My Once Upon A Time Storybook Life

 

An old haunt of mine still exists in the heart of my lifelong hometown… the house where I had played out the first seven years of my life.

This was “The Place” where I had “busted out” from my barred, “prison” crib… to first crawl… to next stand upright and take my hesitant, initial baby steps… to eventually venture forth from my four walled interior to explore my verdant home turf and environs beyond.

Within this magical sphere was where fun cycled with the four seasons… building wintertime’s snowmen, flying springtime’s kites, igniting summertime’s July 4th sparklers… taking the plunge into autumn’s piles of raked leaves.

My yard had been my happy hunting ground for Four Leaf Clovers… where plucked Dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace became presentable bouquets… where healthy, natural snacks got picked right off of bountiful cherry trees and prolific wild raspberry canes. This was where Robins, Blue Jays, Lady Bugs, Dragonflies, Monarch and Yellow Swallowtail butterflies all shared the same airspace.

In the waning days of this past June, a touch of homesickness had set in… fueled, in part, by how 1961’s and 2017’s days/dates line up perfectly.

On that yesteryear’s Tuesday, June 27th, it had been my family’s Moving Day… the pivotal moment when I had waved good-bye to the epicenter of my young universe to close out a truly glorious chapter of my carefree, once upon a time, storybook life.

On this year’s Tuesday, June 27th, I certainly would’ve welcomed some Sci-Fi type time travel BUT since that’s, purportedly, an impossibility, about the best I could possibly hope for was to play out the past in the theater of my mind… while paying a visit to the present-day version of my childhood stomping grounds.

Knowing that no drive-by could ever suffice, I opted to travel the road home on foot. No sooner did my childhood hood appear in the distance than the rhythmic, muffled sounds of my athletic shoes hitting the concrete began fading out… and my distant memories came flooding in.

Suddenly, I was back in my crib… feeling an open windows’ refreshing breeze… smelling the rainwater and ozone’s fragrance… seeing the lightning flashed walls… hearing a downpour on the rooftop and the sporadic rumbles of thunder mixing in with my Dad’s steady snoring. Perhaps this is a universal experience? It’s sounds just like the celebrated in story and song nursery rhyme, “It’s raining, it’s pouring the old man is snoring.”

I next recalled the countless daybreaks where I’d gleefully scamper down the stairs to switch on our Zenith™ B&W TV (first image in link is the identical model)… to zone out on op-art-esque test patterns and high pitched tones while patiently waiting for the stations to wake up and roll out their weekday children’s programs.

Amongst the affable, laughable personalities setting up shop on these kiddie corners were Johnny Ginger (who presided over the onslaught of Three Stooges shorts) and Soupy Sales (renowned for his pie in the face slapstick, choreographed “Soupy Shuffle” and interactions with puppet pet doggies White Fang and Black Tooth). To chill out, kids could always depend on the far more cerebral, dignified Captain Kangaroo (a.k.a. Bob Keeshan). Courtesy of the Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera animation studios, Saturday morns featured a constant stream of cartoons.

Primetime fare included Ed Sullivan, Lassie, Dennis the Menace and (mythical Mayfield’s) Leave It To Beaver.

TV Afternoons were where the “faster than a speeding bullet… more powerful than a locomotive… able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” Superman flew through the airwaves… where the wisecracking Johnny Carson presided over the quiz show, Who Do You Trust… where music maven Dick Clark emceed the rock ‘n’ roll teen dance show, American Bandstand.

Taking my cue from Mr. Clark, this is where I brought my make-believe, bedroom “radio station” to life… where courtesy of my Zenith™ record player, I began spinning vinyl to blast out an eclectic mix of orchestral waltzes, jazz, rock, pop, ballads and Christmas tunes1.

My musical selections crossfaded, effortlessly, to memories of Christmases past… how, courtesy of Santa Claus’ delivery of Golden Books™, flashcards, View Masters™, teddy bears, toy blocks and train sets, Christmas mornings had lasted all day. Further sweetening our holidays were my stay-at-home Mom’s made from scratch, still warm from the oven, mouthwatering baked goods… e.g., gingerbread men, German Spritzgebäck (spritz) cookies, Slovenian apple potica and sugar / cinnamon doughnuts.

