Tag Archives: memories

Calling Me Home

27 Jan

Calling Me Home

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Those are the voices
of my long distant past −
erupting giggles,
shrieks of laughter,
taunts and dares
in the neighborhood
about the creeks
and the thick oak woods −
that echo and reflect
in the brooding canyons of my mind;
that call me to another place,
transport me to another time
where I would like to be and see
again.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 27 January, 2015

All I know I learned in Boy Scouts

17 Sep

 

All I know I learned in Boy Scouts

by L. Stewart Marsden

It’s not true, of course. I didn’t learn everything in the Boy Scouts. But pretty darn much. I learned how to:

  • Read a compass
  • Open and close a pocket knife safely
  • Assemble a two-part canvas pup tent
  • Dig a latrine
  • Cut a fuzz stick to make a fire
  • Basic first aid — including helping a drowning victim (which has since changed)
  • Pack a backpack
  • Sharpen an ax

and all those other essential skills.

I also learned that opening a large can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs and putting it over a fire is not cooking.
I learned it’s not safe to chop wood at night in the dark.
I learned that mixing aspirin and hot Coca-Cola does not get you drunk.
I learned that rabbit tobacco is not tobacco.
I learned that Morse Code is not easy to learn — especially the signal flagging part.

The two best parts of being a Boy Scout, besides the uniform and all that military regalia stuff?

Camping and summer camp.

I belonged to Troop 4, sponsored by the largest United Methodist church in town. It sprawled over what seemed to be a billion acres. We called it Vatican City. So big it even had a bowling alley. I guess that’s where the term “bowling for Jesus” came about.

Meetings were once a week at the church. We’d play games — dodge ball if it was raining outside; Fox and the Hounds if it wasn’t.

Now, that was a game!

We’d break the troop up into two equal sides. There were always between 20 and 30 boys at our meetings (before Boy Scouting fell victim to things like soccer leagues).

One half was the foxes, who would dash outside and find a place to hide on the church grounds. Five minutes later the other half, the hounds, would stream out of the church, baying to the moon, in search of the foxes. When everyone was caught, the sides would switch, and the chase began again.

Mr. Zimmerman, one of the adult Scout leaders, had a farm just on the edge of the town. That’s where we held most of our camping trips.

We lugged all our gear in station wagons and the beds of trucks out to the property drive way (a rutted dirt road), and hiked the rest of the way into a forested area that abutted a large field.

Once tents were pitched, fire pits were dug, and latrine sites were selected, the designated cooks pulled out thin steel cookware to begin dinner: usually some mixture of ground beef and Hamburger Helper.

Food had to be hung up by a rope because of the critters that might come late at night to steal it.

Nobody was ever constipated on a camping trip because the meals were so greasy. Everything slid right through.

When it got dark, it was time for Fox and the Hounds! Now, at the church, the game was somewhat benign as far as danger. In the woods on Mr. Zimmerman’s farm, however, there were troughs and tree limbs, spider webs — and old rusty barbwire to contend with.

Much practice of first aid skills resulted from those games. In fact, it’s amazing we didn’t lose a kid or two. Come to think of it, maybe we did.

Then, campfire stories.

Ghosts, ghouls, and other creatures that go bump in the night. It’s amazing how a simple tale or two, told with just the right voice — low and slow — can creep a kid out so he stays wide awake with his flashlight on all night.

The adult leaders lived in the lap of luxury. Zimmerman and our Scoutmaster, Mr. Ingram, “roughed it” in a Baker tent — a square, four-sided tent of heavy canvas. They also had cots and really thick sleeping bags. They cooked on a Coleman stove. And they sat back and smoked their pipes, perhaps listened to a Saturday night broadcast of an ACC basketball game. Cool, nonplussed sorts, they were.

When you first awoke in the early morning, the sound of crows cawing came to ear. Then you noticed that somehow a rock had crawled under your sleeping bag, and poked you in the ribs.

The metal clang of camp cookware slowly stirred you to sit up, and the smell of bacon frying in a pan wafted into the tent.

