Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankful for Boyhood

I am very glad to have lived to be an older man. You know that biblical allotment? Well, I am there and beyond. It is good to be thankful for our lives, that’s the long and short of it. What a privilege to be alive on the planet in our time! But I was reflecting during this Thanksgiving season about how grateful I am for my boyhood.

I am thankful for my dog Fuzzy that was my boyhood companion. When it was possible for him to be with me, he was. When it was not, he waited. When he saw me coming he was all wags. My uncle called him Danny’s Shadow.

I am thankful for my horse Nancy, my boyhood mount. She did not like me and we never really bonded, but I loved our rides through the Louisiana countryside. She never wanted to go where I wanted to go, except when we turned towards home. Then there was no holding her back.

I am thankful for my cats Buttercup and Sweetpea there were my boyhood cuddlers. They lived for rubbing against human legs and sitting in human laps, competing for the best spot. They were not very good mousers, but why should they be when we fed them sumptuously?

I am thankful for my old hybrid bicycle, my boyhood transportation to the very edges of civilization. The bicycle man of my hometown had produced the vehicle from spare parts. It was part Schwinn, part B. F. Goodrich. But I was not into brand names back then, nor am I now. I just wanted something that would jump ditches and go the distance, and that bike satisfied.

I am thankful for the ditch that was my boyhood clay factory. A neighbor boy and I used to dig up the good clay and make extravagant sculptures, from ape-man heads to miniature villages, from squirrels to bowls, from coiled snakes to buffaloes. Our sense of space and form were enhanced by our many experiments with clay. An added benefit of the beloved ditch was the easily captured crawdads that lurked there.

I am thankful for the Kapok sleeping bag of my boyhood that accompanied me on many camping ventures, both the official ones with the Boy Scouts and the unofficial ones with the guys from church. None of us slept very much on these outings, but at least I was warm when we told stories, spun yarns and created tall tales.

I am thankful for uninhibited baseball games in vacant lots, for Rover Red Rover, for Sling the Statue, for Jacks. Yes, boys do play Jacks and I actually got pretty good at it: cows in the barn included. I am deeply grateful for spin the bottle, one of the games that we all looked forward to as we approached the threshold of puberty.

Mainly, though, I am thankful I survived my boyhood. Wordsworth said the child is father of the man, meaning that our childhood experiences are very important to our development into adults. I can see his point.

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