bringing me back from the joys of summer (and the ennui)
to the delights of being with peers and friends and mentors
and having structure,
classes to attend,well, yes, those thoughts and remembrances, and yet,
homework to do,
the fall musical,
preparation for the Christmas concert,
intramuriel sports (although I ran cross country and played basket ball as a freshman, on the frosh-soph teams)
homecomeing dance (only went to one, and that only because Rebecca Williams became disgruntled with Kieth Mandabach and her best friend Barb Fields had her boy friend Jim Wagner who sang with me in the barbershop quartet for our high school production of The Music Man convince me I should ask Rebecca out and we would double date - which was a great time, plus Jim then recruited me to help him deliver the Sunday papers after the dance, and kept me on to share the route with him, and paid me quite fairly - even split Christmas tips)
the romances that always ensued co-terminously with the plays,
the one GREAT jazz programs
(Ramswey Lewis my junior year, Oscar Peterson senior year)
the sock hops,
sneaking cigarettes at night,
hanging out with my buddy Kiffer Allen playing ping pong all through the night,
golfing with dad into the ever-earlier arriving evenings
as we tried to squeeze the last few seconds of sunlight out of the day,
and sometimes could get in an additional 15 minutes
by the reflection of the sun off the moon,
going back, even further back,
to the days and nights and seasons in Streator -
delivering newspapers after school,Streator, which always seemed so safe and secure to me,
collecting for the newspapers on Saturdays,
taking the money into the News Agency,
stopping at the soda place next door to indulge my secret pleasures -
burger, fries, and coke (about $0.40)
and two games of pin ball (another $0.20), and,
in Streator, church services on Sundays
(after mom helped me prepare and pick up the newspapers for early morning delivery) ...
well, fun stuff, and I think of you, and how you had the loveliest smile
I still have a junior high school picture ...
and all our friends, and all the Streator times,
a place where I believed I belonged, and felt a part of ...
unlike the town we moved to, and where I continue to live,
all these years later, and still feel so out of place,
except that, by the grace of God,
I DO (from time to time) meet members of my own tribe -
people who care for the down-trodden,
folks who will engage a stranger in LONG conversations at the train station,
and even invite a relative stranger to coffee, for more conversation,
and will eventually become as good and dear,
and cherished of friends as I've ever had ...
and yet ... I cannot wait to leave,
to leave this part of my life behind, to leave behind so many people
(most especially family and former friends)
who had no problem accepting me during
my months upon months of depression and wall flower shrinking,
but who had nothing BUT problems accepting that
I would (eventually) exit the funk and emerge with epiphanies
that they not only did not want to have me share,
but felt were evidence of an illness;
an illness that cannot be located in the body,
but is said to reside in the mind (which also cannot be located in the body)
but is merely a Freudian construct, consisting of id, ego, and super-ego,
if you're willing to buy into that kind of thing) ...
and thus I hunger, for a place where I am accepted for what I do,
and not despised for what I say,
and where people can separate word from deed.
And yet, even still, I encounter (almost as if by magic)
someone who cared about me and believed in me
way back when I most needed
someone to care about me and believe in me,
way back when, and they are happy to see me,
and I am happy to see them,
and then we share our stories, and, oh good Lord,
but how they have suffered, and sometimes they cry,
and want to apologize, and I always tell them,
"you never have to apologize for crying, especially not to me ...
"tears are how God helps us get through our grief and sorrow,
"tears are how we are able to purge ourselves of our great pain
"over our great losses ... which are after all, so much a part of life ...
"that when we have those small, tender, and precious
"moments of bonhomie, and that safe feeling comes around again
"and descends upon us, as if once more, we were young children,
"safe in Streator, it is a blessing, almost beyond which words can describe."
Good health, peace, and blessings upon you, and also upon all of the ones you love, and also unto all of them that love you.