Funny thing about memories. The ones from our youth become more vivid and important and dear to our hearts while the ones from yesterday and a half hour ago go pfffffffffft into thin air.
What were we talking about? I don’t know, but I remember the smell of the kindergarten finger paint; the first-grade teacher’s perfume; the police whistle the second-grade teacher would blow to shut us up; the third-grade teacher’s cardigan (always over the shoulders and one top button buttoned; rarely with the arms in the sleeves); and the taste of the very first Nutty Buddy ice cream cone I had in the fifth-grade cafetorium.
Until fifth grade, I thought the only ice cream available to school children came in a plastic cup, half vanilla, half chocolate, with the paper lid you pulled off by grabbing the tab. (Licking the ice cream off the back of the lid was a job requirement. Even though there wasn’t much ice cream there; and what was there tasted like the paper lid. And, hey look, half the lid is brown and the other half is white.)
The ice cream had to be eaten with a snowman-shaped tongue depresser that gave me goose bumps every time it scraped against my teeth. The very thought, today, brings the goose bumps back to life.
Leaving the wooden spoon in the mouth too long — sucking the ice cream off of it — made it taste like wet wood. Getting the spoon too wet made it split down the middle. And two wet half-a-spoons were pretty much useless to a kid trying to scrape every last drop of ice cream out of the corners of a round ice cream cup.
Bit of a diversion there, but the sunlight looks warm and the birds are probably chirping on the other side of this office window. And there’s no sense in having an office window if daydreams cannot be cultivated on this side of it.
This, young people with your lives ahead of you, is the important stuff we grownups have to deal with while gathering our thoughts in preparation for another day at the grindstone. Some day, perhaps, you will also have thoughts. And pleasant childhood memories with which to fill them.
Spring does a thing to the sap that, during a cold, impersonal winter, tends to harden in our souls and shut us down.
And by “us” I mean “me.”
The promise of a new growing season reawakens the parts of us that can’t wait to start hibernating at the end of one year and can’t wait to thaw out and return to life at the beginning of the next.
You can tie off your YouTubes, dummy up with your smart phones, stick your joy sticks, and otherwise smother the technological advances that have since smothered what should be celebrated as the gift of childhood.
Give me a warm spring day, a stick, a rock, a creek and another chance to go home again. I’ll spend all day outside and come home in clothes covered in and smelling like the universe of my youth.
I’ll do this any day, every day. Maybe we can’t go home again. But we can wish it so.
Far too many decades ago, play and discovery, for me, were under-appreciated. Taken for granted. Today, with greater frequency, the memory of what I had and how much I frittered its value are taking the time away from the time I spend worrying, working and fending off the stupidity each new day, without fail, brings.
These are the things, technoboys and technogirls, that grownups think about when they’re seated at their desks in their offices. How to solve the next crisis? How to avoid the one after that? What happens if the top dogs don’t cover the bottom line?
This is not what we think about when the sun gradually begins to share more of its warmth, the birds return in full throat, and the office window unfairly separates us from all of it.
There are more important things to think about. And all of them are memories. Like threading a minnow onto a fishing line and the wzzzzzzzzz-click-plunk of flicking that minnow across the pond, off the end of a trusty spinning reel.
Like the day the mailman ran over Tim’s tricycle in the driveway.
Like how the water in the creek can be ice cold — even on the hottest day of the year. And how every time that sip of water — gathered in the shimmering reflection of the 10-year-old daring enough to get thisclose to the water’s edge without accidentally slipping in, face first — was more refreshing than mom’s lemonade.
This, technoboys and technogirls, is what your glassy-eyed parents are thinking about when, mouth slightly agape and ears completely tuned out, it looks like they are contemplating something very grownup important.
They are thinking about something much more important than anything found in life’s grownup world. Nothing holds a candle to the memories upon which that world is balanced, too often precariously.
I hope today’s entitled, with more electronic gadgets hanging off of them than seems practical (or affordable) for people that age, eventually reach this same conclusion. I further hope that when they do, they are looking up at it and not down at their thumbs, which are sure to be flailing away with lightning quickness as the next BFF ROFL(his or her)AO.
What will fill the memories of the next generation’s nostalgic years? Do kids still walk dogs, sip from a babbling brook, bait hooks, skim rocks, jar lightning bugs?
OMG. Are you, like, serious? Bugs? Walk?
I live in a very neighborhoody neighborhood. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy streets. The neighbor dogs are walked twice every day and their poop is carried home for them twice every day and I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I saw a dog walking with a kid at the other end of the leash.
OMG. Are you, like, serious? Poop? Walk?
I do find it ironic that if we old folks didn’t have access to the technology so loved today by the thumbs of the young folks, we wouldn’t all have reconnected with the other old folks we used to know as young folks and be so dripping with the nostalgia that has, from all appearances, engulfed us (or, me).
We’re fortunate, in this best of both worlds, that we can use new gadgetry to travel through time to the faces and names of our pasts, polishing the memories we’ve spent our lives preserving.
Today, Memory Lane is the main street in my perfect world, in my perfect neighborhood. Today and every day, it is crowded with grownup versions of our former selves. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy street.
Just outside this window.