Hello America? How ya been? It’s time to come back together and see how well we can be socialized, just like I did for the first time about 53 years ago. I was 4 years old that first time, and I remember that first day of kindergarten. My parents walked me to my school, which was about a 3 minute walk from our home. I met my teacher, Mrs. Scheer, a 65 year old woman with her hair in a bun. She drove a yellow Volkswagen Bug, just like my teacher mon, although mom’s was green. My parents handed me off to my teacher, and then I was separated. Out there…in the world. It was 1968, and I wouldn’t be 5 for another month.
I sat alone on a piece of carpet, feeling kind of alone, although there were 4 or 5 kids around me playing with blocks. I didn’t know the first thing about these kids, least of all what to say to them, so I stayed rather quiet. That was the first day. By the second day, I was full of talk and action. I remember running around making motorcycle noises. Eventually, Mrs Scheer made me the student council representative for my class. I was one of the few kids who would speak to adults easily. That adjustment went fairly easily.
Junior high went fairly smoothly. I was quite anxious to get there by 7th grade. A new building, and a new style of school day, and socializing. We had classes that lasted just under an hour, and had a few minutes in between to get to the next one. We had lockers, and hallways where socializing among students occurred. Girls started to become interesting, and growth spurts happened. You all know the drill. You’ve been there.
High school was another adjustment. Most of us were much smaller when we started high school, and considerably larger by the time we graduated. In those last few years of childhood, I learned to drive, started developing views of the world, and even had 3 beers before I graduated. I was punched in the face for the first time outside of a party by some older kid. We were standing around in a driveway, talking in a large group of kids. It was quite cold, and we were in deep snow. I was wearing a big shearling coat with the deep pockets sown on the outside. My hands were deep down inside.
Right then, out of the darkness, some older kid from my high school that I did not know, ran up to me shouting and delivered a haymaker. He knocked me off of my feet and onto the truck of a car I was standing next to. His friends grabbed him and shoved him into a car, and they sped off. I did not know the kid’s name before, and I never learned it after. I don’t even really know why it happened, although I have an inkling. It was no big deal to me. It was over in an instant.
High school seemed like an eternity at the time, but as life goes, it was really just a moment in time. All of those adjustments took place within the same few acres of Shaker Hts. My schools were all close together, and my home was close to all of them. From a child’s perspective, it all seemed perfectly easy, although I know it was a different story for my parents. They let their only child go out of the biome in the year that MLKJr was assassinated, and Robert Kennedy was slain. Vietnam was still raging, and America was in upheaval. So, which one was real?
Now, we are into another adjustment. We have to find out how to live together. We have been, “on a break”, as Ross and Rachel used to say, from the cast of “Friends.” Our break, however, hasn’t been romantic, and it has not been comedic. We have just come through something I have never experienced before. My parents never experienced in their time. My parents are long gone now, and I have worried about the loss of wisdom from their generation since I was in college. It seemed like a bill coming due sometime in the future, back then, and I wondered how we would cover the cost of our collective lack of experience. Ready or not, that bill is now due.
Amy and I are going camping in Vermont next month, for a 4th of July week camping trip with a Marine Corps buddy of mine, Ethan, and his wife. Ethan and I served together in Atlanta. I got there a bit before him, and left before him, to go join the LAPD. I left Atlanta on a sprint. I packed everything I could, and gave away the rest. One of the things I gave away, several things actually, was an apartment full of fairly new furniture. It couldn’t have been much more than a year old. I do remember the day he and Sue showed up to get it. Ethan went to his wallet and asked me how much I wanted for it. I said, do you like it? “You can have it. You’re doing me a favor by taking it.” He wasn’t quite sure if I was joking, and I’m sure was only convinced when he saw me jump into my Mustang and speed westward. I’m sure I forgot all about that furniture by the time I hit the on ramp for I-75. I never gave it another thought.
A couple of years ago, we started talking again, and he reminded me of it. Ethan and Sue have three grown boys now. They used that furniture for a decade or so as theirs, and then later gave it to their sons in their basement teenager’s lounge. They had just gotten rid of it 2 or 3 years ago when I heard from him. That was the first time I gave that furniture any thought, and I loved the idea that someone got such good use out of it.
Ethan and Sue own a bookstore now in Branchville New Jersey, where Ethan grew up. Broad Street Books, if you’re interested. They came to visit us a couple of years ago, in the “before time”, and we talked about this camping trip. We spent the last year doing some home remodeling, and are now finally ready to make the trip. We’ll be on an island in Lake Champlain, but we will have to travel through the re-opening America to get there. I must confess, I am more nervous about this than any previous adjustment in my life. Miles and I have had many hikes through parks and forests, and streams over the past year. Most days, we could count the number of people we passed on one hand. On the really good days, we saw none.
It was an interesting time during the quarantine because I could sense a noticeable difference in how people, strangers, greeted us…or didn’t. Rarely, in the before time, did Miles not generate conversation from passers-by. Everybody, and I mean everybody, loves a lab. But, during the quarantine, greetings became relatively rare. The ones that did acknowledge us tended to just nod. Smiles could not be seen because people were often masked.
All that began to change a few months ago. People started to give greetings, and then smiles returned. I got myself an Apple Watch a couple of months ago, and with all the walking I was doing, my watch didn’t agree, and prompted me to do more. So, for the last couple of months I have been out in the forest by 6am, and we do about 5 miles. After than, I return to my gym and run a few on the treadmill and hit the weights. The gym days are every other day, but the watch commands that I walk a couple of miles on the days off. I read about people working up to 10,000 steps per day. I’ve been doing 15,000 from day one. On the days that I double with a workout, it is even more. (I’ve done over 18,000 today). So, in this couple of months, I managed to lose about 8 pounds. Well, exactly 8 pounds…and then some. This is convenient for me because We’ll be hanging out with my Marine Corps buddy who was the most fit Marine in my squadron.
Hanging with Ethan and Sue will be easy enough, but getting there is what concerns me. We’re not flying, so we don’t have to face the airborne fisticuffs that seem to be the going thing on airlines these days. Mass shootings seem to be back in vogue again, so we will be on the lookout for that. We wont be going to any train stations or Walmarts, so maybe we’re in the clear there. I did walk past an older man at a rest stop, coming out of the rest room, and heading to my car. I had stopped in an area in Southern Ohio where they recognize their county Sheriff as the only legitimate authorities, and minorities are decidedly illegitimate. So, there is a weird vibe out there, depending on where you are.
All of that isn’t helped by the fact that, “the former guy” is telling people that he will be,”reinstated in August”. So, this is the America that I am nervous about rejoining for the July 4th holiday. I am more concerned now than any time since my second day of kindergarten. I’m sure it’s nothing though, right?
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