Summers of Youth
It’s the longest day of the year. A time of light. Light without — light within. Officially, the first day of summer, although summer really seems to begin at the end of May.
As a kid, summer always signified freedom — freedom from the classroom, from school, and I always relished it with abandon. I truly hated school, just about the entire time I was there. I got a great education, despite myself and my hatred of it, but I never much liked it. I preferred being outside, whether it be working or playing.
From age 5 to age 13, each day began being up before dawn, loading newspapers into my paper sack, and delivering the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to people’s houses, being out there on my route when the sun came up. I got to see that just about every morning.
Summers often grew long and boring, but I never minded the boredom. I was a fairly creative kid, in my own way, and I wove many stories in my head during those boring summer days.
Delivering the papers, I’d imagine myself pitching in a major league baseball game. As I wound up to throw each newspaper up onto the porch of each house, I’d pick out an area that I was aiming for — if the newspaper landed in my chosen area, it was a strike. If I missed, it was a ball.
At every chance I got, I traveled to the other end of town to see an actual major league ballgame. I usually went on my own, as I had much more freedom to move around the ballpark if unencumbered by a companion. On my own, I knew I could go anywhere I desired. I knew all the tricks, and knew that the secret to not getting caught was to just be cool, and act like you belonged wherever you went. It usually worked.
I like remembering things like this, things from my childhood, because I can look back now, and really admire that kid. At the time that I was actually living all that, I didn’t think too much of myself. I was so used to being put down, by “friends”, older siblings, my father, that I’d internalized a dialogue about myself, that I was no good, that I would never amount to much, that I was not cool.
The funny thing about friends was, if I had friends who didn’t do that, I figured they must not be cool, because the cool kids knew how uncool I was. I would keep seeking them out, figuring I would hang with them until I, too, became cool. But, I spent a lot of time with myself, and, despite how I felt about myself, I managed to make a lot of good use of that time. I created stories in my head, and sometimes played them out. It was kind of an escape mechanism, but I look back now, and think, “that kid really was pretty damn cool — he just didn’t know it at the time.”
I like to write about my exploits as a kid, from time to time, because at least now, I am in a position to let that kid know that he was actually a pretty awesome boy. This might make me uncool in his eyes — but, I don’t think so. I think, if he saw me now, saw what he was bound to become, he would say, “no way! There’s no way this can turn out that cool. I’m a loser — that guy has it all going on. How does that happen?”
Believe me, kid. You just got lucky. Keep doing what you’re doing — you’ll get here. It’s a good life — and you’re worth it. You’re the best kid I ever was!