Thursday, July 05, 2007

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

Of the Treachery of Nostalgia

I observed the following a couple of weeks ago, while out and about on College Street during what is called A Taste of Little Italy:

A boy of roughly four years, his younger sister (in a pram), and his handsome and taxed looking parents were slowly making their way through the thicket-like mob. The hour was late--something on the order of ten-ish--and the little tyke had that stricken look that little tykes get when the body is weary, the embryonic soul aching, and the senses loaded well-past capacity. I nudged Lenore and began counting down. Five ... Four ... Three ... Two ... And, sure enough, he burst into hysterical tears.

I laughed avuncularly, Lenore cooed maternally. The beer is just the right temperature, thought I and lit my second Tooney stinker of the evening.

The boy's father was quick to the rescue--and particularly resourceful, I thought. On bended knee at the man-child's side he produced from his pocket a small chocolate bar, unwrapped it between caresses of the boy's shockingly blonde head, and handed it to him with heartfelt apologies for all this whatnot and whatnot. Then he swept the lad up onto his shoulders, affording him a view of the whole fascinating human landscape stretched out before and behind him, that, I'll admit, I was not a little envious of.

To say that the child's mood was improved by these measures would be to stretch understatement too far past the polar extremity. It wasn't so much that Junior cheered-up as that he seemed to have been exchanged for another little boy altogether. Thus perched and brandishing his candy bar like a caramel-tipped conductor's stick, he laughed, he gleefully and incoherently babbled, he cheered and waved his chocolate smeared hands at every scowling face that passed him. His smile was so wide I feared the top of his head might actually come unbalanced and fall off.

Now it was Lenore's turn to laugh (though not avuncularly; it was more along the lines of the three witches) but I just smoldered ... For I realized then, with a sudden, stark, almost blinding clarity: there's a strong risk that boy'll be plagued by happy memories of this night the rest of his life! That the hardships of his adult life will be only further burdened with nostalgia for the charmed days of his youth when Papa held him on his shoulders, and he, Prince among boys, devoured a whole trucker's forearm of a Caramilk and garbled cheek-ballooned nonsense at all the tiny passersby ... The abysmal low that got him so directly to that high forever lost in the contrast.

I wanted to fling something at him (for his sake, you understand) so's that the apparent goldenness of the moment wouldn't take. But there was nothing to hand but an ashtray, and it was too heavy ... And thus, I'm sorry to say, misery's capital was swept away and invested in life's great Bank of Loss, to be drawn upon incrementally for three score years and ten, whereupon the account'll be closed with a little lingering interest. Alas!


Speaking of childhood: I find it odder and odder still, the older I get, that while all my boyhood chums spent their idle time hoping one day to be lion tamers or firemen, I only ever aspired to be a pair of very comfortable walking shoes.