Tag Archives: childhood

Along Autumn’s Shadowy Road

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among scattered leaves
and ever-blooming hibiscus
a scent surrounds and encapsulates
a time when you were here

Lace curtains and tobacco
warm biscuits and apple butter
a long drive to your houses
the train chugging beside the highway
or heard in the distance at night

Afternoons on the red metal swing
climbing trees
stepping on crab apples
dancing clothes on the line
robust tomatoes in the garden

You came to me in a dream
respectively
young faces
and smiling eyes

Along Autumn’s shadowy road
among a post-summer wind
a lamenting of the past
and an emptiness in the heart
yet peace settles in

Still I stare at the photographs
and pretend you are just a long drive
away.

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October Sunday Morning

I woke up wanting to hear A Place Without a Postcard, my favorite band’s kind of forgotten album (at least among my own collection). It’s Sunday. The final day of an event-filled short weekend. Laundry is being washed, dishes are soaking in the sink. The bamboo shade has been drawn in the office where I now sit, lest the sun’s searing, penetrating beams suck away any energy I have to make this a productive day.

October breezes are welcome. Weekend afternoon naps appreciated.

My kid is growing up way too fast. I’m trying to grasp and hold on to the smidgen of childhood he has left. I think he is, too. He always says he doesn’t want to grow up, doesn’t want to get older. Well he doesn’t have to look too far to see what it’s like to be a kid-at-heart.  Being a systematized adult is overrated. I want to wear goofy hats and laugh at fart jokes sometimes too.

I was a kid just yesterday, wasn’t I? Good lord I graduated from college 20 years ago. Is that right? Yes, yes it is. But I’m not one to start moaning and groaning about the pains of aging. Physically I don’t feel a day over 25 unless I try to read something. Mentally I feel about 60. In Yoda years that’s nothing. Our brains have an immense amount of time to evolve and grow and settle.

But sometimes I want to curl up in bed while someone makes breakfast for me. Someone drives me here and there. Someone to tell me to rake the leaves, do my homework. Long days spent staring at posters on the wall listening to tapes from the boom box. Perhaps that’s the place without a postcard?

 

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Surfing with Purpose

Friday night I went to the beach alone to watch the sunset and decompress from the week’s craziness. My birthday was the day before and truly great but the full moon preceding it roused some sadness within my psyche as well as maniacal energy in the kids at school. So let’s just say I needed some beach time, if only for an hour.

I set up my blue beach chair towards the setting sun and a band of young surfers and skim boarders. They always fascinate me as I’ve never been able to surf (only tried it twice though thus far). I will not try skim boarding. I don’t want to recreate the incident in which I thought it OK for me to attempt to ride one of those ridiculous hover boards. I’m lucky I didn’t break anything or send myself to the ER.

Surfers have this underlying known mantra of being one with the ocean, feeling the waves, living for that next curl. I had many fantasies growing up in Tennessee that I could possibly be one of them some day. I often thought about a bungalow near the beach where me and my surfer buddies would live. This image has crossed my mind so many times I’m not sure if it’s a recurring dream or something that happened in a past life or parallel universe. Nevertheless I’ve imagined this house on its stilts and the colorful cushy floor pillows inside and these cool, easy-going people and that lifestyle ever since I can remember.

This life never came into fruition in that way, but I’ve gathered bits of it here and there and incorporated it. I live close to the beach and keep beach and river items in my trunk at all times. There’s always a sprinkling of sand on my floorboards. I can paddle board pretty well. And in these moments of beach-going if there are surfers about I tend to gaze out and watch them.

I noticed a few yards away from the band of them a young girl of about seventeen skim boarding by herself. She had a perfect athletic body, tanned skin, long blonde hair. And she could skim the hell out of that board. She had such purpose in her movements along with gracefulness and strength. She did this over and over, never falling off, never an instance of hesitation. And she wasn’t doing it to impress anyone. She was in her own world, accomplishing a feat not easily obtained. I reveled in this girl, this kick ass girl who was ripping it up out there and in that moment seemed to have such confidence and talent. I thought about myself at that age and in no way could compare as I hadn’t near that kind of self assurance, strength, free spirit.