Although childhood illnesses and my tonsillectomy’s post op recovery could hardly be called a fond memory, Mom cheering me up was. She loved to tell me her highly imaginative, original, extemporaneous bedside stories as well as read other authors’ published works aloud (e.g., Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit).

And once nursed back to good health, I was back in action. Like on the day the training wheels first came off my 20” bike. As my skill and confidence grew, I’d find myself furiously pedaling up a rather long, steeply sloped sidewalk and then, on my journey’s downward leg, I’d experienced feelings of liberation and exhilaration while coasting back home at breakneck speed… waiting for the very last possible moment before slamming on the brakes.

Here was where, one wintery dusk, in a childish huff, I had “run away” from home over some trifling matter… but never did make it past the lower driveway. And once the falling snow had cooled me off, my mom convinced me to return to her warm, welcome home embrace.

Here was where the setting summer sun cast my long shadow before me… granting me the illusion that I was as tall as a grown-up… where I first observed and grew to appreciate nighttime’s four lunar phases and timeless starlit skies.

And, on a more serious note, here is where I had first heard the figurative school bell ring… where, after Mom had first taken several snapshots of me, we took a pre noontime stroll from our home to my nearby kindergarten classroom.

But my fondest memory of all was how our home had acted as a playmate magnet. With frequent visits from Johnny, Bonnie, Jimmy, Davy, Kathy and my best friend Danny, my sister and I had plenty of company.

While our playground included swings hanging from elm tree limbs, a slide, sandbox, kiddie car, trikes and bikes… such playthings were sometimes unnecessary… e.g. the day we wound up gleefully laughing our asses off while taking turns rolling down a hillside inside an oversized cardboard box. All anyone needed to let the good times roll was allowing our sky is the limit, fertile imaginations to run wild.

But, alas, eventually, all good things did come to an end. As the days began winding down within this special locale, there was sufficient time for one last blast… I hosted a party… my invited guests helping me celebrate my seventh birthday. There had been plenty of fun, games and pigging out on our banquet of hotdogs, potato chips, Faygo™ rock and rye soda pop, birthday cake and ice cream.

No kid would ever need TV land’s idyllic “Mayfield”… not when each of us could so easily replicate transcend it.

But, alas, eventually, Tuesday afternoon’s time tripping, too, began winding down. But not before I recalled the very last time I’d ever see the inside of our old home. Dad and I had returned just to ensure the hired movers hadn’t forgotten anything. It was well past nightfall and my usual bedtime… but since school was out for the summer, it hadn’t really mattered.

Dad unlocked the back door and, for the next five minutes, we proceeded from one empty echo chambered room to another. How surreal it had felt when we switched off all the lights for the last time and stepped back out into the cool night air. With the sounds of two slamming car doors and an engine roaring back to life, Dad shifted his 1953 Ford Mainline into first gear and down the graveled driveway we rolled.

It was about this time when the rhythmic, muffled sounds of my athletic shoes hitting the concrete “returned” me to 2017… well ALMOST…

I sensed two distinct, June twenty-sevenths, separated by two score and sixteen years… my past as the passenger… my present as the pedestrian were now converging. Both my younger self and I were wending our way up the very same street and were about to leave the old neighborhood.

Mom had so matter-of-factly summed up our moving day in her 1961 journal…

“The move took from 7:15 – 10:30 p.m. 3 hrs. 15 minutes. $30.00. The kids are delighted. Everyone is relieved.”

While I’d agree that, initially, I had been delighted, this giddy state of mind had prevented me from fully appreciating the whole truth. Although there was no way to actually have seen it during Dad’s and my final inspection tour… I really had left something truly irreplaceable behind…

The very best years of my entire life.

