A time comes when our age comes to mind.
We look back with regards to the moments of our youth. Introspectively, we think about the good times and sift through the warm fragments of great nostalgia. We think back to the beginnings of our whereabouts and the times we had or the places we used to go to.
We think back to the times when our future was unimportant and tomorrow was simply a given. This is what we call our youth. This is where our drills of importance were far removed from our current status of bills and paying for things like insurance or electric.
There comes a time when an awareness comes in the sense of bitter-sweet emotion. This is pure and beautiful yet there are some laces of pain and the sadness of moments in the past.
There are times when these sudden realizations are brought on by the restoration of memory that may come from the smell from a honeysuckle bush which reminds me of a summer in fourth grade – or then again, another trigger could be the randomness of a song which we hadn’t heard since we were kids.
There are times when these triggers open the gates to an old time’s past; as if to open our eyes to the vague plans of our young life or remind us what we would do before adulthood took place. Yet, here we are now, decades later and looking back to remember the names of places like the Apollo Diner or something like that.
If we think or if we listen closely, we can almost hear the remnants of our youth and the sounds of our lives, which took place before our lives were robbed by maturity.
Certainly, this is unique to me. However, as a witness, I am simply here to convey an amazing and relatable truth which is, of course, there are no friends like old friends. Therefore, you never forget the kids from the neighborhood. I offer this as a glimpse to allow you a vision with hopes that you can see into something different than the daily humdrum or bullshit life.
You never forget the sleep-overs. You never forget the crazy moments of simple mischief.
By mischief, I mean the basic things. You know the type.
This is the ring-and-run or the nights of prank phone calls. These are the days when it was safe to run and laugh and be as absolutely wild as possible. We were free to do this because once we hit a certain age, there are limitations to our wildness and thus, there are expectations that are otherwise known as responsibilities. However, in full disclosure and with total transparency, I am and will always be a kid at heart. I still think some of the old prank phone calls were funny. I still think it’s possible to collect fireflies and keep them in a jar to be bright enough to go on a journey at nighttime.
I have these dreams from time to time. I am back in my old neighborhood.
Some of the dreams take me back to my fifth-grade classroom at midday. There’s no one in the room.
The classroom is on the ground floor (just to help you gain a picture) and the windows open outward from the bottom, tilting outward partially enough to allow for a breeze.
The shades on the windows were all drawn, a bit more than halfway yet I could see the sunlight coming in through the blinds and beaming through the windows with an unmistakable gleam of innocence.
The wind is creeping through the classroom and blowing gently against the posters and papers that were taped to the wall. Of course, there were the typical fifth-grade schoolhouse decorations on the walls. Little horses and letters of the alphabet written in print and in cursive.
The desks are all empty, including the teacher’s desk. His name was Mr. Golden by the way and to be clear, I was always afraid of him.
Mr. Golden was a very tall and very large man. Perhaps this might be why I was intimidated by him.
He also gave us two-minute tests in math which, to me, was even more intimidating than Mr. Golden himself.
I was never very good in math nor was I ever comfortable in the classroom. I was someone who occasionally stuttered in class but more specifically, I always stuttered when I would read, especially out loud. Hence, my classroom experiences were less than remarkable.
There are two doors to the classroom. One door is up front by the teacher’s desk. The other is in the rear of the classroom near the closets where we kept our coats and jackets. The doors are on the wall, which are opposite the windows – and even the doors had little schoolhouse decorations on them
I am a spectator in this dream. I am not walking but merely drifting from the back of the classroom towards the front. I am aware of myself and that this is only a dream; though, it’s the repetitiveness of the dream that always leaves me curious. On occasion, I’ve dreamt about the cafeteria where the walls were decorated with life-sized version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Sometimes, I’ve dreamt about the band cave, which was the only underground room in the school – but mainly my dreams take me back to here, my fifth-grade classroom.
Perhaps this is the age when the ideas of popularity and status became more apparent to me. Maybe this is where life took on a certain impact – or maybe this is when certain realizations took place and being a witness; perhaps this time is also seen in a troubled sense. Maybe this is when I became aware that not every adult can be trusted and not every touch is appropriate.
Maybe this is when I learned that not every friend is truly friendly and though we talk about the golden rules and though we are taught to share, to be nice, or to play fairly – the fact is that not everyone plays by the same rules. Not really.