But perhaps this girl doesn’t always convey or encompass these qualities. Perhaps she struggles with something deep down and this is her solace. This is the thing that keeps her grounded. Perhaps she doesn’t always have it together as she does right here on this beach with all these boys in the distance and pelicans flying low in the golden horizon. But thank God or the Universe or Neptune or hell all three she found something she’s good at. And can hopefully take that with her when she’s not in the warm gulf whitecaps.

All of us humans have struggles. Some days are more arduous than others. If we find that something which keeps us from going mad, something that gives us a freedom and sense of peace not unlike a breeze in our hair, water lapping at our feet, or personal triumph, then we should try and incorporate it as much as possible. And do it with purpose just like that young girl in the surf on a random Friday night.

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5 Amazing Songs

As per request (and writing prompt) from one of my dear readers and a fellow music devouter, I’d like to share 5 amazing songs that build up emotion in my chest, take me to happy and far away places, or just leave me whirlishly dancing on the chipped-tiled kitchen floor.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

This song of course is married to the ever-universal teen angst classic The Breakfast Club, making it even that much more endearing. That last scene when the song smacks in and John Bender gives a requited fist pump in a freeze frame forever is one of the best movie endings.

Don’t You Forget About Me reminds me of precious 80’s nostalgia, the innocence and simplicity there regarding music and hand-written letters and Walkmans and trips to the mall sans security personnel.

And the meaning: Don’t you forget about me. We all want to be remembered. We cannot let time or circumstance or distance allow the brain to turn us into static and the heart unforgiving or worse, ignored.

This one is for belting out fearlessly and dancing feverishly.  My students have seen me do this. On my fortieth birthday this is the song I boldly requested at the skating rink among all the preteens and their Taylor Swift enthusiasm. I’ll be singing and dancing to this one when I’m an old, old lady.

Don’t you forget about me. I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby…

 

Us and Them by Pink Floyd

I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on a constant loop along with The Cure’s Disintegration on a summer stint in Italy in my early teens. I know Roger Waters was talking about war in his lyrics but to me the “us” and “them” represented both the subtle and not-so-subtle differences I experienced between Americans and Italians. We spoke different languages, ate at different times of the day, looked different, but in the way we were different we were also the same. Just people trying to make it in the world, experience life, try not to trip on pebbles.

To this day, every time I hear that keyboard intro I feel the welling up in my chest. I am completely transported back to that balcony in Sardinia, back to that innocent 15 year old taking in everything never witnessed back in Antioch, Tennessee. I’m reminded of all the people I met and their cultural and nurturing influence on me.

Us, and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men…

 

The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles

The Beatles were a big part of my growing up. They were not forced on me but rather gently introduced as my parent’s record collections included many Beatles albums and 45s. My brother and I would sit on the shaggy carpeted floor of our basement-turned-playroom and listen to them on our Fisher-price turntable. We fashioned ourselves as rock singers, belting out tunes as the grated vinyl spun round and round.

But when Fool on the Hill rolled along and into the tiny speaker, we would quietly sing together. Never looking up, frozen in that moment with lyrics and melody I swear brought welling up in my goofy sibling’s eyes.

That is one of my strongest and most fond memories of us together as children. Later in our teens we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky with a group of like-minded friends to see Paul McCartney in concert. I was enthralled to be in the presence of a Great. And to enjoy it with my bro at my side.

But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round…

 

A Forest by The Cure

This haunting song is one of the reasons I will forever be a Cure fan and Classic Alternative junkie. I was first introduced to the Cure when Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came out. During this era I was blown away by this sound which at the time never reached the local radio airwaves.

A Forest mirrored my teen angst, depression, and need for creative inspiration as sheets of rain seemed to fall endlessly in the grey, Tennessee winter. This dirge didn’t exasperate my feelings as my parents agonized. Instead it encapsulated and provided solace. I wasn’t alone in my fervor.

And just the word forest. It conjures images of lush foliage where mystery hides and escape is possible.

A few summers ago I was driving alone in North Florida on a windy road away from friends and family with whom I’d just spent an unforgettable week. As soon as I entered Tate’s Hell State Forest, an unforgiving ominous expanse of swampy woodland, my GPS fell silent and A Forest shuffled on my auxiliary. I don’t know if there’s ever been more perfect timing between song and circumstance.

Come closer and see, see into the trees…

 

The Dead Heart by Midnight Oil

I could write an entire blog post about songs by Midnight Oil but for the purpose of not turning this into a biography I’ll sample this one.