 

1Tom’s Top Ten Hit Parade

  1. Johann Strauss ~ Blue Danube Waltz
  2. Billie Anthony ~ This Ole House
  3. Elvis Presley ~ All Shook Up
  4. Bill Haley and His Comets ~ Shake, Rattle and Roll
  5. The Platters ~ Twilight Time
  6. Jimmy Rodgers ~ Secretly
  7. Sheb Wooley ~ Purple People Eater
  8. David Seville ~ Witch Doctor
  9. The Chipmunks ~ The Chipmunk Song
  10. Jesse Crawford ~ Jingle Bells

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

 

Two days ago, I read and viewed a WordPress essay where the blogger had been unduly critical in evaluating some accompanying self-portrait photographs.

True, I could’ve used the blog comment section to express how this wonderfully talented writer’s excessively harsh critique had profoundly saddened me… BUT

  1. My reaction could’ve easily been dismissed (e.g., “Oh, he’s just being nice”).
  2. Within this massive social network, comments do tend to get buried even faster than the blogs, themselves.
  3. I felt that such commentary, in my own blog venue, might be better received.
  4. Because nearly everyone (inclusive of yours truly), at some point in our lives, has been hypercritical re our own physical appearance, I deemed this matter worthy of presentation to the entire WordPress blogging community… i.e., in hopes that we might get a long overdue discussion going?

Working towards that goal…

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with us trying to look our best, we must never succumb to embracing the entertainment industry’s narrow parameters of beauty. We must never accept how their odious, meat market mindset negatively impacts humankind… targets and objectifies females far more frequently than males.

Merriam-Webster defines “meat market” thusly…

A depersonalizing environment in which people are treated as sexual or economic resources.

Oh, btw, the first known use of this expression dates back to 1896, which just goes to show us how warped and deeply entrenched this devaluation of human beings is. And to be sure, here, this dates back to the dawn of humankind!

I’d love to believe that we could blame this sorry state of affairs on our genes… i.e., the forces of nature have programmed us into being beauty biased just to ensure that only “attractive”, “desirable” traits will breed true… BUT

How could such mindlessness ever take into account how pretty faces do not automatically ensure pretty minds lurk directly behind them? To be sure, here, possessing / being possessed by “Hollywood good looks” is rarely, if ever, a prerequisite for thinking attractive, desirable thoughts.

Furthermore, do not ugly thoughts also breed true?

Hell… for that answer, we need look no further than the entertainment industry’s corporate big shots who’ve been needlessly instilling inferiority complexes amongst the masses.

AND THAT’S NOT ENTERTAINMENT!!!

I welcome your comments.

Dormant Seeds? Unpromising Soil?

Over fifty Junes ago, my parents, sister and I wound up moving into a 30-year mortgaged, freshly constructed, three-bedroom ranch and went on to transform it into our home.

For our folks, that momentous occasion had been nothing short of a financial miracle considering the paltry income of public school teachers of that early sixties era AND how The Great Depression of 1929 had put both of their lives and livelihoods on hold… had caused them to meet, marry and get into the baby making biz quite late in life. How late?

Well… by the time I had graduated from college, my Mom and Dad were both in their early sixties and in the early phases of failing health.

It was my heartfelt, undying love and gratitude for all they’d done for me, which had motivated me to put my own life on hold… to not only accept but also embrace the intergenerational, caregiver role-reversal.

In the end, I wound up inheriting my boyhood home. That’s where I’ve been “hanging my hat”, ever since the age of seven. I am so deeply rooted here I literally know my microcosm right down to the flowerbeds… i.e., where my Mom, who’d been an avid horticulturalist, had planted her flowers.

And that’s where today’s story actually begins…

Our My home’s roof has an overhang, which oft prevents the rains from adequately reaching every flower. Even the shortest such drought is apt to result in deadly consequences. And that’s precisely what had happened.

