Way back in the deeps of time, I was sitting on the bank of an irrigation canal. It was the end of summer, and the weedy bank was playing hide and seek with some bright afternoon sunlight trying its best to filter through the leaves of an old elm tree.
When I say “end of summer,” I mean school was about to start—five more days of freedom. The thing is, I was stuck in a crevice of time. My friends, the kids I had found a place with, were all a bit younger. Those kids were still in elementary (primary) school, whereas I was starting middle school (in fact, junior high school). A trick of birthdays and school deadlines put me in the way of a buzzsaw that would inevitably cut my friendships asunder. Not only that, the grade school had a different start date than my new fief of educational thralldom. They were already suited up in the new jeans and stiff-keep-your-shirt-tucked-in button up the center first day of school clothing prisons.
Winding the clock back a bit from the weedy bank, when you were leaving the haven that is those first grades of school, it seemed like the teachers always got such pleasure from informing you that “you’re not a baby anymore!” “There will be homework and term papers and cigarette smoke in your lungs!” Ok, not the smoke, though it seemed like a lot of them smoked in the alley behind the teacher’s lunch room.
“I know what it means to hide your heart from a long time ago
It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin’
It keeps you runnin’, yeah it keeps you runnin'”
My pals faced none of this. It didn’t really matter though. Summer vacation was starting, and that last day of school was like coming up from being trapped in 200 feet of water for nine months. Waking up that first day of summer vacation . . . but I digress. It was the end of summer, and I was alone. Alone in a spot that I normally shared with a few mildly twisted persons like myself. But now there was nothing but the breeze, the water, and the tree leaves rustling, seeming to whisper things like, “change is coming—you won’t ever be doing that stuff again—the stuff you did this summer—that’s over with—you’re not a child anymore—don’t bother dreaming about being a superhero, or Tarzan of the Apes (I held on to that one for a few years—even toying with the idea of running away from home to Africa)—or reading those silly comic books.”
Not a baby anymore. A shadow had fallen across my path. My path of life. The ever darkening shadow of growing up. It wasn’t fun, not in the least. I think I even pondered what it might be like to have to buy gasoline for a car. Terror.
I get gathered up by whiffs of orchestral wanderings sometimes. If you want to know what triggered this thought-spray, it was a very short but to me poignant Mark Snow composition called “Grow up Superboy” that I have in a playlist.
It’s nothing so grand as John William’s “Leaving Home” (also a favorite) but for me there’s just something embedded there that reminds me of that day in the field when I realized that these episodes of being tossed from the train into a desert weren’t over. I would always be alone in some fundamental sense, grazing the surface of the unknown in some way or other. And so it has been. Can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed the anticipation that much.
Postscript. I’ve been sitting here honestly wondering if all that really happened by the canal in the field, and I don’t know. I do know that the thoughts are old, and capture something of what things were like in those days. That’s memory for you.