Those were the best parts of camping out.

But the very best part of Boy Scouts was summer camp!

Our troop went to Camp Uwharrie — the name of the council we were a part of. It was a short distance from town, out on acres and acres of land covered by pine forests and two lakes. One of the lakes was about 50 feet above the second lake. They were separated by an earth dam. The upper lake was for fishing, boating and canoeing. The lower lake was the swimming area, and was cordoned off into four swimming areas designated by swimming skill level: non-swimmers, beginners, intermediate and advanced swimmers. You had to have earned your swimming merit badge to swim in the advanced swimming area. It abutted a concrete dam, and had no bottom that you could touch standing up.

A typical Camp Uwharrie cabin.

A typical Camp Uwharrie cabin.

Camp was divided up into camp units of four to five cabins that circled a sheltered common area. The cabins were built of wood, with an open screened area at the tops of the two flank walls. Bunk beds were positioned against the walls.

I always chose a top bunk, as the screened opening was at mattress level. At night I would listen intently to crickets sing and the lake bullfrogs croak. At times a cool night breeze would blow into the cabin.

Camp was where you earned a boatload of merit badges — especially the ones that were more difficult in finding a merit badge counselor to pass you. Camp counselors were the instructors, and usually only a couple or three years older. And they were cool. They all wore the same T-shirt: a light blue shirt with the profile of an Indian chief printed in red, with the words Camp Uwharrie arching over the top. With the dark green summer shorts, green knee socks with red flags hanging from the tops, the counselors were the tops.

Nature, basketry, archery, riflery, swimming, life saving, canoeing, rowing, fishing and more were the courses offered. As well as needed skills for Tenderfoot, 2nd and 1st Class.

The lower lake with swimming areas marked by buoys. The cafeteria is in the background.

The lower lake with swimming areas marked by buoys. The cafeteria is in the background.

The cafeteria was a large one-level expanse with dozens of tables and benches. Best food in the world at camp! This is where you learned to mix grape jelly with your grits, and drink bug juice. Milk was served ice-cold in metal pitchers. Bread was hot and gone in seconds.

Once at camp, I was downing glass after glass of milk. I was working on life saving merit badge, and my body was dehydrated from being in the water so long.

One of the volunteer adult leaders, Dr. Nicholson — a junior high science teacher — warned me about overdoing the milk.

“You’ll pee in your bunk!” he warned.

Sure enough, that night I had the most realistic dream about peeing — then awoke midstream to discover I had saturated my sheets! Mortified, I quietly stripped my bed of the soaked bedding, and buried them under leaves outside the cabin. I unrolled my sleeping bag for the rest of the week. No one in the cabin said anything. I can’t remember what happened to the sheets!

Each night Kate Smith belted out a recorded rendition of “God Bless America,” which echoed across camp at its end. It was followed by a beautiful playing of taps — again recorded — by a bugler.

The night of the last day of a week of camp was designated for the Tap Out Ceremony. In Boy Scouts, there is/was a brotherhood of scouts who were selected by their fellow scouts. The Order of the Arrow members were tapped out as part of a very mystical production.

The ceremony began when the entire camp gathered in the main assembly area.

The ceremony began when the entire camp gathered in the main assembly area.

The entire camp assembled in the main square of camp, which served as a ball field as well. We were ordered to silence, and camp counselors, dressed as American Indians, with war paint and all, stretched a long hemp rope along the scouts. We grabbed the rope as told, and were led down to the waterfront, where we formed a large semicircle facing the lower lake.

From the waterfront lifeguard tower, a counselor, his face painted half white and half black, wearing a buffalo headgear, sing-songed the story of the Linni-Linape.

Then, a drum started to beat somewhere from across the lake, and a torch was lit on the far side, and carried by a swimming Indian, careful not to dip the torch in the water. He slowly swam to the near shore, and shouted loudly, shoving the torch into a large pre-built stack of wood.

