Not sure if you’ve seen this, but the stores are already gearing for the holidays. October has yet to finish, but commercialism is quick to pull off its trick. . .
One of my favorite questions around this time is, “What do you want this year?”
I never ask for much. This does not mean my list is short; it only means the items on it a bit more personal. I understand that some of these wishes I have are unrealistic at best. Some of thewishes on my wish list are in no way possible; yet, these wishes are what illustrate my dreams and emphasize the different degrees of love and wonder, which exist in my heart.
Know what I want?
I want to see the return of the American dream. I want to go on a date to a drive-in movie theater. I want to go to ice cream shop afterwards with stools at the counter and soda jerk behind it, mixing up shakes, and chocolate egg creams. I want to order a basket of fries and share a drink with two straws.
I want to go to a prom. I never went to one. I want the entire package. I want the limo and pictures. I want to dance until dawn and the find my first sexual victory.
I want to see the return of romance. I want to see the return of innocence and dignity. I want to feel the same as I felt one afternoon as I walked along a street in the town of Cortland, New York. People smiled and said simple words like, “Hello,” and “How are you?”
I want to sit in Prospect Park and watch as my old friends come through the gate. They would smile as only they could smile. I would know what their smiles meant and they would understand mine as well. The years between us would be as if they never happened—and just like that, all would be forgiven.
I want to see my friend The Old Tree and thank him for all of his inspiration. I’d thank him for all he taught me and thank him for the best years I ever had, living where I lived and seeing him on a daily basis.
My list does not stop there.
I would like to visit the younger me. I would like to tell that boy not to worry and to hold on tight. I would tell him, “Stick it out, kid. I promise you this ride gets better.” I would swear it to him and maybe this will have given me the courage to change my path before my path changed me.
My list is long, but I keep it for a reason. I keep it because these crazy little dreams I have—these wishes if you will; they are all part of my spirit. They are pieces that help define what words cannot. These are thoughts of an inner child, eager to speak freely, and daring enough to have hope without seeing the benefits of proof.
This year I would like to take a walk with The Old Man on the beach at Point Lookout. I would like to sit down and play a hand of cards with him and my Grandfather. I never met my grandfather. I only heard stories if him.
I would like an actual visit from my Mom and show her the world I live in. I’d like to hear that she is proud and in her voice, I would live to hear the way Mom used to say, “Good mornin!”
I would like a second chance at early fatherhood or at least have the opportunity to visit me when I was new to being a father. I could tell myself not to worry and not to feel intimidated. I would tell me, “Don’t be afraid to get in there. Change diapers. Stay in the doorway as your child sleeps and watch for as long as you can.”
I would advise me, “A day will come when that child of your is too big to fit in your arms, and someday, someone else will come along and you will have to understand that life happens without regard for our feelings. Children are only lent to us for a short time. In fact, life is only lent to us—so make it count.”
There are few people I would like to apologize to. There is an afternoon I would like to relive, exactly as it was, and eat the same thing, sleep in the same place, and watch the same fire burning in the fireplace exactly as it was.
While I’m at it, I would like to relive a certain weekend and change everything about it. I would have walked away from the crowd I was with. I would have never turned back and never again be linked to a life that did not belong to me.
I would like to see my friend Mike “The Rocket” Schochett and tell him how much he meant to me. I’m not sure if he knew how special he was or how much I loved him. With all my heart, I truly believed my sobriety would not be what it is if he were not there for me in the beginning.
I would like to be who I am right now—exactly as I am right now, and looking exactly as I do, and sit in a classroom with all the teachers I had that told me I would be dead or in prison.
They called me a bum and a long list of other names. I would like to see each of the teachers that called me stupid or told me I was a loser.
I would like to show them what I achieved with my life. Then I would like to ask them, “What have you achieved with yours?”
There was a counselor named Kent who helped me the day after a long night. I would like to give back the first thing I ever stole and repair the first thing I ever broke or vandalized. I would like to cure addiction and alcoholism with one dose. The only problem is I’m afraid all of my friends that are still sick will O.D. and then I’ll have new things to feel guilty about.
I would like to see my second grade teacher, Mrs. Rowan, and tell her that she was mean to us kids. She was a hard looking woman with orthopedic shoes. Her breathe smelled from coffee and her eyes were the kind of steel blue that belonged to a witch.
There is a little girl I once met on the field behind the Playground at McVey Elementary School. I was a grown man, sulking, and stuck in self-pity. It was springtime and the little girl was running across the field, arms reaching out to the direction in front of her with hands crunching, eager to grab something. She was dressed in a little dress with little boots on. Meanwhile, the little girl’s mother stood by, watching, with what I supposed was a look as sad as mine.
The little girl was picking up dandelions—they were the feathery kind. Then the little girl would put the dandelions up to her face and blow as hard as she possibly could until all the feathers blew from the stem and spread through the air. It went on like this for a while.
I watched this and wondered what this little girl was doing. She picked nearly every dandelion she could find with perhaps the last two in the entire field, sprouting near my feet.
The little girl ran up to me. She bent down the way a little girl would bend down. Then excitedly, the little girl picked the two feathery dandelions out of the ground. One at a time, she put them to her lips and blew the feathers as hard as she could.
The mother noticed her little girl was near me, a stranger, and the mother began walking over, calling for the little girl. The little girl told me, “My Daddy said that if you have a wish, you can pick these up, and if you blow on them, your wish will come true.”
I asked the little girl, “What are you wishing for?”
Innocently, the little girl looked up at me and she said, “For my Daddy to come home from Heaven.”
I want to see who this little girl is now after all these years have passed. I want to see the people she knows and the boys she’s friends with to make sure they deserve someone as truly remarkable as her.
Yes, my list is long and it gets longer.
Sure, I wish for the winning lottery ticket. I wish my phone would ring with some big, Hollywood publisher on the other end of the line telling me, “Where ya been, kid? We’ve been waiting for you!”
I wish for the rebirth of music. I want to see a show, and I mean a real show, the kind that makes your ears bleed and your heart thump. I want to go to the kind of show that changes your life because the love you have for the band and their music is unlike anything else.
I wish I could cure the sick. I wish I could do card tricks or balloon animals. I wish I could juggle, or draw, and I wish I could play an instrument or sing well. I wish insecurity was a thing of the past and the Jets could win a Super Bowl.
I wish I could be more patient and I wish traffic over the George Washington Bridge wasn’t so bad when I head out to see my daughter.
I wish the world I leave behind will be a better place because of something I may have said or done.
But for now . . .
for this Christmas . . .
I suppose I’ll settle for an electric sander and a pair of pajamas—or maybe a new backpack for my overnight hiking adventures, or if at all possible, a visit from God the Father.
I have a few things I’d like to talk with Him about.