I couldn’t have been more than 9 years old. If my math is accurate, which it seldom is, that would make it around the summer of 1984. It was hotter than hell in Memphis, TN and I can remember the roads in our neighborhood had recently been paved. The heat coming off of the asphalt make squiggly lines and I thought it looked “gnarly”. Grandpa was leisurely rocking on the front porch swing and my brother Ted would be waiting to meet me at my destination. In hindsight, I believe I had about a one mile walk in front of me, but it could have been much shorter (or even much further) in reality. I would be leaving our home at 5484 Benna Cv to walk to, what was then, the East Memphis Catholic Club or EMCC. We were members there, and Ted and I were participants on the swim team. I was about as hydrodynamic at that age as I am now, so even listing myself as a “participant” on a swim team is a bit of a stretch.
I’m not so sure that seeing a 9 year old making a one mile walk from his cove to the local pool would be such a strange sight in this day and time, but I can tell you what would be. I would be making my journey as a pudgy, sandy-blonde headed kid with perpetual bedhead, who was wearing nothing but a Speedo and yielding a towel….and it seemed perfectly normal. I don’t remember giving it any thought at the time. Hell, my own Grandpa watched me leave the house and never once made a reference to my being in essentially bikini bottoms being anything other than completely ordinary. A simple, “put some pants on, doofus” would have been warranted, but I guess it didn’t make any difference to him either. Grandpa was the WORLD’S GREATEST at not placing stock on what people felt about what he was thinking, doing, wearing, or eating. Today they call it “not giving a fu*k”, but I always called it Grandpa. His staple walk-around-the-block attire was a wife-beater, casual shorts, black church socks (up to his knee caps), and shiny shoes that looked like they were made for a tuxedo or ballroom dancing. I can remember seeing Grandpa with a mustard stain on his shirt big enough to plug the hole in the ozone layer, and enough bread balled up in the corner of his mouth to have made another sandwich, assuming you could find another piece of bologna…which he probably had in his pocket somewhere. He would just rock on the front porch swing, or even sit a chair smack in the middle of the yard and just set there. He never once concerned himself with whether or not he looked “cool”, or what the people at church were gonna say about him, he just didn’t. Maybe it was because he was such a nice guy that he didn’t have to worry about it. He never had anything but positive things to say about other people, and maybe naturally he just felt that everyone kinda did the same, I don’t know. All I do know is this…I was cruizin down Lyford Ave about 50 stitches shy of butt-ass naked. Sure, “stranger danger” was taught, but there was no real feeling of any sort of threat or potential harm. Of course there was no internet, and the media did not have access to all of the world’s problem as readily as they do today. It does not mean that there weren’t problems, but they weren’t as “in your face” as they are currently. Now, I am not saying that the internet or the media is the problem, and I am not even saying that those were safer times, as I have still yet to be kidnapped or harmed in any way (although, maybe if I looked better in a speedo, that wouldn’t be the case). The fact that I was walking around town virtually naked does not seem to me to be so profound on a historical level, or as a “back in those days” sense, but I think back to a developmental period in my life, and how refreshing that memory is to me. I want to go back there. I would like to live my life there, and in that fashion (only I want to have clothes on).
This seemed like such an easy time. I felt so secure, but did not identify it as security at the time, because I was unaware of insecurity. I felt as if Grandpa and my brother, Ted each provided me with enough safety bandwidth to get me from the house to the pool. I didn’t know that it was “bad” to be pudgy, or that I should comb my hair. Hell, I didn’t even know I needed pants on for God’s sake. In my house, I was never micro-managed. I was not told how to think, or who I was to become. I wasn’t compared to anyone, and I had few expectations placed upon me. There was no fear of ridicule because I was unfamiliar with ridicule. There was not any gossip that I can remember at our dinner table, so I feared not anyone gossiping about me. What a time it was in my life to live so freely, and unimpeded by the concerns and opinions of others. I had so little responsibility, but when I did, my only responsibility was to fulfill that particular responsibility. There was no hashing and re-hashing all of the potential outcomes or worse case scenarios that would come out of different situations. Each decision was not met with an army of what-if’s and bad endings. I’m not sure when all of this problematic thinking started, but when it did….it did.
I watch my daughter as she goes through her existence at the age of 6 years old. Her switch is stuck on the “contentment” setting. She is unaware of so many things, primarily because ignorance is a requirement of this age. I watch as her peers carry backpacks that are literally half their size, and cradle armfuls of books and art assignments, dropping out of their hands as they exit the school doors, as if leaving a trail of bread crumbs. She appears to be unaware that the load she is carrying is even a burden. She is un-phased by the fact that her jeans are 3″ too short because she is growing so fast and her absent-minded dad grabbed the wrong jeans. She doesn’t know that this should be considered a problem. She makes her decisions on feel, while naturally taking into consideration of others. She asks me at 10am on a Saturday, “what time are we going to school?”. I tell her that it’s Saturday, and there is no school. She replies, “Oh”, as if that is no better or worse of a scenario. There is that existence where the calmness and happiness comes naturally, because there is no knowledge of all the other bullsh*t. The constant grinding of the mental gears and giant thought waves slapping against the sea walls, the fear driven hourglass uploading and browsing through the mental hard drive only to get stuck on one file, before aborting altogether and moving on to the next upload, convinced that my file is corrupt. I want to go back to the time where my thinking was less labored, and dangerous, and complex.
I believe that place in my life still exists and can be a reality for me. I don’t believe that a walk down Pigeon Roost Rd. in Byhalia, MS wearing nothing but a Speedo is gonna help get me back there, but you never can be too sure. I think that some faith, inventory, and a good look at reality could help tether me back to the ease of life that I had when I was 8 or 9 years old. I can only think that Grandpa knew something about life, that I have yet to learn, that would explain his carefree, relaxed way about himself.I can think of so few times where my forward thinking and “what if” scenarios have benefited me in any way, that I feel like less thinking and more contentment is the way for me. Of all the bad things that happen in our world, and all of what I see on TV, and all of what societies warns is coming my direction, I have been a victim of virtually none of it. I am not saying that I am immune, or that it is fiction or fear tactic, but what I am saying is that I waste a lot of time and energy devoted to situations which, to this point, have yet to occur. I want to unwind a little bit, and place myself on an easier, more care free plane. As a friend once told me, “I know that my worrying works…cause most of the things I worry about, don’t never happen.”
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,