Warning: This one may seem a little sappy, but if you have followed along before, I don’t think it would be too much trouble to ask you to follow along again. So here it goes . . .
There are things everyone needs to see in their life. Like say, the smile from a grandparent. I never met either of my grandfathers. I only met my grandmothers, but my grandmother on my father’s side was always closest. There are things I remember like a sandwich she once made for me—and if my memory serves correctly, I cannot recall ever having a sandwich as good as the one my grandmother made.
I was young when my grandmother passed. I was only 12 years-old at the time, and my memories are few. I remember how soft her hands were and how warm she always seemed to be. The best part is I could never get in any trouble when she was around. Even if I did something wrong and The Old Man went to punish me, my grandmother would step in and silence The Old Man, which was incredible, because I never saw The Old Man back down from anyone.
There are things we all need to experience. These are little things that compile in our memory banks, and we store them away in countless numbers as if they were forgotten. But nothing is truly forgotten. Each tiny memory is saved in our own vault for safe keeping. When the time is right, our mind recognizes the moment, which is when the tiny memories come to surface, yet suddenly, those tiny memories are not small anymore. That brief glimpse in memory that we kept locked away becomes larger and more important than anything we ever experienced in our lifetime.
I cannot say when I threw a ball for the first time. I cannot recall when I first put on a baseball glove either, but yet, I can recall the first time my Old Man tried to teach me how to pitch and swing a bat.
I remember it perfectly. We were standing in an empty field near the baseball fields on Merrick Avenue. The Old man was in a pair of blue jeans, sneakers, and he was wearing a blue sweatshirt. It was the start of the spring season and my older brother was about to play a game.
Back then, opening day was a big event in our town. All the teams marched in a parade, which began in the parking lot at the park on Prospect Avenue. This was also the town pool, so the lot was big enough to stage the beginning of this parade with room to spare.
Teams, coaches, and a marching band, with slow-moving fire trucks, all traveled from the parking lot on Prospect, over to East Meadow Avenue, and then the parade headed down the somewhat main street, passing the firehouse, and then turning left at the East Meadow Public Library, and onto Front Street.
From there, the parade passed the Bowling Alley and passed the small block of condominiums on the left hand side of the street. They passed the homes on the right side and they moved all the way down, passed the gas station, passed the delicatessen, and passed the Friendly’s Restaurant.
When the parade came to Merrick Avenue, they turned right and passed the homes, which were on the east side of the street. On the west side of the street was a large plot of empty land. It was the kind of plot that kept our suburban town almost country-like. And farther north on Merrick, and just passed the main cut through street of Earl Ovington Boulevard, which connected Merrick Avenue to Hempstead Turnpike, the parade marched up to the baseball fields for its grand finale.
What I recall most of this time was the families and parents that stood on the side of the road and cheered for the young teams as they marched through our town. I remember the hot dogs with mustard, ketchup, and sauerkraut. I remember the pretzels with huge chunks of salt, pouring packets of mustard on it, and then downing all the mentioned food with a can of White Rock soda.
There are things I have never done in my life and there are places I have never been to. But I did play a game of catch with The Old Man, and when I was old enough, I did get the chance to play little league and march in that parade.
If you ask me . . . everyone should have the chance to march in a parade.
I flew a kite once. I was young and unsure how to put the kite the air, but thankfully, The Old Man was there to show me what to do. And again, he was wearing a pair of blue jeans, sneakers, and that same blue sweatshirt.
(He loved that sweatshirt)
The Old man grabbed the kite in one hand and he held the spool of string in the other. Then he ran across an open field with tall, almost waist-high grass. He held the kite as high as he could so that when the wind picked up, the kite took flight, and slowly but steadily, The Old Man let the string out to let the kite fly as high as it possibly could.
He showed me how to make the kite move. He showed me how to make it swerve and nosedive. Then he gave me the spool of string. He made sure I understood to hold on and what to do. Then he smiled the way a father would smile at his son. He handed me the kite and said, “It’s all yours kid.”
We were in that empty field on Merrick Avenue at the time. The sky was the bluest I have ever seen and the scattered clouds were as white as anything pure. And when the wind died and the kite lost its height, The Old Man took it and held the kite up high. He ran through the tall grass once more to set the kite into the wind.
One thing I know and I will always know is that everyone should fly a kite at least once in their life. Everyone should know how it feels to run through a field with a kite in their hand and watch something so simple in design become so miraculous in flight.
