I was outside shoveling the ten inches of snow that fell yesterday and my 7-year-old was helping. We get most of it done and he started playing in the now big mountain of snow we have in our backyard, because we have nowhere else to put it from the alley. Curiously, despite the fact that the snow is even with the top of the hurricane fence in the back, our Dalmatian never jumps over. Heck, he could just walk over. But he does stand on that mound and bark at anyone in the alley. I sure it scares the crap out of them seeing this large, seemingly ferocious, dog barking at them from a position where he could just leap off and grip their throats.
I laugh at their fear. Is that wrong of me?
Anyway, back to Kurt. He was on that big mountain of snow starting to play and he says, “Daddy, do you miss your childhood?”
“What?” I wanted to make sure I’d heard right. That seemed a rather philosophical question for someone whose main concern always seems to be “Where’s my blankie?”
“Do you miss your childhood?” He asked again.
“Yes. Yes, I do,” I said. I didn’t have to think about it. The answer was immediate. I miss childhood. I miss innocence. I miss not having responsibilities. I miss the biggest question in my life being, “Should I watch Scooby Do, or Superfriends?”
Overall, I think I had a good childhood. Aside from that, I think I grew up in interesting times.
I grew up at the beginning of the space age. Alan Shepard was the first American in space. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Granted, I’m ignoring the fact that the Soviet Union was winning the space race. They were the first in space with a satellite, the first in space with a person, the first to orbit the earth, and the first to do a space walk. But America was the one that achieved the event of a lifetime, Man’s crowning achievement to date, the moon landing. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was a phrase that resonated with every child in America. We all wanted to be Neil Armstrong.
Transistors were just making their way into electronics and the miniaturization of things was on the way. A tube radio that used to weigh 50 pounds and was about the size of a breadbox (if you don’t know what that is, go Google image it) was transformed into a transistor radio about the size of a paperback book.
I certainly miss my childhood friends. Jimmy Krieger. Scott Rotter. Strangely enough, Scott had called about ten years ago and we had a long talk, but ultimately, I guess without thinking about it, I blew him off. We only had that one conversation and now I think I should have stayed in contact, but I was less missing my past at 40 than I am at 50.
We were all involved in Scouting together. We hung out everywhere together. Played catch at Sherman Park. Climbed trees. Had sleep-overs. All the things kids do and I miss.
I even miss the girls from grade school. I had a crush on several. Sarah, who I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember her last name. Cheryl Sailor. The twins, Laura and Lisa.
And to me, pop culture was at its peak then even though everything was in its infancy. Television had great shows with Lost in Space, Wild, Wild West, Combat!, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Rat Patrol, Time Tunnel, Adamms Family, Outer Limits, Jonny Quest, Scooby Do, and well, the list of wonderful shows is endless.
In music we had the first British Invasion with the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, The Byrds, the Yardbirds, and The Who. There was Paul Revere and the Raiders. Herman’s Hermits. Beach Boys. The Troggs. And all the great acts of Motown.
It was the Silver Age of comics as I’ve discussed before, with the great Marvel heroes of Spider-man, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Iron Man and more. But it was also the resurgence of exciting literature from the 20s, 30s, and 40s with reprints of Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard as edited by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Campe. All of Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff was being reprinted. All the old pulp fiction heroes like, The Shadow, The Avenger, Doc Savage, The Spider and so on were in reprint.
All that has sadly gone away. Will there be another reprint resurgence of pulps and sword and sorcery in the future? I hope so. It certainly was exciting to be there as they were being published. Waiting for each new book to come out was as thrilling as getting the latest issue of Captain America.
And of course there were the new sword and sorcery writers like Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, John Jakes, Jack Vance, and Lin Carter.
So yes, it wasn’t hard for me to answer his question, “Do you miss your childhood?” I think, as probably everyone thinks, the decade of your childhood is the best one ever.
Then, my paternal nature started to reflect on his comment. Now I don’t remember much of my dad. Yes, he was there but he wasn’t if you know what I mean. I have only a few memories of doing anything with him.
When my oldest was younger, I had an undiagnosed thyroid condition that made me an absolute bear. So when he was three or four or so, you can say I wasn’t there for him.
Combine that with the fact that I didn’t learn how to become a father, because my father most likely didn’t learn how to be a father, because his own father walked away out on his family.
So being a good father is something I struggle with everyday. When I lose my temper or yell at something they did or didn’t do or if they ask me to do something and I answer I’m too busy, I feel guilty, which makes me angry at myself.
Which is one reason I agreed to be his den leader (when they ambushed me with the idea) and why I try to attend my older son’s basketball games and band recitals. Which is why I want to try to take Brett fishing more. Or play a game of hoops with him. Or just throw a Frisbee around.
And coincidently, last night I watched Click with Adam Sandler. A movie in which Sandler’s character fast-forwards through his children’s lives. When it ended, I put my youngest, who had fallen asleep on the couch, to bed and kissed him good-night.
And I thought about his question,, “Do you miss your childhood?” and it made me come full circle and think, sure I do, but more importantly, because of my own childhood, I sure as hell don’t want to miss my own kids’ childhoods.
(And please, don’t ever play Cats in the Cradle around me. That really makes me maudlin.)