingertip.
You can't believe once there was only black and white TV. We once only had a few channels in the Valley, and they all signed off at midnight. In the rural areas, depending on your "rabbit ear" TV antenna, you might get lucky and receive two or three stations. Of course, you had to get up to adjust the antenna for each station but it wasn't a big deal -- an older generation often didn't change channels once they settled into an evening of TV watching. (If you're confused with the term rabbit ear -- rather than talk with your parents, you'll Google to learn more.)
Rush Limbaugh and the "Dittoheads" have always been lambasting liberals. This assumes you listen to AM radio.
"Off the hook" has never had anything to do with a telephone. Once I showed someone of your generation an old rotary phone and instructed him to dial a number. He put a finger in the 5 hole then had no idea of what to do. Hint: You pull the clear circular plastic disk to the right, up to the metal stop. He did so, but then claimed the dial was broken. Nothing happened. I had forgotten to inform him to lift up his finger and the rotary dial would rotate backward with a clicking sound to make the electronic digit "5." "All that just for one digit?" he asked.
Walmart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM. The Valley has always been home to Walmarts. Inexpensive goods and our Valley economy seemed like a perfect fit. We may have more in common with Arkansas (home of the original Walmart) than we think.
Women in Fresno could always occupy powerful positions -- electing a woman sheriff, mayor and district attorney doesn't seem that extraordinary to you. You will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.
You knew Jack Nicholson because he was that old guy on the sidelines at Lakers games. Your Batman Joker was Heath Ledger, not Jack. Another generation will remember a very young Nicholson in "Easy Rider" and later "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest." They might remember him declaring "Here's Johnny" in "The Shining" -- but then you would probably ask, "Who's Johnny?"
You'd never talk about Fresno State playing football games at Ratcliffe Stadium.
Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names. You can't figure out why that is controversial. Making money by adding a name? What could be wrong with that? "Greed is good" is not a movie line -- it's almost patriotic.
You may have never driven on Blackstone Avenue -- certainly not as a main thoroughfare to go downtown. Instead you have come to expect freeways to connect Fresno (or bypass a lot of the city, making thousands of people invisible).
You grew up with bottled water. Most drinking fountains look very old, a relic of the past. You struggle with the notion of segregated drinking fountains, not only because of the racism but the idea of the importance of a shared public drinking water source.
Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil or boxing. The controversy of a naming designation -- such as a Navy cargo ship -- doesn't make sense to you. You don't carry the personal baggage of memory when the name Cesar Chavez is mentioned.
Being "lame" has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled. Language has changed -- in many cases for the better. You can't imagine saying someone is "deaf and dumb."
Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed. Editing blurs the lines between real and fiction. It's all unreal. And we seem to want to watch more than participate.
The space program has never really caught your attention except in disasters. As the space shuttle missions come to an end, you may only pay attention when they mention the catastrophes of the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003. Both exploded and all crew members were lost.
You get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper. In fact, you may have learned more about the United Farm Workers from Stephen Colbert than from the legacy of Cesar Chavez.
You're always texting "1 n other."
Thanks to Facebook and MySpace, autobiography can happen in real time. You now keep online public diaries, for all to see. Does anyone still write in a private, personal journal?
And having your own cell phone is not a luxury, it's a necessity.
Congratulations, class of 2011. This list of memories will make your parents' generation feel old and you young. As it should be.
Award-winning author and organic farmer David Mas Masumoto of Del Rey writes about the San Joaquin Valley and its people. He is author of new book Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land. Send email to him at