A second Indian walked out with bow and arrow, and lit the end of the arrow in the crackling fire. He drew the bow, aimed and shot the flaming missile over the lake, shouting again as he disappeared.

Again, from the far side of the lake, a canoe appeared. One Indian held a large burning arrow, supported by a pole, above his head. A second Indian at the rear of the canoe paddled the craft across the lake. The reflection of craft and burning arrow was mesmerizing.

On shore, the arrow bearer began to march in front of the lined up scouts, the second Indian walking behind clutching several arrows. The tom-tom beat rhythmically.

Suddenly the arrow bearer would stop and swing the arrow down in front of a scout. The drum would beat frantically as the second Indian slapped an arrow across the collarbone of the scout, who grabbed the arrow and held it to his chest.

This went on until the last arrow was delivered.

The selected scouts were then bound together and led away into the dark night by Indians. They returned to their campsites much later, sworn to secrecy regarding where they had been taken and how they had been instructed.

Then the chief and his aide returned to the canoe and slowly paddled back across the lake, where the large flaming arrow was doused to a thunderfall of drum beats.

In silence, the camp returned to their campsites.

Kate Smith sang a little later, and taps blew across the camp.

So, not all, but some of the best of what I know and remember I learned in Boy Scouts.

The sweatshirt

1 Jun

image

The Sweatshirt

by L. Stewart Marsden

Hey! Where are you?

Down here. In the basement.

(Pause)

Hi! Didn’t you hear me calling you earlier?

No, I guess not. What’s up?

I just thought I’d drop by and see, you know, how you’re managing.

Well, I’m managing, I guess.

Yeah . . . yeah. So, what’re you doing?

Laundry.

Where is it?

Oh, right. I came down to get the laundry basket.

That Mom’s sweatshirt?

Yeah, it is. It was in the laundry basket.

Um-hum. To be laundered?

Yeah.

And . . . it’s been down here how long?

Um, I dunno. For some time I guess.

Since before she went to . . .

Yeah, I guess. Before that.

You’re right. That’s some time.

You know how things’ve been, though. I just haven’t come down here since.

So . . . there must be a helluva lot of laundry to do, then.

Enough.

Three month’s worth, I’d guess.

About.

How do you do that?

How do I do what?

Go without clean clothes?

I don’t.

You have three months’ worth clean clothes?

Of course not. If I wear something more than once, then that cuts it down.

So how many months clean clothes do you have, then?

I dunno. Couple weeks, maybe?

Ah! So you definitely wear things more than twice.

Sure.

Not underwear, I hope.

Oh, no. I don’t do that.

You have three months’ worth of underwear?

No. A couple of weeks, perhaps.

Okay — I’m not understanding. If you have a couple of weeks of underwear, and — let’s say you do wear them more than once . . .

Twice, at the most.

Okay . . . so, it’s been three months, Dad. Explain it to me.

Oh, I see what you’re getting out. Truth? I don’t wear any. I mean, if I don’t go out, why wear them? If I think that I’m going out, and might have a heart attack or something, I slip ’em on. That would be embarrassing. A sick or dead guy without underwear. Might think I was a pervert.

Dad! That’s disgusting!

No. That’s what they call going commando, I believe. Have you never gone commando, Kiddo?

DAD!

I rather like it! Nice and airy . . .

Stop it! Too much information!

Okay. I’m just kidding with you. I have a couple pair of polyester boxers I rinse out in the sink.

STILL TOO MUCH! And I’m not sure I believe you about rinsing your boxers.

I’m fine. You worry too much.

Apparently not! Besides the laundry piling up, you’ve got a sink full of dishes. How long since you’ve cooked yourself a real meal?

You know, Stouffer’s has an excellent line of full meals . . .

You can’t eat frozen meals every day!

I don’t eat them frozen, I heat them up in the oven. And once the dishes were all dirty, I bought paper plates and cups and utensils. They don’t ever need to be washed. Although your mother would wash them anyway. Protects the environment and saves a tree, I guess. That’s what she said.

