By Tim McGrath
“I’ve been watching, and you pick your feet up pretty good when you walk. I see a lot of older people who don’t do that.” -
A compliment I recently received in the grocery store….
It just happens. In the twinkling of an eye. Suddenly, those smile lines around the eyes have become deep crevasses, joining their colleagues winding their way along cheeks, hairline, and neck. Where once there was one chin, two show up along with a dangly turkey wattle added in for good measure. Jowly, they say. Harumph, I say back. I’ve learned I have something called crepey skin; who knew? And, adding to the festivities, granddaughter recently informed me, through uproarious laughter, that I have man-boobs. Little stinker. Hmmm…, now that I think of it maybe I could use a little support up top. It’s another niggling reminder that time is definitely not on my side, in spite of how The Stones keep reassuring me it is.
So here I am, looking at this newly minted Medicare baby staring back in the mirror, not at all resembling that eighteen-year-old kid from 1973. But, no mind. They’re just numbers, right? Right. Like so many of us good-feet-picker-uppers what we see in the mirror is just an oldster shell for the kid still lurking in there somewhere. We’re Baby Boomers, we’re never going to get old, man. At least that’s the story I’m sticking with. Right again.
All this reminds me lots of water’s flowed under my bridge, and I think on those people, places, and things that helped shape me. The wonderful things, the tough ones, too. Of people come and gone, of parents and friends no longer here. The things that seemed so critical at the time, but really weren’t. Of worries that had happy endings, and the ones that didn’t. Childhood fully lived, teen years endured, young adults trying to figure it out, middle age building and growing careers. Children raised, grown, gone. Retirement years filled with possibilities.
Lately, though, I’ve especially spent time looking way back into the years of childhood and those wonderful summers of the 60’s and early 70’s. Images of the goofy antics of my friends and me bring a smile and a laugh. Maybe I’ve spent too much time there, I don’t really know for sure. My psychologist friends might say it’s a coping mechanism to help deal with the craziness happening around us from all corners. At any rate, it’s a pleasant place to visit. Those charmed summer days of childhood that meant no school, and the endless possibilities of days stretched out before us with nothing but what our little minds could conjure up. Just had to be back home when the streetlights came on….
Ah, summer; sweet, sweet summer.
Cane poles and crawlers,
Falstaff beer and Dad’s Dutch Master cigars.
Sticky hot evenings sitting on still warm concrete steps,
the day’s heat warming legs and bottoms.
Nighthawks calling, diving, wings roaring above the school across the street,
Rose colored sky melting into purply indigo.
Forts in the lilac bushes,
Scientists busy at work.
Raiding neighbors’ burning barrels,
Hauling empty Bud bottles in squeaky red wagons.
Silver Salutes, M-80s, Cherry Bombs, Zebras and Black Cats,
Smoke, fire, noise. Perfect.
Figuring out the differences between boys and girls,
Moms explaining the birds and bees; no kidding, wow.
Sprinklers to run through,
Brown grass prickling still tender toes.
Plastic pools filled with dirty water and grass clippings,
The place to see if beetles and ants can swim.
Naughty kids with magnifying glasses and ants,
Burning holes everywhere.
Entire rolls of caps pounded with hammers,
Eenie-Einie-Over next door,
Becoming the champions of the world.
Work up, Five-dollars,
No do-overs, either.
Peddling dad’s blueberries up and down streets,
Supposed to be a good idea.
Briggs and Stratton belching blue smoke,
Get the choke just right, there it goes.
Cut it every week, even if it is brown,
And make sure the lines are straight.
Nik-L-Nips in wax bottles,
Squish between teeth, juice blasting out.
Ever try putting Fizzies in your mouth?
How about a whole bag of SweetTarts?
Sniping Gary’s dad’s cigarette butts,
Light ‘em up, faces blushing green.
Sgt. Rock, Archie, and Superman comic books,
Saving, saving, saving, only 12 cents a copy, 25 for the doubles.
Bike riding to Lamar Park,
The ‘ol swimming hole,
Learning to swim,
Secretly peeking at girls in bikinis.
Lying for hours in backyards,
Imagining life on those clouds.
I want to walk on that mountain over there.
Hey, that one looks like your dad’s big nose!
Grandma’s rhubarb patch,
Sugar bowl in hand,
Don’t eat the leaves whatever you do.
Mom says try this, it’s good,
White bread, butter, sugar,
A sugar sandwich, who knew?
Launching model rockets into trees,
A little off course.
Stuck in the branches by the kites.
Slot cars and model building,
Always, always, always, parts left over.
What’s that you say, it’s September?
Hot and stiff.
White, white PF Flyers,
So long summer,
See you next year.
Hey, wait up!
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