While I’d been busily tending to other higher priority matters in my life, I had neglected to water Mom’s prized, purple Irises. Five years ago, their blooms and foliage had all but vanished off the face of the earth… or so I had thought…

Just mere months ago, while tending to her precious daffodils, out of the corner of my eye, I had spotted something green. Several double takes rapidly confirmed the “impossible”. One tiny, fragile Iris leaf was poking through the soil… desperately seeking out the warmth of the early spring sunlight. I immediately redirected my sprinkling can’s nozzle and, ever since, this plant has been the recipient of my intensive care.

In the past several weeks, several dozen more leaves have appeared, as well. While I’m unsure, yet, if this resurrected Iris has regained sufficient strength to bloom this growing season, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

I cannot help but walk away from this experience without considering the more significant, symbolic message here…

My Mom’s Iris is living proof of Marcus Tullius Cicero’s timeless wisdom…

“While there’s life there’s hope.”

To dig a bit deeper…

In view of America’s January 2017, horrific, deplorable, corrupt power shift… we can only hope that the imperiled seeds of human decency can weather and survive the present-day drought of intellect and morality, which is presently overhanging DC… one that poses a serious threat to noble ideas and ideals such as brotherhood, civility, empathy, philanthropy, honesty, transparency, ethics, liberty and justice for ALL.

In light of both my Mom’s rejuvenated Iris AND of how the authors of truly great literature are oft advocates of the above listed inventory of virtues, this brings to mind the late author Carl Sagan’s wisdom. His analogy has never been more relevant…

“Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.”

Will there be a sufficient number of folks, who still give a damn, to counteract the drought. If so, it’ll be up to us to fill the sprinkling cans… to ensure we redirect their spouts at all the hard to reach places… and then?

We’ll hope with all our hearts that it won’t take centuries for the precious seeds to bloom anew.

 

 

Channeling Crusoe and Watney

 

 

After reading a thought provoking, wonderfully written WordPress essay about our modern, materialistic, currency dependent society (authored by a blogger who I follow and who follows me), I soon realized that we have only ourselves to blame for this state of economic affairs … no strike that… woes.

From my POV, this has occurred because, with each passing generation, we’ve lost our ability to be genuinely rugged, self-sufficient entities. In short… we’ve wimped out!

SPOILER ALERT: For anyone who may’ve not read Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” and/or Andy Weir’s “The Martian” / viewed films based on either of these literary works… skip the following paragraph.

Well, I had barely returned to my own website when my mind went into a free-association mode… soon recalling one of my fave, fictional literary works, namely, “Robinson Crusoe”… how the castaway protagonist had eventually wound up successfully conquering a slew of initially insurmountable obstacles, perhaps too well, for, as it turned out, even his remote, tropical island was not immune to excessive progress. I also quickly considered the film, “The Martian” where stranded astronaut-turned-potato-farmer Mark Watney triumphantly faced down the prospects of an even tougher road planet to hoe… as it were.

Well, it was at that juncture that I ear-witnessed my audible long sigh… and began time tripping to the past to create my own fantasyland… Pollyanna-ishly and loosly basing that setting on the birth of a nation… i.e., the nation of my birth.

I found myself envious of my centuries ago compatriots, who had braved the Atlantic Ocean to emigrate, tame and settle our homeland. Imagine how, soon after arriving, they began freely staking out the territory of their own choosing… possessed all the required logging and carpentry skills to build cabins… the hunting / gathering / farming knowhow to live off the land… the hunting / weaving / sewing expertise to produce all the clothes on their backs (the nearby, babbling brooks becoming their washing machines / the wind whistling through the tree branches their clothes dryers)… the range of their long distance “calls” to their neighbors limited to how loudly they could yell.

And then, as each long day’s worth of labors began winding down, all would be stretching, yawning and kicking back to, perhaps, play flutes so skillfully crafted from hollow branches… while watching the orange and red hued, setting sun yielding to the blue, purplish twilight skies… observing all of those shining, sparkling celestial wonders gradually coming into view. The rising, silvery Moon acting as their natural nightlight and the far off, connect-the-dots flickers of light becoming their motion pictures… those images supported by the non-Hollywood, literal, true star power of the universe.

