Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back Then...

Is there such a thing as a “Mid Mid-Life Semi-Crisis”?  Google’s standard way of dealing with my inquiries proved true again, by responding with a cold, harsh no.  A disappointing answer from them usually makes me say something like, “Fuck off, Google.  You may eventually become the real-world version of Skynet and take over this filthy ball of dirt with killer robots that, oddly enough, have Austrian accents… but you don’t know EVERYTHING!”  Google said nothing back.  It knew I was going to lead the human rebellion, and it was afraid.

I know what you're about to say.  Just pipe down and let me have my moment.

Now the only reason I ended up having that Terminator Nerd moment was because lately I’ve been feeling a certain need in the pit of my stomach.  At that moment I couldn’t figure out the name for it, just a way to describe it, the “Mid Mid-Life Semi-Crisis”.  A term that, from now on, that bitch-ass Google should acknowledge.

Pictured: A Bitch-Ass.

Ever since I hit 27 a few months back, I’ve been cultivating the habit of searching for and acquiring relics from my childhood.  A Superman board game here, a ridiculous amount of baseball cards there, and early 90’s television shows filling in the cracks.  My guess is that I realized the big THREE-OH was coming up quicker than expected and I didn’t want to necessarily feel younger, just simply remember some aspects of my youth.

This led me to Amazon’s search window and the title, The Wonder Years.  I wasn’t expecting much of a result, The Wonder Years had never been put out on DVD.  Rumor had it, the cost of getting the rights to all of those songs they used throughout the series would have been a fortune.  When the results came up, Amazon proved those rumors wrong.  All six seasons were readily available as streaming video, free to Amazon Prime members… like me.  Wait a second…


The first few episodes resurrected memories and feelings that I had long-since forgotten about.  I remembered how life was so simple back in my grade school days.  Summer vacation back then really was a vacation… three months of pure freedom during the best weather of the year.  A kid was able to get out of bed around lunchtime and loaf around the house for a while.  When he felt like it, he would call his friends over to play.  That afternoon, if they felt the need to spread their wings, they could roam wherever they wanted and get into any adventure that may cross their path… just was long as they stayed within the neighborhood and were back in time for dinner.  When he did get back, that evening meal was eaten with the care and pace of a chipmunk on crystal meth.  Plate is clear, dishes are done, kid is out the door, Mom chases after, “Back at 8:30!”, kid whines… but accepts.

However, there is a certainty that every kid comes to loathe about summer vacation.  The fact that it ends, and ends way too quickly.  Every year it would creep up, starting with the hint of a new wardrobe and more responsible sleeping schedule.  Then it would happen, the kiss of death for any kid wanting to stretch his freedom into perpetuality: the trip to buy new school supplies.  With each new notebook or highlighter tossed into the shopping cart, a little piece of summer spirit would slip away.  It was only a matter of time before their dreaded backpack was strapped on and put to use. Though in retrospect, school in the age of adolescence wasn’t bad at all.  There were still daily events like gym class, art class and the soon to be extinct recess period.   In a lot of ways, school was more fun because a kid could do all of that with many more friends than he had while on summer vacation.

Doesn’t seem so bad now that you think about it, eh?

The more one actually thinks about their life back then, the more they realize that everything was fresh, every situation was new.  It was all a beautiful series of firsts.  The first best friend, first fight, first hobby, first hero, first fear, first favorite band, first “cool teacher”, first crush, first kiss and the first broken heart.
However, there is a first that wasn’t nearly as common, the first “true enemy”.   I believe this because in my experience, enemies soon became friends the moment they found common ground.  Children of that age weren’t jaded enough to think of holding a grudge, not to mention they had the attention span of a squirrel.  They lived their lives in the moment, because thinking ahead… never really occurred to them.  The innocence of kids that age (at least back then) rarely involved anything beyond their own personal world.  If they ever encountered anything they’d never seen before, they would react in the most honest way, with wonder and awe.

Sadly for us, things these days are not so full of awe.  We’re stuck with jobs we may not like, bills we sometimes can’t afford, politics we can’t control, relationships that might be a struggle, and a world full of difficulties and stresses we can barely comprehend, let alone influence on our own.  Every moment in our lives, we all have at least a couple of problems that diligently nag us when we get a chance to stop and collect our thoughts.

My collection of thoughts: Chaos with boobs right there in the center.

Though I don’t think it’s really that bad for everyone out there.  Because right now, even as I am writing this, there is a little boy or girl that will wake up tomorrow and have a full day of moments that were only recently experienced for the first time.  They will tie their shoes, grab their backpack, and wait for that school bus to stop at the corner of their street.   Soon that bus will take them to school, where they might learn about Thomas Edison in the morning, the rules of kickball in the afternoon and how to deal with a bully on the ride home.  For some weird reason, I take comfort in knowing that. 

It makes me smile knowing that the kinds of memories I cherish are, at this moment, being created for someone else.  Maybe one day, I might be able to watch my own kid hop on his bike and ride off with his friends to get into trouble on a warm Saturday afternoon. 

But you had better believe, as soon as he’s old enough… I’m going to teach him how to use the lawnmower.  I’ll spend my Sunday mornings reading the paper.  Let him deal with the damn lawn.

It’s been said by many people who lack originality that “You can never go home again.”  I think that’s complete horseshit.  Sure, you may not be able to go back to that driveway you spent so many afternoons playing on, or call your best friend on the phone and ask if he wants to have a sleepover, or ask your dad to teach you how to throw a baseball… but that doesn’t matter.  You’ve already lived those moments, and you can relive them whenever you want.  All you have to do is sit back and do what you used to when you were a kid: daydream. 

Those memories that you made, of both happiness and heartache, are waiting for you.  They have always been there, ready to bring you back home. 

For at least a little while.
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