Perhaps this was the boundary of before and after; or maybe the significance of this dream is simply a chemical response in my brain. In which case, this is nothing but different receptors that fire off in different directions.
Either way, I am levitating in my dream and traveling through the classroom.
I sweep in through the back door and then I move out through the front door. I pass through the middle row of the little desks and then exit. I am in the hallway now. I can hear the sound of kids playing in the playground. I know they are on the other side of the double-doors.
These are the doors at the end of the hall.
I can see nothing through the windows of the doors – except for the streams of brilliant light that only grow brighter as I move closer. As I come closer, I am drawing nearer to the door, just seconds before pushing through them and as soon as I do – the dream is over.
I can see this in my mind.
I can see the relevant and obvious youthfulness of the classroom and yes, I can recognize the walls, which looked exactly the same as when I was a young boy.
I can see the hallway that leads to the double-doors, outside by where the playground was.
I can feel the richness and the relevance of this dream as a means to remind me about the yin and the yang’s of my youth.
I see the quiet dimness in the empty classroom as a symbolized virtue of my fears and quiet insecurity – and yet; I see the beams of sunlight and the forms of brilliant light that glimmered through the windows as the spirit of hope and potential prosperity
Perhaps I can say the same for the sound of kids playing outside.
Perhaps they are a representation of my desire to play or to be welcomed. Maybe this is the real me; unencumbered, without the burdens or the blockages of personal doubt, which is something that comes with the mind of being young (and growing older) and perhaps this is a manifestation of me when I was misled by the personal ideas that somehow – I believed that I could never “belong” which of course, this was untrue.
There comes a time when we look back at our past selves and smile. Or maybe we laugh or even shake our heads. There comes a time when we see our reflection in the mirror and we think about what we looked at when we were younger. We think about the uncontrolled relevance of youth and the wild fascinations of our first kiss (or more.)
I often think back about my physical presence as a person and how I had no idea that I was more perfect than I imagined.
My body was better fit. I could heal.
I could stay up late.
There are other dreams I have of my old town.
I am young in this dream and while riding a bike in my young body; I am aware that again, I am a spectator of myself. I am on a bicycle, pedaling madly, while steering through the side streets in my town.
The season or time of year would appear to be during the birth of springtime. I always assume that this is the first warm day of the new season – ever reminding us that winter is the past for now and ahead will be the warmth of a new season and a new occasion.
I can see myself pedaling my bicycle, which I had in my early teenage years. I am riding my bike though town and passing the house where an Italian grandmother is hanging sheets and clothes on the clothesline outside. She is outside in the yard of what seems to me as a corner property – and here’s the thing – this dream is real because this is a true reflection of my little town, also known as East Meadow.
I see this and the woman as a symbolized version of the ultimate Mother, always watching and always loving – looking on with a comforting attitude, almost holy, like the Virgin Mother, Mary with eyes that gleam from Heaven’s excess – looking beautiful as she gazes sweetly upon her Child – or Child of God, who swaddled up in the bundle of innocence – Pure, sweet, and loving in a way that’s enough revert the mind to pictures of cribs with innocent mobiles and music that swirls above sleeping babies – like me for example, at the end of September, 1972
My trip trough the neighborhood is another dream, which interests me.
I am riding freely and without the mental hesitations of worry.
I was neither afraid nor worried about the crowd, nor was I interacting with the limiting challenges that go on in our head.
You know the ones. Right? The internal narrative was satisfied to cease.
I wasn’t thinking about how I looked or if there was going to be a problem when I met up with my friends.
No . . .
I am happy in this dream and without restrictions.
How perfect this is . . . How wonderful and free it is to be a kid without limitations.
I am young and free and doing whatever it was that a young kid should be doing on a day like this.
To me; I see a special relevance to these dreams.
Years back when I was addressing a mandatory classroom in a controlled environment – also known as jail and also known as a Sunday morning empowerment program, which I had designed to help reduce the problems of recidivism. And to be clear, a recidivist is also known as a person who revolves in the repetition or relapse of crime, which does nothing else but feed the unfortunate revolving doors of the prison system.
I asked a classroom of convicted men who had lived a life that even by their standards – they wished life was different for them.
I asked the question, “If you could go back to your young self, at any age, what age would you choose and what would you say to your old self.
There was a man who sat in the front of the classroom, each Sunday. He had a legitimate position in the a well-known street gang, which in fairness, I will only describe this as a gang that can be described by the depicted colors that are separations between red or blue.