It all sounds so idyllic does it not? Of course, my story does fail to take into account the downside of human nature… i.e., our propensity to provoke needless wars. Indeed, these settlers squatters had ripped off and pissed off the actual property owners… Native Americans. Another long sigh as I lament… could they have not found a way to peacefully co-exist?

Well… I guess I had better hurry to end this in the here and now… lest I get ensnared in my usual literary / blogging trap… start straying into the reality of society’s negative territory.

Oh well… fantasyland was fun while it lasted.

 

Six (or less) Degrees of Separation

To brag in a blog? Ugh, that’s neither my style nor intent. I only risk being perceived that way to illustrate my point. That duly noted, let’s get this blog rollin’.

I’ve recently reached that contemplative stage in my life… i.e., have become keenly aware that the temporal road behind me is far longer than what lays ahead.

Lately, my mood can best be described as that “feeling of insignificance in our universe”. Well… that is until this morning when I clicked onto a thought provoking post authored by a talented, WordPress writer, whom I follow and who follows me.

To summarize her blog, she spoke of the Six Degrees of Separation… how, this past November, she had become (justifiably) thrilled by the realization she’d just met a person who had met rock ‘n’ roll legend, Paul McCartney… i.e., she’s One Degree of Separation from having met Sir Paul.

Had she blogged further on this subject, I’m certain she’d have also mentioned that, via Two, Three (and more) Degrees of Separation, she has also met the thousands of musicians and celebrities who McCartney has met ever since his early Beatles days.

This got me to thinking. Could lil’ ol’ lowly me ever make a similar claim?

Turns out I can. Eighteen long springs ago, after I had mailed a sample of my humorous writing to the NYC based, CBS TV program, Late Show with David Letterman… I wound up conversing with one of that talk show’s writers (he had actually phoned me). That means there’s One Degree of Separation from my having met Letterman… and Two Degrees of Separation from my having met the nearly 20,000 celebs and musicians who had appeared on Dave’s show during his 33 year long reign as Late Night / Late Show host.

And since 1 of Letterman’s 20,000 guests was Paul McCartney… well… this means I’ve also met my new blogging friend, whom I cannot thank enough.1 She helped remind me that, indirectly, humankind is all interconnected. Even though the saying, “What a small world” does come to mind, we are all still part of something much bigger and that does help me put my “feeling of insignificance” into a more proper perspective.

 

1Five Degrees of Separation… if I’ve calculated correctly.

 

 

Toddler Trains a Target Cashier

Ms. Brandi Benner of Clover, South Carolina recently took her two-year-old daughter, Sophia, shopping at a nearby Target store. Mom’s goal was to reward her girl for successfully completing the potty training stage in her young life. Together, they spent twenty minutes checking out all of the dolls on display.

Sophia, who already aspires to be a physician, felt an immediate bond to a female doll wearing a stethoscope and doctor’s white lab coat.

At that point, it should’ve been a simple matter of heading for the check out lane to pay, right? Well, that’s not what happened.

Check out the following conversation that took place, instead…

Cashier: “Are you sure that this is the doll you want, honey?”

Sophia: “Yes please!”

Cashier: “But she doesn’t look like you. We have plenty of dolls that look like you.”

At that point Sophia’s mother was about to chime in to end this cashier’s thinly veiled racist remarks… halt this commentary, which was (and is) totally unacceptable, uncalled for and unwelcome.

But, as it turned out, Sophia was fully capable of taking care of herself. Picking up where we left off…

Cashier: “But she doesn’t look like you. We have plenty of dolls that look like you.”

Sophia: “Yes she does. She’s a doctor — I’m a doctor! And she’s a pretty girl and I’m a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”

For raising her daughter superbly, Ms. Benner has much to be proud of. Sophia not only is brilliant, well mannered, open-minded and loving, but also possesses a steadfast, positive self-image and displays the assertiveness of a feminist who knows she can choose whatever career path she sets her mind on.

Our world needs millions more just like Sophia!