The mind amazes me. It holds this never ending library that stretches as far as one can see with rows and rows of stories. Much like the warehouse in the final scene of Indiana Jones. This library holds so much more than printed pages. The stories have words and pictures, movies and sounds, taste and smells and all are attached to emotions. My warehouse is controlled by an amazing librarian who has total recall of every detail of every chapter of every entry contained. They are ever vigilant of what is happening around me at all times. So as I go through life, oblivious to this endless wealth of memories, they are always seeking opportunities to present me chapters from my past. The smallest detail might send them running to pull out a chapter from years gone by.
It happened this morning. It was the smallest thing. My son had made sure I was up to see the sunrise (as he does every morning…he wouldn’t want me to miss one). I opened the door to let my dog out and the librarian burst into action. As soon as the crisp pre-dawn air touched my cheek the librarian pulled a chapter from my past. And as they saw I was paying attention, they strung together a story so intense I had to sit down at my keyboard and share it.
This chapter featured a much younger me, full of anticipation for the first day wearing a new jacket for the season. The first cool day of fall. I have never been one to relish the summers. Even with summer break from school, swimming and all of the summertime activities, I was about fall and winter. With the onset of fall, my senses went wild with anticipation, seeking every detail that spelled the coming of the change of seasons. The taste in the air of smoke from burning leaves and chimneys. The sound of blowing leaves scratching the ground as they raced past. My mind seemed to block out all surrounding sounds to create an eerie silence featuring only the sound of the leaves and nothing else. As I was older, watching the movie “Halloween” I was struck by a scene toward the beginning of the movie. It was a shot panning down the neighborhood street with a strong breeze hurtling leaves down the road as children rushed home in anticipation of that night. It was FALL for me. The tingle of my skin as a chilling gust swept my cheek. I was alive with every one of my senses on overload.
My senses were screaming in anticipation, but anticipation of what? Of a bone chilling winter with heavy coats and running noses? Of the new school year and homework? Of being cooped up inside because it was too cold to go out? NO! That was winter and fall for others, not for me.
The anticipation was for a crisp night, out after dark with friends. A night taken into another world where I was older and someone other than myself. An evening of conquest after conquest never knowing what treasures awaited at the next door. It was Halloween! It was a night like no other night. I was able to stay out later and go farther than I normally did, something that was not as dangerous during my time. It was a night where you could be anyone or anything you wanted. The planning for that special costume went on for weeks. Most importantly it was a night shared with friends doing the same thing.
As I lost myself in this chapter the librarian went on pulling the next.
Before Halloween, every year there was a program on television. It only played once per year but it never failed to happen. “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” I never missed it. As an adult my parents still call me each year letting me know when it is on. I can’t watch it today without a tear of nostalgia sliding out of the corner of my eye. Charlie Brown, as I called it, was the opening ceremonies of this wonderful celebration I had. It was the beginning. Even as a child, my librarian had started saving chapters and while watching the show they began pulling out volumes of Christmas past. As The Great Pumpkin was the opening ceremonies, Christmas was the finale.
As that memory flashed before me, the librarian went on stacking the next chapter before my minds eye.
In this scene a younger me sat on the couch at home. Stacked around me were several books, a pad of paper and an ink pin. I was deep in concentration, researching one of the books, oblivious to all around me. Was I doing homework? NO, I was making my Christmas list! The books were the Sears and Penny’s Christmas catalogs, sorry no Toys R Us back then. The arrival of these catalogs was always a significant time for me. My organizational skills already revealing themselves made this an important project of every season. I carefully studied each page of the toy sections of both catalogs. I circled each and every item I might like to see under the tree on Christmas morning. On my pad I wrote down the item, which catalog it was from and the page number to be found. I wanted no room for error in choosing the wrong item. I circled everything that I wanted, the drum set (knew that wasn’t going to happen…probably why I have one now), the chemistry set,(probably a good thing that didn’t happen. I recently saw a shirt that read, “The last words I will say before I die, WOW, I didn’t expect that to happen”) and everything else, even the mini bike. Want to talk about anticipation. That evening was it. When I completed the list I copied it for my grandparents and made sure to explain and re-cap it all. No room for error on such an important project.
My librarian stopped there. I have memories of Christmas but they are not as strong as everything that led up to it. It seems the anticipation holds a stronger place in my mind than the actually event that I anticipated.
As the years go by, these sensations and memories grow ever stronger. The simple sense of a crisp breeze launching a story that repeated itself year after year. The strange thing is as I age the story changes. No, not the reallocation of events but it changes from an anticipation of an event to the memory of an event. In my youth, my mind sparked a flame of anticipation of what was to come. In my maturity (nice word for being old) it sparked a memory that seems to strengthen with each year. I smile at the memories and fondly hold on to them but there is also a sense of sadness that it has changed from anticipation to remembrance. Why is there not anticipation for things more than memories of things? Is it that we have experienced so much more that there is less to anticipate? Is it that we lose our sense of childhood amazement with time? I do like seeing the sense of amazement and anticipation in my son (when he isn’t driving me crazy over it) but I miss that childhood feeling. That feeling that something big is just around the corner. That feeling of I can’t wait for it. Those feelings seem to come less frequent with the years.
I think youthful innocence, imagination and amazement are things to be held onto with passion. To see the world less with practical cynicism and more with youthful amazement. My librarian tries to keep it alive, if I would just listen. I think I will go find out when Charlie Brown is playing this year and figure out what I’m wearing on Halloween. Maybe the Christmas catalog from Guitar Center and Bass Pro will be here soon.
“Hey Librarian, Maybe it’s time to open up a few new sections.”
TODD (Yes, that is me in 1979)