“Listen to your Mother,” he shouted out.
I believe the age he chose was about 12 and yes, God only knows what he has seen in his life.
And God only knows if he is alive now or, perhaps he is alive or not – or maybe he’s back in the system or maybe not.
I have no way of knowing.
He approached me in his last class before release. And he thanked me for my time and for the conversations we’d had together.
He spoke to me in a cautious sense – mainly, he was telling me “without” telling me that he had a life to go back to and though neither the system nor I would wish this life for him – to him, there was no other wya to live.
“But thanks,” he said
I am not sure if it was this day or if it was another Sunday morning, which was known as Breakfast with Benny.
He asked me, “What would you have said to yourself? You know, if you could go back at any age, what would you say?”
My answer is this –
Don’t believe it.
Don’t invest in the ideas that somehow, something is “less” about you.
I would have told the younger “me” that there are far more beautiful qualities than defects in your life.
I would say, “You dream better than anyone I’ve ever met.”
I would say “Don’t be afraid” and then I would say, “No one has it down to a science”
I’d say, “Everyone is trying to figure this thing out. But you, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.’
‘So don’t be afraid to be you and if you’re still afraid – don’t worry. I’ll be here to protect you from now on, from this day forward, and for the rest of your life.”
This morning, before I took to my trusty keyboard to speak with you and share this view from my youth; I thought about all of the misinformation and the inaccurate assumptions we have about life, ourselves, and other human beings.
I thought about the challenges that get in the way of “The Moment”
I thought of how there’s so much in store for us – even now (even at the age of fifty and beyond)
As I write this to you; I am thinking about some of the most beautiful people in this world; whom I had the honest pleasure of meeting.
I think of them and the memories of the days from way back.
I think about the trials and the crazy tribulations of a time when I was weaving through the end of my 20’s and working at a place on 3rd Avenue.
which we do we go, Left? Or Right?
I think of the relevance of the classroom in my dreams. I can say the same for the playgrounds of my youth and then I think about the need to still yearn and be free.
I think of this and as a witness to my life; and not as a spectator, I deliver this version of myself – and in this view; I release the old demons or the fouled belongings of my so-called self.
And therefore, behold – I give to you a boy who wished to be so many things – who wanted to play – who never wanted to grow too old to play “pretend” or kickball during recess at noon. This is a bout who if and whenever possible, behold; I offer you a glimpse of this – the little me.
Can you see?
Look . . . there he is, a hopeful poet; an empathic dreamer, a vision, a true soul and yes; this is me, wishing I had known you all those years ago – and who knows . . .
maybe we could have played pretend a few times or dug for buried treasure.
And who would have cared if we found anything or not because as we grow; we start to realize that the moment is the gift.
This means our times together are the treasures we will hold onto – until one day, we look back and we smile because, as crazy as this life has been – at least we lived
At least we can say that much.
Lastly . . .
There was a time when I went back to my old elementary school.
I was walking in the field behind the school where a little girl in a sundress was running fast to pull up the feathery dandelions.
Then she would close her eyes intensely, make a wish, and then blow.
I was angry. I was in a bad way selfish as ever and believing that I was the only one who knew what pain is.
I was mad that something like the little girl who was so pure and so happy and beautiful was taking place while I was sulking in my own self-pity.
The girl eventually ran towards my direction. Meanwhile, her well-dressed mother cautioned her “not to bother me.”
She grabbed a few more dandelions. Closed her eyes and made a wish and then she blew the feathers up to the sky.
I moved back to allow the little girl to pick the ones that grew near my feet.
It was a pretty spring day and the weather was fine.
All was fine, except for me and my head.
I asked the little girl what she was going.
The Mother started to approach quicker because of course; I am a stranger to which I comforted the Mother with an understanding wave; as if to say “no worries.”
There was an expression on the Mother’s face; mournful and sad as if all had been lost..
The little girl answered –
My Daddy told me that if I pick these, I can close my eyes and make a wish then I can blow on them and my wish will come true.
What are you wishing for?
“For my Daddy to come home from Heaven.”
I am not the only witness in this world.
I’m just one.
And being that this is true –
I’m aware that we all hurt and we all weep sometimes, but yet, the sun continues and the days will pass.
Either way, you and I have a life to live
Don’t believe me?
Just ask the little girl