So, here I am…living the dream. Since I have always been sort of a hopeless, romantic, dreamer, it’s worked out pretty well.
I remember as a small child, I would lay in the stiff and crunchy straw grass at “the short cut” and stare up at the autumn clouds on a sunny October day, and I would imagine that if I could just get up there, I would have a blast bouncing from cloud to cloud. Free from gravity, free from tonsillitis, free from runny noses, free from arguing parents, free from uncertainty, free from fear. No bullies, no bullshit, no restraints. I dreamed about flying all the time. I would jump out of a plane from above the clouds, and just drop down upon them…as soft and gentle as my grandma’s hug. The clouds were landing spots, and launching pads; it was real, and possible… and it was just a matter of time.
And then, in fifth grade, back when they taught you stuff instead of how to take tests, we had science as part of our curriculum. And when you took science class in fifth grade, they loaned you a text book, AND…in this particular Houghton Mifflin text book, there was a chapter on weather… and THAT fucked everything up.
Turns out cumulus clouds are not spongy, springy cotton balls, basically they’re just water. If you tried to jump on one, you would fall through it, crashing to the earth. Then you would land on the sidewalk or the street (because back then the world was made mostly of sidewalks and streets) and you would break an arm or a leg. So then, you would still have tonsillitis, a runny nose, bickering parents…bullies & bullshit, but you would have to add whatever broken bones you acquired from the fall to that inventory of earthly misery. I probably should have deduced all that when I saw planes fly through the clouds.
So that sucked…
The lesson here is that a good education is a spoiler of dreams.
However, it’s still a sweet memory, and it was a sweet dream. A little boy imagining a trampoline world up in the clouds…free and peaceful, special and safe. Nothing wrong with that.
Later, I dreamed of being an athlete. Mostly a pro football player, but I could have been a baseball player, a swimmer, or a track star. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Carlos Palomino made me want to be a fighter. Bruce Lee and David Carradine made me want to be a martial arts master, but a Robin Hood type; a protector of the innocent and downtrodden. (And the cute!!)
I kicked a LOT of imaginary asses at first. After I became a more skilled imaginary ass kicker, I daydreamed of taking on real life bullies. I usually kicked those thug asses while protecting some of the girls who were my seventh and eighth grade crushes. These were very James Thurber, ‘Walter Mitty’, type daydreams.
Imagine, if you will…
Laurie, the seventh grade captain of the cheerleaders, and prettiest girl in the school, is walking down the hall, making eye contact with me from twenty lockers away, and smiling…at ME.
So with a cool twitch of my head, I shift my poorly trimmed hair out of my eyes, and I walk towards her. (We’re moving in slow motion, because that’s how daydreams work, this allows the joy to last a full, one third, longer…this is always true. You can Google it.) As we get closer to each other, it seems like it’s a foregone conclusion that she’s going to ask me to walk home with her. Of course I will, and I’ll carry her books for her. Maybe she’ll ask me go to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and if we go to the dance, maybe I can kiss her goodnight. I would kiss her so gently and sweet, right on the mouth…and she will taste of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine, and everlasting love.
But Oh No! Just as we are mere inches away from each other (and everlasting love) Rick Bluto steps in front of her and asks her if she wants some of his Big Buddy bubble gum. He’s very suggestive and ungentlemanly in his offer. He startles her, and scares her, and I see the pleading in her eyes…asking me for help. But Bluto is much larger than me, and he’s strong, and hairy…and in seventh grade you avoid confrontation with hairy guys at all costs. So I turn and start to walk away in shame. But as I look over my shoulder I see that he’s grabbing her arm to try to hold her hand, and I can stand no more. So I walk back – with the determination of a grown man in love. And even though I’ve never had any “formal” training, I’ve watched enough ‘Kung Fu’ episodes to have a basic understanding of martial arts, and I bust Rick Bluto’s large and hairy ass for him. Of course, it was for Laurie too, and for me, and for everyone else in America. The kids all gather around and start chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” It’s practically over before it starts, because I’m so quick, noble… and martially gifted.
I win the confrontation, and the girl. Rick Bluto learns a lesson, and starts getting better grades, and stops picking on all of us, and becomes a congressman. Laurie and I get married and have a couple of kids. And teachers, school administrators, and everyone in our community agrees that THIS seventh grade class was probably the best ever. Everybody wins.
No shit. I really dreamed like that, all the time. I even wanted to start my own street gang, but we were going to be a nice and noble gang – good Samaritans – we would defend women and children with “…the fiery passion of a thousand suns”. We were going to get denim vests with sewn on patches. We would be called “Feminine Protection”, and the mean streets of Woodbridge VA and Washington DC would be safe to walk again – any hour of the day! That was my dream.
One day, in the summer of ’72, I shared my dream with my mother. I asked her if she would buy me a Levi’s denim jacket, help me cut off the sleeves, and find a way to embroider “Feminine Protection” on the back.
So being the amazing mother she was, she explained some things to me. “Oh”, I said in response to another science lesson. After the trauma of the lesson on feminine protection, I couldn’t come up with another catchy name for my noble gang, so just like the clouds, another dream was dashed.
I had a rough childhood, full of disappointment and failed dreams.
But eventually, I started to put those childish dreams away. When it became clear that I was not going to be the president of the local chapter of a noble street gang, or the next Lynn Swan, Muhammad Ali, or even Kwai Chang Caine, I started imagining a different future, one more reflective of who and what I really am.
When I figured out that I was just The Large Man, nothing more, but certainly nothing less, dreams changed to aspirations. When I realized that other than being a decent kisser, and having a knack for picking the perfect “next song” at parties, I had no special powers or talent. I was an average guy, and I began to dream average guy dreams.
Or did I?
Maybe…just MAYBE, those average guy dreams are actually bigger…and better.
I wanted a wife, and I thought it would be awesome if she were pretty, and she liked me. I wanted a couple of kids that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time in court with. I wanted a Large dog that came to me when I said, “Here boy!”. I dreamed of living in a house in a safe neighborhood, and driving a car that I didn’t hate that would get me back and forth to a job that I also didn’t hate. That was it. Well, I guess I’ve always wanted a decent stereo too.
Wife, kids, dog, house…stereo. Less dramatic than bouncing on clouds and protecting cheerleaders from bullies, but in reality, just as ambitious.
A good and simple life is hard to come by. The stars need to line up for 2 completely different humans who want pretty much the exact same things. Finding a partner who loves you, and who will love you forever is just about as difficult as bouncing on clouds. A lot of times people think they love each other, because of all those beginning fireworks, but when the smoke clears and the ash settles, they find out that being in love, and staying in love, is much harder than falling in love. Take my word for this…I have some experience. Some dreams end a lot worse than finding out clouds are really just water.
Funny how it worked for me though. It seems like when my hopes and dreams became a little smaller, and a little less spectacular, my realities became much bigger, richer, and sweeter than I ever imagined. As a young man, I absolutely DID dream of this life, I just never dreamed that it would be this sweet.
Wife, kids, dog, house…simple when you write it out like that, but when you add them together, and take a good look at that simple, sweet dream, it’s really quite something.
Sweet dreams & Big love to you. Thanks for reading.