Gifts–A Boy’s Memories

remembering the boy

As the boy grows into a man and the man grows into a boy.


He sat quietly in the grass with his birthday pocket knife,
Carefully carving a small boat from a large piece of pine bark.
Excited about the shape taking place in his hands
Excited about his new-found ability to make something,
He never noticed the pain or the blood dripping to the dust
From the cut on his finger.
He could make a boat.
He could sail it down the gutters after a rain
He could do anything.
The seven year old boy was invincible.

They had told him that he couldn’t have a bicycle until he was 8.
September was far, far away that year, but it finally showed up
And, as promised, a shiny, new, Schwinn Bicycle entered his life.
He had a new freedom. A freedom of territory, of adventure.
He never noticed the pain or the blood dripping to his shoe
From the skinned place on his knee.
His knife in one pocket
His boat in the other,
He rode off to the city lake
To be a pirate.

The new radio had arrived. The radio that would bring in the world.
At first, he wondered about the little people inside the box
As he listened to The Shadow, and to Rosemary Clooney
On a Saturday morning while he enjoyed purloined cupcakes
Closed up in his room but with his eye on the universe
He was Lash Larue, Roy Rogers
He waited for the rain to end
And the moment when he could ride his bike
And conquer all of the bad guys.
For, you see, he was invincible.

A first baseman’s mitt, a baseball bat, and a new career.
He sat in the dugout with Mickey Mantle, discussing the game’s finer points.
The boy waved at the crowd and pointed his bat to the centerfield fence
As he prepared to hit the game winning homer for the series
And bring in Ted Williams and Willie Mays who were stuck on base.
Two strikes and three balls
Full count, bottom of the ninth inning
The pitch, low, curving to the outside
The crack of the bat echoed through the hills
As he watched the ball fly off into the universe.

The summer long he had worked and saved to come up with enough money
He gave himself a birthday present that year, having mowed fifteen yards
And saved every bit of it for the purchase of his new portable radio.
The boy, who was about to reach a height of six feet this year
Fastened the radio to the handlebars of his bike
And delivered the daily news papers
As Del Shannon called for his Runaway
Roy Orbison was Cryin’ over you
And Chubby Checker yelled, “It’s Pony Time.”

He had worked hard all summer building a greenhouse and finding plants
And this year he had two toys, the plant place for exploring an inner world
And a young son who loved to sit on the gravel floor with him, laugh
And carve boats out of pine bark. Together they were invincible .
Together they explored important things like fishing worms and butterflies
And they built an elf man garden
And walked through it in their fantasies
And sat on the rocks in their minds
As they talked of the best ways to kill dragons.

And her father said, “There’s your Christmas present. Take good care of it.”
And the boy, who was no longer a boy, asked, “The gift is your daughter?”
And the father replied, “Yes, but there is a no return policy.”
And the boy who was no longer a boy went off to unwrap his gift.
And together they went off to explore the universe that they shared.
They laughed at the dragons and chased them away
They lived through the troubles with caresses and tears.
They walked down the street holding hands
And they went to a baseball game every now and then.

“There’s nothing as satisfying as a good pair of pruning shears,” he said
As he carefully considered a new cut on the beautiful bonsai tree.
He reached over slowly, positioned the cutters just so, and slowly snipped.
He smiled as he sat back and studied the ancient looking tree before him.
“Look,” he said, if you study it you can find the world, the freedom of flight.
A bonsai tree should be pruned so that a bird can fly through it.
If I concentrate, I can become a bird and fly right through…
There.” He smiled and pointed.
“The tree represents the past and the future.” He said

He considered carving a boat and sailing it down the gutter in a rain.
He had become the boy again in a larger, older body
But, still the boy.

Should I Ever Grow Up…

Quotes and Notes, #353 October 23

My Old Man was a mixture of adulthood and childishness. So am I.

My Old Man was a mixture of adulthood and childishness. So am I.

“My old man said when it’s time to be counted, the important thing is to be man enough to stand up.”—Robert A. Heinlein, “Between Planets”—

“As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind”.—Marcus Tullius Cicero—

My dad only wore shorts occasionally—when he went to the beach. On those occasions, he also wore his shined wing-tip shoes with black socks.

My old man would sometimes counteract his maturity by singing old Navy songs in his beautiful deep voice. He could go all the way down with “Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, so be e e e ware.” Then he would change the tone and sing the one I remember best,

“Whoopsie doodle, I’m off my noodle, I threw my truss away.
My rupture’s gone, my rupture’s gone.”

He told me to stand up straight and to hold my shoulders back. He taught me to shake hands properly. He taught me to like snacks—cheese crackers (sometimes limburger which stank), pickled herring and M&Ms. I never saw him eat ice cream out of the carton by the handful—I got that from my mother.

So I will stand up to be counted. I will also borrow a small kid’s yo yo and show him how to do “Around the world” and “rock the cradle” with it.

I’m noticing that when I share a smile at the grocery store, the recipient seems to be delighted. This makes me happy.
Remember, You are the only you in the world.
Everything is going to be all right.

John P. Schulz—“Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days.”

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