I was introduced to Midnight Oil via the video for Bed’s Are Burning, seen on MTV’s Friday Night Videos. This unique sound from Australia fronted by a bald, passionate giant literally left me gasping in its strum guitar and water tank drum beats. I was instantly transformed. Life would never be the same. And then began a life-long love and adoration for the band, their extensive collection of songs throughout the decades, and their messages about equality and the environment.

The Dead Heart evokes singing and whirling, and to the tune of aboriginal rights in Australia. It’s as serious as it is heartfelt and in the end a hopeful dance. The Oils do a fantastic job of informing while entertaining and this song is no exception. When I hear it I’m in the Outback as well as on my old friend’s balcony (what’s with me and balconies) back in ’87 when all this alternative rock hoopla began voluntarily infiltrating my soul.

Midnight Oil will forever be my favorite band of all time. And The Dead Heart is just one of many that fill me with emotion, the need to research, to help bring about change, and yes, to belt it out and move.

These 5 songs helped shape who I am. What are yours?

 

 

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As it Exists in our Minds

They say you can’t go back. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. But sometimes it’s inevitable.

Steely Dan Radio on Pandora. That’ll do it for me. A tinge of past immediately starts flowing through the neurons and blood stream. Back to childhood days in my dad’s mustard El Camino or hunched over the Fischer-Price record player with my brother.  Back to teenage days, cycling through songs on random play from the new CD player. Back to college days, blasting out the sub woofers in my ’87 Nissan Sentra. And about a hundred other memories involving a Steely Dan song.

Whether you want it to or not, music will take you back.

There are those songs you can’t bear to hear. Either they bring back a dark memory or someone you’d rather not keep in your consciousness. Those we turn off as soon as we can, if possible. Or perhaps we need a good cry out and we let it rip.

Then there are those songs that fire up our frontal lobe like fourth of July sparklers and we are transported to a time and place no longer existing. Even if our childhood homes are still intact, or the city in which we grew up, it is never the same.

I guess that’s why they say you can never go back. Because no matter how bad we may want it to be there, it is gone.

And that is one of the many beauties of music– enabling us to hold onto a moment as if we were right there. Right there in our dad’s old car. Right there on the front porch with the Walk-man. Right there in the school parking lot with our quirky friends. Right there dancing with Grandma. Or and old friend. Or an old flame. Those that have moved on or passed away. In this moment they are alive.

And this is why I play Steely Dan on Sunday morning. So I won’t forget.

El Camino

 

 

 

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The Summer of 12

Soaked in cold spring water
engulfed in it
I want to paddle against the current again

River rocks
you helped me walk over their slippery path

A mountain’s bald peak
grass as soft as cotton
No stress there

Can we go back
on days like these
where life has sucked out
all the marrow of zen
and time is on fast-forward

The summer of 12
the best in my life

You 12, me 42
But among those swaying pines
and silly laughter
I was the same as you

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Spirograph and Worn Antiques

I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. The one who is deceased, not the one who is alive. Granny is still dipping snuff and listening to country music in her ranch-style home. Nana is somewhere with that great spirit in the sky, perhaps noshing on walnuts and dancing to Glenn Miller.

But I have felt her presence lately. I’m not sure why she has decided to visit but I will welcome it nevertheless.

The other day I was sitting at the dining room table, a worn 1920’s set I inherited from Nana’s mother. For a moment I was ten again, or rather wished I was. I could hear echoes of my cousin’s laughter and smell the buttered toast Nana would broil for us every morning. I could see her spinning in the front room to the sound of the jazz album. I could feel the spongy firmness of the big eraser I used to delete scattered lines from my latest Spirograph design.

There was always something to do at Nana and Papa’s. Whether it was trudging and scavenging and playing among Papa’s junk yard or dancing to the music from the turn table and playing “Office” in the living room or being a guinea pig in one of my older cousin’s traps or home-made haunted houses in the basement.

Sometimes it feels like those times were a hundred years ago. But thank god I have those memories at least.

I love that my own son now plays around that worn antique set. Does his homework there. Builds Legos. Has chatty weeknight dinners with me there. I bought him a Spirograph set a while back. He didn’t quite take to it like I thought he would.

I think my Nana would be proud of me for the most part. Maybe that’s why she visits from time to time. Just to let me know.

And to remind me to keep dancing.

glenn miller dancing

 

 

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