Why don’t you just get a dishwasher? Who doesn’t have a dishwasher these days? You can afford it! Randall can come by and install it for you. Plus do some of the other things that need to be done.

What other things?

The railing on the steps, for one. It’s real loose. That’s all you need is a fall down the stairs.

I can fix it. I have tools. Randall’s not the only guy who can do stuff like that.

Yeah, but he does it every day.

Right. Don’t remind me. A real catch, that one.

Dad!

Sorry. But I never liked him from the start. Your mother did. And every other woman that meets him, too.

What’re you implying?

Nothing. I’m not implying a thing.

He’s a great dad.

I’m sure he is. But, just the same, I can do my own repairs. Every time he comes over here with his tools he asks me if I know what he gets for screwing in a damn doornob, for chrissakes.

He want’s you to know his skills are valuable and wants you to appreciate what he does for you.

He want’s me to know he resents doing the work for free, that’s what he wants me to know. And I’m tired of it. So don’t ask him to come over, okay? Okay?

Okay, I won’t. But he’ll ask me if there’s any work to be done.

Jerry and I will get it done.

The screens, too? They need to be taken down and washed for the winter.

Yes, the screens, too.

But Jerry’s nearly eighty. And he has that heart condition.

Goddamit! Just because a guy has a little age on him, everybody’s ready to put him in the deep-freezer! And don’t worry — we’ll both wear underwear when we do the work!

Sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean anything by it!

I know. I’m just . . . well, you know. It’s a goddam adjustment, it is. Your mother took care of all these things and I played golf.

So, can I see the sweatshirt?

Oh, sure.

Wow, there sure are a lot of memories in this rag.

Yeah.

Ummm. It still smells of her.

Yeah, it does.

She would never let us throw it away. She liked to hang on to old things.

Like me, for example.

She loved you.

I think she loved that sweatshirt more. More reliable. More comfortable.

I mean, even the logo has faded almost entirely. And look at the elbows — it’s worn to mere threads. And the grease spots.

Yeah.

Mind if I put it on?

Put it on? Sure. Put it on.

Whaddaya think?

(Pause)

I think you look like your mom. A few years ago, of course.

You’re sweet. So, what shall we do with this? Can’t take it to Goodwill it’s so old and ratty. We could cut it into rags.

Cut nothing! Why the hell would you do a thing like that? Jeesh! Cut it into rags . . . No, we won’t!

I have an idea.

Yeah?

Yeah. Let me have it.

Let you have it? The one who wants to cut it into rags?

No, I won’t do that. I’ll wear it. When I garden — like she did. When the weather’s cool and I’m sitting by the fire. When you come over.

You won’t throw it away?

No. It will be a legacy sweatshirt, and I’ll pass it down to one of the girls and teach her all about Mom.

You will?

I will.

That’s nice. I like that idea. A legacy. Kind of a living memorial.

Except the sweatshirt’s not alive.

Yes it is.

(Pause)

Yes. It is. (Pause) Say, wanna go for a short walk?

With you?

See anyone else?

Sure. Let’s go for a walk.

(Pause)

So, do you have underwear on?

Hmmm. I’m not telling.

________

 

Note:
The sweatshirt conversation was inspired by a delightful poem I read on Bhartithewriter’s blog, entitled “My Old Sweater.” You can read this rich work by clicking here.
— SM

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 31 May, 2014

Less laundry to do

20 Mar

image

Less laundry to do
by L. Stewart Marsden

Less laundry to do, now that you’re gone;
and the food and the booze last a bit longer, too.
Don’t have to get your permission to do
what I want to do, now that you
have gone your separate way.

There’s lots to say ’bout the convenience of this,
less to remark on the things that I miss
because so many things are really not missed —
well, perhaps some of the hugs
and some of the kisses.

But there is so much more than hugs and kisses —
there’s a storehouse of things that I had been missing
before the door slammed on your angry way out
and I stammered, amazed, then finally shouted
“Good riddance!” which hung in the air there a very long time.

