Monday, February 20, 2012
Welcome to Mayberry!
First of all, what kind of little boy writes every day in a diary for six months? He basically stopped because he had filled up the whole thing. (Leading me to hope, with cause, for more undiscovered volumes coming to light in the future.)
And what kind of little boy writes so well every day? And about the most wide-eyed and sweet things you can imagine filling a young boy's mind? And his parents didn't even know he kept a diary, so that means there were no admonishing words every night to remind him to record his day's doings. He just did it on his own! What a guy! I think I fell a little more in love with him yesterday, just from knowing more about him as a child, and knowing that he could produce such a masterpiece of late-20th-century Americana.
And I fell in love with his childhood. Sioux Falls, SD in the late 1980's may not have been Mayberry exactly, but it was full of wholesome diversions in which young Jason took part and then dutifully recorded. The only things missing were fishin' trips to the old crick; but, I'm guessing that had more to do with Jason's lifelong aversion to fish than to any lack of opportunity. It's all here: his frequent trips to the video arcade (complete with recorded high scores on "Paperboy" and "Elevator Action"; his excursions to play pool or ride go-carts with his grandpa (or, occasionally, "grampa"); his obsession with the Minnesota Twins (whom they played; which team won; their current ALC standing); riding bikes with friends or parents; going to the Y; charming angst about completing "Book-It" reading; programming an elaborate sports report into his dad's new computer (the one with the color monitor, no less!); interacting with various visiting family members; getting kicked out of the Pizza Inn with his sister and their friends ("don't worry, everybody already knows about that."); the getting and playing with of G.I Joe action figures; playing board games; snuggling with parents; typical hyperbolic statements about food (e.g. "Ate bacon and eggs at grampa's -- it was the best breakfast ever!"); doing homework for his ULE program ("fun!"); going to church; studying for his CCD class; and so on. The minutia of his life as a fourth grader is just fascinating. And it is fun to see now the glimpses of the nine-year-old in the person of the man I have loved for 18 years.
And it filled me with a sense of yearning, too. I thought, more than once, in reading the journal: So, this is what a happy childhood is like. Which makes me sound like an ungrateful wretch, I know. But, I couldn't help but think about what my diaries from when I was nine would be like (and I kept them sporadically, but I am unsure if any remain). When I turned nine, my parents divorced. And, you see, they were both really decent people whom I adored. I was an only child, and my parents were my life. And, when they divorced, well, that was that for the wide-eyed innocence part of my childhood. No event -- whether momentous or trivial -- of my young life would be experienced with unmitigated joy again. Christmas? Yeah, try waking up to one Christmas with your dad and then having to pack it all up and go to your mom's by midday (and then have your mom yell at your dad for bringing you over later than she wanted). Horse show? Yeah, that's fun -- with one parent who indulges you in your equine love and the other who resents it. School play? Uh-huh -- with which set of parents do you go to dinner and celebrate afterwards? Any bit of good news makes you stop and consider -- whom do I tell first, Mom or Dad? Because, when you choose the one, you automatically are not choosing the other. Hideous burden for a child. Truly.
Jason, with his intact family and close-knit extended family, had something really special in the 1980's. He was a remarkable guy, of course; but, it was the safety and security of home that allowed him to be so free in coming into his own. His is a chronicle of an untroubled mind (other than that dastardly "Book-It" which was the only cloud I can find in an otherwise sunny sky). I love that little boy in that diary, and I am so grateful that the family and world that produced him was able to meet up with my own and bring me into it. The good man whom I know, was a simply delightful boy. In fact, the most adorable 9-year-old boy ever.
One last note from the diary: On March 7, 1987, the temperature in Sioux Falls was 78°. On March 8, 1987, it was 34°. Wow!