Recently – and with as little fanfare as possible, thank you very much – I observed the 49th anniversary of my arrival in this world. I say “observed” rather than “celebrate” because... well, because I’ve reached a point in my life in which the latter term seems ever so slightly less appropriate. At least it does to me. At the moment. If I make it another 10 to 20 years I suspect I’ll go back to celebrating because, let’s face it, making it that far is something a little more worth bragging about. At least I hope it will be. Check back with me in another 10 to 20 years...
To be honest I probably wouldn’t even pay much attention to my birthday at all anymore if it weren’t for my oldest son. As I’ve mentioned in this space previously, Joshua and I both share the same birthday – a happy accident, I assure you, because as my wife and parents can attest I was NEVER that good at math. Josh turned 21 this year – a full-fledged adult now, though some might not believe it if they were to see him sitting on the floor working on his latest Lego project.
It’s a trait he and his younger brother Will both inherited from me, and which I inherited from my own father - who, just months away from his 74th birthday, is still the biggest kid I know. People may think it odd but we don’t care; there are worse things in life than being an adult who still enjoys playing with Legos or buying Hot Wheels cars or wearing the occasional necktie adorned with some comic strip or movie character, like the King Kong tie I wore to the Oklahoma Press Association awards banquet last week.
One thing my father taught me a long time ago is that there are people in this world who Get It and those who Do Not. Those who cast funny looks in our direction when we buy a new Lego set or show up at a special event wearing a King Kong, Star Wars or Snoopy tie fall squarely in the category of those who Do Not. And as far as I’m concerned their lives are all the poorer for it.
I’m not sure when the big transition occurred, but I’ve noticed something on my journey to the One Year Shy of the Half-Century Mark. Somewhere along the way birthdays stopped being a time for looking ahead to the future and became instead a day for looking back at the past. It’s a natural part of the aging process, I suppose, and yet I can’t help feeling a little depressed about it. I remember watching episodes of This Is Your Life with my parents when I was young and wondering, “What on earth are these people smiling about? They're being treated as if their life is over! Don’t they have anything left to look forward to?”
I believe I do. I’ve had some grand times, to be sure, but I like to think I have more grand times still awaiting me in the future. I have places I still want to travel to, goals I’m still looking forward to accomplishing, stories I still plan to write, adventures I still hope to share with my family, and a garage that still needs cleaning.
So with all these road signs still on the road ahead of me, why do I seem to spend so much of my time lately looking in the rear view mirror? Part of it, I’m sure, is a longing for a simpler time in life. For a time when TV shows didn’t have to be censored by your parents and comic books were still relatively innocent escapism and Saturdays were an oasis of cartoons that may have been silly but were a lot more fun than the drek they show nowadays. For a time when my mother could send me down to Kaveney’s with a dollar bill and it was enough for me to buy a couple of comic books and a big bottle of Grapette and still have enough for a pretty good sized bag of penny candy besides.
Nowadays you can’t buy a single comic book for less than about $5. Grapette is part of Wal-Mart’s “Sam’s Choice” line now and it just does NOT taste the same as it did back then, I don't care what they say. And just TRY explaining the concept of penny candy to a teenage convenience store cashier these days and see what kind of a look you get...
Of course, another thing that seems to develop as we grow older is the ability to look back at those younger days and not remember so much of the bad that went along with the good. Those trips down the street to Kaveney’s often involved some creative navigating through people’s yards to avoid a couple of older kids who bullied me at school. Whenever Mom was the one buying us comic books, it was all too often Baby Huey and Richie Rich instead of Batman and Superman. And the same people who gave us Saturday morning classics like Space Ghost and Jonny Quest were also responsible for such drivel as Inch High, Private Eye and (ugh!) The Smurfs...
I suppose the day will come when my sons look back at the days of $5 comic books with as much nostalgia as I recall those I bought for 20 cents each and my dad remembers the 10-cent variety. As for me, I like to think that some of my best days might still be in front of me after all.
So pardon me while I get on with it...
(Copyright © 2012, by John A. Small)
In : Reminiscence
Tags: memories pop culture