So now I’m beginning to build a new life
that’s no longer impeded by anger and strife
and it should feel incredibly freeing, and yet
I’m the victim of mem’ries so hard to forget
That I grew so accustomed to which you left in the wake

Of your stormy departure, and yet I am sure you
have hidden, most nefariously,
things to remind of the times you and I shared,
when we laughed and we cried and when we both cared
beyond the bad times, you and me.

So those are the stains that will never come clean
that hang in the air and to the hallways still cling,
however sublime, and bring back to mind,
a time we both thrived, me and you,
but now? There’s definitely less laundry to do.

Winter of the Best Snow

17 Feb

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Winter of the Best Snow
by L. Stewart Marsden

Every Wednesday like clockwork for three weeks in a row
the weather forecasters forecasted deep snow.

Six to eight inches, they predicted each week.
The response of each child was a deep-hearted shriek
of delight, for that night in the dark the clouds would roll in
and silently, softly, the snow would begin
to fall to the earth.

School is closed. Locked up tighter than tight
and no worries o’er hist’ry nor mathmatics tonight —
For tonight all our noses are glued to the panes
of our windows and we know that the remains
of the storm — half a foot of white snow
awaits on the morrow for an army of kids.

Oh! Wax the red runners of Flexi-brand sleds,
Dig out toboggans and mittens and dredge
out old sweaters and stockings and stuff
and muff up our ears and lip balm our lips
and ready ourselves for a snow-trudging trip
to the best sledding hill — a mere four blocks away
where we’ll slide and we’ll glide till the end of the day
on those blue-glowing slopes that provide hours of fun
and finally, toe-numbed, we trudge frozenly home
at the last dwindling rays of the quick-setting sun.

“Strip ’em off here!” order moms with a shout,
and the soggy cold clothing splats onto the floor
of the kitchen where frozen blue bodies step out of the skins
and dash to the bathroom leaving footprints of wet
to thaw in the steaming hot shower or bath
and laugh at the times on the snow hills we had
and anticipate gathering round a warm fire
with marshmellows browning on bent coat-hanger wire.

Heavy cream and vanilla and sugar and snow —
the best winter concoction I ever did know —
a draught of delight — a heavenly brew
a manna no manner of manufact’ring could do.

That was the time — three weeks in a row —
and all who were there remember that snow
with the warmest of mem’ries they ever will know.

The Dirt Clog Fight

23 Jan

The Dirt Clog Fight
by L. Stewart Marsden

And so it was back in the day
pre cell phones, computers and color TVees,
when all my neighbor friends and me
gathered at a tree-cleared site
where mounds and mounds of rich-red clay
lay begging to be picked and hurled
at each other, dodging tween wood-framed walls
that would one day become a tall and stately house
perched at the end of Colonial Drive.

Good, clean, dirty fun
where dirt clogs rained on everyone
from afternoon to edge of night
till mothers’ calls broke up the fight
and, one by one, each soldier’s name
was called home — to end the game —
“Bill-eeee!”
“Tom-eeee!!!!!!”
“John-eee!!!”
And, finally,
me.

As colors faded to sepia tones
I made my very slow way home
with thoughts of all of the fun I’d had
wondering was it so much fun
because we’d been so desperately bad?

No way would I ever confess
about the dirt clog fight and mess
my friends and I had left behind —
remnants of that mighty fine
dirt clog fight that we had had —
all because we were so bad
at the new house at the end of the street.

Doing so would leave Mom no choice
but to break a branch from the nearest bush
and thrash my legs while with shril-led voice
she lectured me.

And so, I lied.
And cried that I’d been caught
by thieves who had lashed me to a tree —
the ivyed oak in the Lipscomb’s yard —
and all the while I worked real hard
to loose myself from those ropes,
and at my mom’s call rose a hope that gave me strength
to break and flee back home into her loving arms.

That did the trick — it stopped the switch —
Mom turned from me and hid her face
and ordered me up to my room
where she later carried in a tray of sandwiches and soup.