I will admit that times have changed since then. Technology has stepped in and removed the wonder from childhood. I see this as thievery because today’s technology has stolen the wonder from our lives. Technology has taken the chance to do things, like say, sit in a bookstore because bookstores are becoming a thing of the past. And sadder than this, modern technology has nearly closed all of the record stores.
Fortunately, I grew up in a time when there was such a thing as record stores. I stood in the isles and thumbed through albums. I listened to music; I listen to music, which was created by artists and not sampled from others. There were posters on the wall and names of bands smothered on stickers that were stuck on places throughout the room. These were bands that changed the way I saw myself. Music changed the way I saw my life—and in my youth, I took long walks to the record store just to see what I could find.
And if you ask me, I think everyone should have the chance to walk through a record store.
After a series of poor choices and bad mistakes, the public school system and I decided to part ways. I thought this was a good idea at the time; however, there are certain events that are seen as a necessary rite of passage in teenager’s life. Take the junior or senior prom, for example, or maybe a driver’s education class, or getting a learner’s permit, and ultimately, making that proud walk while wearing a cap and gown on graduation day. I missed out on these things.
I never had the chance to go to prom. I was “Away” for that. I never had the chance to take driver’s education with my friends and I never had the experience of driving my first car into the high school parking lot. As well, I never made that walk with the cap and gown. I never shouted with my class and tossed that cap into the air.
There was no prom for me. There was no driver’s education class either, and as for my high school diploma, mine came in the mail after taking a G.E.D test when I was 20 years-old. I still have the idea of throwing my own prom though, but I’m never sure who would come and I often wondered if I would have a hard time finding a date . . .
I saw an old teacher of mine once. I reminded him what he once told me in class when I was showing an urge to create. He told me I was stupid.
Told me I could barely complete a sentence. He told me I was either going to be dead of in jail and that I was a waste of space.
I reminded him of these comments and then I smiled when I was able to report, “Funny thing is I’m a published author now and you’re still here. Still standing in front of a chalkboard and probably still complaining about the kids you teach.”
When his face changed from an almost surprised to an angry look after I told him the news, I waved him off by pointing my finger directly at his face. Then I told him my penname and said, “You should Google me, bitch!”
The teacher remained quiet . . .
I never had the chance to speak at a podium to a graduating class. But I have spoken in jails. I have spoken in drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities. I received a standing ovation in Riker’s Island and that was a proud moment.
I was given the opportunity to speak to 276 kids in a rehab facility. I remember some of them had tears in their eyes from hearing my story. Some of the kids thanked me, and some responded the same way I responded when it was me in their seat—they laughed because they thought they knew better.
They probably still think they know better . . . but that’s okay.
Same as I learned the hard way, so will they.
I believe everyone should have the chance to tell their story.
Everyone should have the chance to repay their debt and become clear with the house. Everyone should see the eyes of their own child and everyone should know the feeling of hearing their child’s first words, or seeing their child’s expression when they realize that,
Everyone should have the chance to ease their feuds or settle their disputes. Everyone should have the chance to walk the beach and dig their toes in the sand at least once in their life.
Everyone should watch the sun go down, and then stay up long enough to see it rise again. I have done these things and I still have more to do. But what I’ve done I see as a victory over the odds that I once believed were against me.
I have never been to the Eifel Tower, and I have never seen the waterfront stores along the Amalfi Coast. I have never been to Rome or went on a tour through the Village of Pompeii, but I have seen the sun go down while standing on top of a building in New York City.
I have watched the sun come up while sitting in the field behind my old junior high school. I have seen beauty. I have seen sunshine and rain. I have seen tragedy and success. And as well, I believe I have seen death and resurrection.
It is good to dream and it is good to want more. This gives us purpose—and working for the purpose of our dreams makes it so that when we close our eyes for the last time—there will be no such thing as regret.
The same as everyone should have the chance to see the circus; everyone should have the chance to see the zoo. I may have never seen the beaches in Tahiti, but I might have the chance someday.
I have never seen the grunion at night as they wash up on the beaches of California, and I have never seen the dessert, which surrounds Las Vegas. I have never felt the sun in Cabo San Lucas, but I did have the chance to stand at my Old Man’s grave and show him a copy of my first published piece.
I told him, look what I did, Pop.
See that? I may not be as good of a storyteller as you were . . .
But I am working on it
Believe me I’m working on it.
By the way . . .
Have you ever seen the sunrise over your neighborhood?
Because if you haven’t it’s something you need to do.
Written by Ben Kimmel, The Written Addiction www.thewrittenaddiction.com