Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Yearnings

I remember: my mother playing music from the 50's while she dusted the house.  She had a 'The Fabulous 50's' cd that became a regular hit for the two of us at midmorning.  It felt like it was always 10:30am with an easy sunlight leaking through the window.  This is a peaceful memory, a peaceful moment, before the great adventure that is the public education system enveloped my life.

I can hear wind chimes.  I can listen to the music.  I can, in a way, grasp what things looked like.  But what is gone is how I really felt -- who I was then.  I can no longer be that person.  I enjoy hanging out with children and playfully acting the part of the naive adult, but it is only acting.

My memory is mostly still intact from much of my childhood, but the feeling, the empathy, that has left me.

Hearts in Atlantis is an adaptation of a Stephen King short story that I somehow didn't devour amidst my early teenage obsession with the horror writer.  Like most of his non-horror stories, this one dealt with the end of childhood -- much in the same way that Stand by Me is.  It's sacred ground is the quintessential 'last summer of boyhood' - that nostalgic era perfectly stylized in The Sandlot.

Perhaps the film doesn't have too much to give, but it's own sentiment.  That's okay, I think... more than okay, really.

What I experienced while watching the film was not nostalgia, rather, it was longing enmeshed with a snippet of dread.  I have come to realize that childhood has departed from me, perhaps in the fullest sense.  On this earth, I reckon I will never own it again.  There's a divide between me and it now.  As the film played out, I could put myself inside the shoe of the over-the-hill Anthony Hopkins role before I could imagine myself as the budding boy.  How can that be?  I am but 10 or 11 years removed from the boy, and 50 years have I still to live until I resemble the old man.  How did I lose that so fast?

What was it like?  And who was I?  Is it the same me now that lived then?  Am I the all-grown-up version of my youth?  When I think of stories from my childhood, there's a separation I make between me and the boy-me.  We don't seem like one and the same.  Strange.


I foresee: a second yearning that is stronger than the first.  I get a dose of it from time to time.  Most recently I found it while inhaling the trailer for Sofia Coppola's new film, Somewhere.

It's not that I particularly want to have children.  I don't, per se.  Being a member, or even a father, of a happy family doesn't overwhelm my soul.

Here's the proper ingredients needed for the welling up of this particular yearning within me.

1) Being a thoroughly broken man.  
2) Having a desperate hope to shield your progeny from this brokenness.  

It's a completely streamlined life.  To live for a son or daughter.  To say to God, 'I know I blew it for myself, but with all that's left of me, I will live so that my kin might have a chance.'  Also necessary for the formula is that said offspring have no other person they could look to -- so, in my case, the mother can't be in the picture.

I guess when it comes down to it, I have a great desire to aspire to be a single parent.

Shoot, when I say it like that it just sounds weird.

The bridge between these two yearnings (a feeling of childhood and a fondness for a specific type of parenthood) is simple: innocence.  The child is innocent intrinsically.  The hopeless, personally wrecked Father is innocent because he has resigned himself from his own aspirations.  I think it may be the only way to return to a pure place of innocence while on this earth.

The ending moments of Stand by Me remind us that we've been listening to a memoir.  The author of the memoir takes one final moment to reflect on his last childhood adventure:

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" 

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