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

A Parable

Once upon a time, there lived a brash, young Robin, who lived to assert his territorial dominance. That innate disposition was put to the test one sunny, mild, spring morning. As he perched on a budding lilac branch, swaying in the gentle breeze, he happened to notice another robin, also sitting on a nearby, budding lilac branch.

Flapping his wings and speaking in (what else?) fluent robin, he angrily tweeted, “How dare you invade my territory!” But the other bird simply appeared to silently mock his threatening gestures; in no other way did he respond to his scolding. So fueled by his aggression, Robin swooped in to make “the kill” never once noticing how he was attacking his own reflection in a garage windowpane.

In an attempt to end the bitter hostility, a Human came rushing out of his house, arms waving in the air. The Robin flew away, albeit, his retreat only momentary. As soon as the Human went back inside, the fierce battle of the birds, mind you, one real, one phantom, resumed; and then raged on and on for many, many days to follow.

In dismay, the Human watched further. He took no joy in witnessing this senseless war. Being a proponent of non-violence, he did not even want to see this Robin harmed or dead. No, the knee-jerk military style reaction of whipping out a firearm and blowing this bird’s head off, was NOT an option. Nor was the do nothing approach, for that would either result in that combative bird knocking himself out, or doing even greater bodily injury, should that windowpane shatter.

The Human, shaking his head glumly side to side, now drew parallels to this own species. Was not territoriality what fueled acrimonious wars throughout the pathetic history of the human race? Was not that Robin now facing the same horrors of war, namely, pointless destruction, injury and death?

And even more disturbing a thought; had not that Robin gone to war based on totally flawed reasoning? After all, there was no real enemy robin, ergo, there was no real threat to this Robin’s territory, in the first place.

With the wisdom of an astute diplomat, the Human, once again, ventured forth into the great outdoors, this time with a hammer in one hand, a large burlap bag draped over his arm and six golden nails in his shirt pocket. As soon as he held the thick brown fabric in place to cover the garage window and then nailed it up securely, the phantom robin was banished from the neighborhood, peace returned and everyone lived happily ever after.

The moral to this story is twofold:

Brains not brawn make for a lasting Peace!

And…

Always look carefully before you rush to war… you might just be your own worst enemy!

 

I originally blogged “A Parable” on MySpace… posting date: Tuesday, September 12, 2006. On this day, I only applied a light coat of polish… so what you just read is 99 percent verbatim to what had hit the www… so long ago.

My motivation for writing this story had been twofold.

1. As a young boy I had actually watched a robin repeatedly attacking the window of my family’s garage.

2. Birdbrain George W. Bush’s similar behavior. He, too, had needlessly, pointlessly gone to war (with Iraq)… his basis for doing so based on the illusion / delusion of that nation possessing WMD / being a threat to America.

The MSM had a golden opportunity to nail in that “burlap fabric” to cover (or is that uncover?) W’s illusion / delusion… well… i.e., had the Fourth Estate been a team of real, investigative journalists properly doing their  homework.

So… how relevant to today’s world is a nearly ten-year-old blog?

Well… as far as priorities go… keeping the peace still bottoms out the list of today’s crop of crappy, scrappy GOP POTUS candidates… the Middle East continues to reel and spin out of control from the devastation from  W’s destabilizing Iraq war… Republican Senators and Representatives / Supreme Court Judges have learned nothing… I repeat… NOTHING… from their law-breaking / unruly ways and… via their roadblocks to progress… continue to preserve, protect and defend W’s failed policies… NOT the U.S. Constitution. AND… last but not least… the MSM is still not doing its job to educate Americans of this monumentally sorry state of affairs.

As proof… well… if Americans were being properly clued in… a birdbrain such as Donald Trump (a human/robin hybrid sporting Trump’s head and tweeting wildly… on Twitter?) would’ve been laughed off the stage… no… strike that… would’ve been booed off the stage long ago… and those dissenting voices would’ve been singing out… in full harmony… in our bipartisan chorus.

I did come up with a third, updated moral to “A Parable”:

Don’t be a birdbrain by voting for birdbrain Republicans.