Unpopular opinion: anybody who wishes they could go back and relive their youth probably has a bad memory.
It sounds like a good idea unless you think it through. But I swear I haven’t forgotten everything. I’m not too sentimental about my childhood or youth in general because I remember. Reliving some of the stupid things I said out loud where other humans could hear it… ([Low lights, music starting] Me, talking to a girl: Do you want to dance? Girl beside her: this is a roller rink.) I could break out in a sweat just thinking about it.
Yeah, being young just the one time is the best plan. I’m grateful I don’t have to groundhog-day my way back through all of my greatest hits of failure. I’m not even gonna think about it.
(Okay, well, this one: I remember a 7th-grade flute player’s disgusted look when I helpfully told the band director that the two flats in the song’s key signature were B♭ and E♭. “Uhh–that’s what they usually are,” the smarter-than-me flute player said, sneering and eye-rolling like a pro. Derp.) (Honest, I did not know that rule.)
(Oh, wait–how about 6th grade, Sue Vranish coming up to me to call me faggot–such a faggot, I think–on the playground. I never even talked to her. Like, ever. Her summary judgment was offered up unsolicited, free of charge. She felt that strongly.)
Okay, that’s plenty. Done.
(Oh, yeah! One more. Ice ball to the face at school. That was excellent! Black eye. Whole side of the head, really. Never knew who threw it. It stang.)
(Last one–age 17, snowy day, skidding into the ditch driving to work at McDonald’s. Getting pulled out by some dude with a winch–thanks, man!–now late, going the wrong way, trying to turn around in a random driveway, getting stuck in the snow again. What?! True story.)
My first school party…
No. Enough. Tip of the iceberg, anyway. Erase, erase…
There were some good times, though. Right? Remember no aches in your joints? I do. Running anytime you wanted? That was awesome.
All the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you want–and still skinny.
Saturday morning cartoons.
The best memories, though, come out of summer. The moments most like the sun cutting through the clouds, most like true peace, most like me living my best life, are summer days, reading stacks of comic books, doing almost nothing. No school work; no any work, just then; no judgments, no foot-in-mouth, no awkward interactions, no self-recriminations. Just chilling.
I had a moment like that recently, a peaceful, calm moment, and my brain flashed back to lying on my bed reading comics on a summer day, with older brothers doing the same. Stacks of Richie Rich and Hot Stuff and superheroes and Kid Colt. Especially the new comics that Jeff Schwab gave us cuz he had so many of them–that was like treasure.
Same days–Steve and I, riding our bikes to Al and Margies corner store to get candy. (Or riding bike–the tandem bike. Weighed more than I did.) Mom made us go the long way to avoid the busy road–almost 3 miles each way instead of just 1–but it was fine. We’d get 30 cents or 50 cents-worth of candy, each of us, carrying it (the long way home) in little brown bags, trying to hold onto them and the handlebars.
I’d start with a piece of Beich’s taffy, stuffing the whole thing in my mouth. The label said, “Say ‘Bikes!'” and I thought it was a joke because you couldn’t say it with all that taffy in your mouth. It was only years later that I realized it was a pronunciation guide, not a prank.
Maybe Jeff and I’d go play catch for awhile by the barn. (Remember when shoulders didn’t hurt? Bonus.) Strange thing about those days–you wanted to put the baseball there and it’d go there. Think it, make it happen. Or we’d all play basketball at the end of the driveway. In the uneven dirt.
Dribbling was harder back then, come to think of it.
Then we’d go back inside and drink some Wyler’s lemonade and read more comic books. Stay up late to watch Johnny Carson, almost every night, because no school! Go to bed late and sleep with the fan aimed at you, holding the sheet up to catch the air.
Yeah, we had chores. Animals to feed. Grass to cut. Paint the house, maybe, or dig it up and tar the basement. (That was a fun job.) Muck out a stall, sometimes. A few things to do, sure. Take turns with dishes and dinner. Mornings, maybe, we had to pull weeds in the garden. End of the summer, we had to spend a day or two getting hay up in the mow.
But lots and lots of days, and lots of hours, were just spent relaxing. The least pressure, the least anxiety, the most peace, of any point in my life.
I don’t want to be a kid again. I don’t want to go back and live through college or the studio apartment poverty times of our 20s. But upon reflection–which I don’t advise anyone do too much–some of those moments were pretty good. For reals. Some of them stay with you.
Some of those moments, if you’re lucky, can be a sort of well you can dip into, where you can draw up the clear water of happy times, of an easy mind, of wholeness and joy, and you take a sip.
It’s all still in there, somewhere, blowing through the jasmine in my mind–
and once in a while I can find it in me to be grateful for such things.