Now, a thousand years ago —
that dirt clog fight still resonates so,
that when my children’s children ask
what did I do when at their age
without cellphones and digital stuff,
I say, “Red clay was quite enough
to carry me throughout the day.”

“Ooh. Life was rough when you were young.”

“Perhaps, but I’ll tell you this:
I’d trade all the gadgets that I own
to walk that street of my old home
and gather with those neighbor friends
and heft red clay clogs once again
until our mothers call all our names
when the day turns toward the night
to finally end our dirt clog fight.”

My collection

21 Apr

My collection of sorts
is an in’tresting cache
of a button, a ring,
a string and a sash.

The trove is of value
to no one but me;
Its worth to all else —
complete mystery.

Each piece is a touchstone,
A door to the past,
Where feelings and sounds
and fragrances last

Which come tumble-ing back
when I pick up a piece —
and fill me with either regret
or with peace.

The button, a part
Of a debonaire coat;
Of a vow and a kiss
and a hand-written note.

The ring, the beginning
of endless intents
to unknowable futures
and hopeful events;

The string, reminder of
promises made,
to a sweet and fair maiden
neath an oak’s cooling shade.

The sash, a tear-stained
commemorative
of the dreams and the hopes
that alas, would not live.

Cassandra – the story of Casey and Alexandra — Chapter Two

17 Mar

Cassandra
The story of Casey and Alexandra

Chapter Two: Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition

They say people who are in comas can hear everything around them.

That really wasn’t my experience. Frankly, it would have been counter-productive in my case.

What I needed was what I got: deep, deep sleep.

I don’t think being aware of all the machines keeping my body alive, or the incomings and outgoings of the medical personnel, or my father at my bedside, and then my mother, and then their arguing, would have done anything but stress me out.

What my coma did, in addition to isolating and protecting me from the chaos around me in the physical world, was to give me the opportunity to wander about in my memories.

It gave me a unique perspective to look at things that happened to me and to reconfigure how I understood them. I changed my mind on a whole bunch of things, like, who my friends were and who should be my friends. Or how my nerdiness wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me (I had already had that sermon preached to me a gazillion times by Mom, but had never believed it before). Or, how maybe Hickory wasn’t the absolutely stupidest town to grow up in, and maybe how I should think about staying – or coming back after college.

So I had a chance, in my deep, watery state of mind, to reconcile a lot of stuff.

And an extra bonus was memories I would have never been able to dredge up in a conscious state. Like my birthday – my literal birthday!

Like the feel of linoleum floor when I crawled into the kitchen, and grabbed that piece of onion skin and popped it into my mouth. Then not able to get air – and the desperation and panic that shot through me as I choked.

Or finding dead flies in the living room, feet up on the carpet under the windows. They are crunchy and a bit on the sour-side as far as taste goes, by the way.

Not moment-by-moment memories. More of a highlight reel that featured things like smells and textures and sounds and “aha” moments – as when I first understood a word.

The nice thing was I didn’t feel rushed going through my memoric exhibition. That’s what I called it: Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition.

I strolled leisurely down corridors, stopping to pluck a memory from here or there.

I found they were categorized for me. For example, I could go down one hallway and turn left at its end, and on the left, a bit higher than I could reach flatfooted, were memories of kindergarten. The classroom, my teachers, the other students.

And color-coded. The cool colors – greens and blues – were nondescript memories. The yellow-orange-red colors were more emotional in nature. The black ones were a bit scary, and I had to repeatedly tell myself they were only memories, and also they were colored by my age and development at the time they occurred.

Still, the black- colored memories were ones I decided to leave on the shelf, for the most part.

And, there was appropriate music and smells. Some were inviting, some were bland, at best, and some – well, you can imagine. One whole hallway, I am certain, was dedicated to gastrointestinal memories, and I thought, once you’ve smelled one of those events, you’ve pretty much smelled them all.

Lemon. That was my favorite odor. Sweet and tangy.

There were memories you couldn’t smell, like sugar and salt – that had to be tasted to be distinguished.

One of my memories was thinking I had found a part of a bit of popcorn under the dining room table. Obviously I wasn’t able to reason well at the time, because we never ate popcorn in the dining room.

But, like the onion skin before, into my mouth went the “popcorn.”

It was a mothball – or p-dichlorobenzene (I looked it up once). Mom used it to pack with her sweaters for storage so the moths wouldn’t eat holes in her clothing. How it got under the dining room table wasn’t in my collection of memories, but my reaction to it was. Gastrointestinal!

The pleasanter memories were warm breezes, and the sound of the surf at the beach – partially-muted voices of children playing in the neighborhood as I was roused to awareness from a nap in my crib. Uncontrolled laughs, and the sweet succulence of a ripe plum. The smell of my dad’s aftershave and the comforting cushion of my mom’s breast.

So, no. I don’t remember hearing anything in my stay while I was in the ICU those first hours and days.

It’s just as well.

There wasn’t anything I could do about it, anyway.

My last memory? Going through the intersection, windows down, radio blaring NPR Science Friday — Sci-Fri, they called it. And Mom was blabbering about something and I was thinking would I ever get invited to a school prom. And then I looked up and saw this white car coming into the intersection, and a teenager not paying any attention to driving, but intent on her iPhone, texting.

It was slow motion, our collision. The girl looked up just before we struck her, and she and I were a matter of feet from each other, and our eyes locked. She was beautiful. I remember thinking she mouthed the words “Oh, shit!” just before we struck.

And then, nothing. Except Alexandra’s Memoric Exhibition.

© L. Stewart Marsden, March 17, 2013

Innocence Lost

2 Aug

Innocence Lost

by L. Stewart Marsden

I caught myself today reminiscing about childhood days long past — well, relatively speaking, that is. The Parthenon is long past.

I’m a part of that glut of baby-boomers who, when we grew up, had the world by the tail (see, even the expression is pretty telling). We could bike anywhere in town without our parents worrying. We played outside from dawn to dusk. We greased our peroxided hair into ducktails, and Converse high tops were $8 a pair. We flocked to the Paramount downtown for hours of big screen entertainment — cartoons, news reels, adventure series, and a swell grade B movie about blobs or Godzilla or maybe Gene Autry, the singing cowboy.

The edge of living was rounded and smooth — not cutting and dangerous.

Forty-fives ruled the teen tune appetite, with The Platters and Pat Boone and The Kingston Trio.

McDonald’s arches were new. And the sign read “Over 100,000 hamburgers served” at its beginning.

Radio was AM, crackling in and out as we drove along. And, speaking of driving — four and forty air conditioning: roll down four windows and go forty miles an hour. Seats were vinyl — cold in the winter, skin searing in the hot summer.

Baseball. Barbie Dolls. Mickey Mouse Club. The Captain and Mr. Green Jeans. Howdy-Doody.

The good old days.

So, I rue the passing of time in terms of the loss of innocence. It’s a rather boring theme, I know, to those who didn’t experience that innocence.

The past was not without its deep and dark drawbacks. Segregation. I remember the evidences of that, too, but more as a wonderment than as something that impacted me on a daily basis.

Perhaps every generation has its own time of innocence. I keep thinking that period of time has been accordioned down to a really short period of time, judging from the news and the culture of the day. Judging from how children are quarantined and protected against God knows what; how they spend their days, fused into various gadgets that allow them no alone time, no creative time, no boredom.

I’m still a bit biased in thinking my old days were the good old days. I morn the loss of scary movies back then that are pretty laughable today, when compared to the stark and gruesome film techniques of modern Hollywood. Very little left to the imagination.

And the accessibility via the internet of — well — pretty much anything you would want to see and a whole lot of things you should never know — in your innocence — exist.

So, here’s to Fabian and to The Day the World Ended and to Rock Hudson and Doris Day and to candy cigarettes and to National Geographic and to Norman Rockwell and to White Castle hamburgers and to roller skate keys and to penny loafers and to Greasy Kids Stuff and to a myriad of long-forgotten or fading or never experienced moments — the essence of innocence lost.