Post by Ben
The backyard of my childhood home contained a single tree, an Arizona ash in a sea of green grass that my grandfather on my mother’s side planted. He was an Irish immigrant and having only met him a handful of times before the age of 3, I have no clear recollection of his physical presence, persona, or of his passing. However, that tree bore witness to many privileged summer activities: leaps over sprinkler heads, treks into golden underbrush to capture hidden critters, and bike rides on suburban asphalt until dusk.
When picturing my red brick home, I usually approach it from the view of an omniscient narrator, like when you’ve died in a multiplayer video game and can fly at will throughout the map. As I zoom through the carpeted rooms and out into the surrounding alleyways and washes, trivial memories intermingle with those that carry more weight. At the same time I can smell the pleasant scent of my dad’s charcoal grill, I can also hear my sister screaming by the front door as dad pours hydrogen peroxide on her skinned knee, my eyes wide in horror. While the evening chirp of cicadas lull me to sleep amidst swamp cooled air, there’s also the distant hum of city traffic and the thunder of a looming monsoon; a pleasant but foreboding reminder of a world I knew nothing about.
Nothing too traumatic happened to me as a kid. My parents never divorced. I never had to witness the death of a close loved one. I never went without a roof over my head. However, as I’ve grown older an overwhelming sense of unease usually surfaces when I think about childhood and for the longest time, I took that as a negative sign, an excuse to paint a myriad of memories in a pale light. I thought that if I could dramatize those memories enough, it would make them worth telling stories about. My upbringing was sheltered and over time I came to resent my parents for keeping me in the dark, for perhaps protecting me too much. As foolish as that sounds, well into my early twenties I still thought it would have been easier to assimilate culturally had I been given the chance to experience a more unshackled side of youth: public schools, secular music, no religious restrictions, and unfiltered pop culture. Until recently I’ve always felt like I’ve been playing catch-up to the world around me.
With a little digging though, I’ve found that my resentment is less a reflection of the past or my parent’s choices and more indicative of a present reoccurring sense of loss. My boyhood may have been rather orthodox in nature, but it’s extremely selfish to take such a pivotal time period in ones’ life and tint it darkly, to add a layer of pessimism just to make it seem more interesting for the sake of intrigue. Loss of youth is bittersweet, but even more so if you’ve constructed a list of socially chic standards that it should measure up to. Sure, it would have been nice to not have had such a disconnect from my peers due to naive sensibilities, but as soon as you start belittling your experiences you rob yourself of the inherent self-worth found in your identity and the ability to gain perspective on your own persona.
If for a moment I can remember to view the past through the lens of a more innocent me, I usually end up smiling. In that smile I remember the playground of love, wonder, and hope that my parents built into the framework of my youth. And that’s far from boring. It’s not worthless. In fact, it’s a critical component of why I can think, change, and grow as an adult. To me, it’s that unbridled hope and longing that you find contained in the central melody of Roosevelt’s Fever; a pleasant nostalgia. It’s a glimpse into that unadulterated childlike version of oneself that I never want to lose, the one that still whispers: there’s freedom in embracing who you are.
Hold me up into the lights / Get back to where we started out
Sometimes when I visit my hometown I drive down my old street desiring to see everything exactly the way I left it when we moved away. I want to sit in the fort of my old play set and talk to my best friend Tim across the wall. I want to feel the gravel of our driveway and watch light flicker on the wall of my parent’s old bedroom. I want to walk up to my grandfather’s tree and listen to the wind rustle through it’s leaves. I want to call my mom outside and ask her what it felt like to have to leave behind such a powerful symbol of her father’s love when we moved. Do you still miss him everyday mom? If the abstract loss of ones’ boyhood aches this much, what will it actually feel like to lose someone as close as a parent? This is the type of question that makes all of this important and yet paralyzing if given too much time to dwell on.
Bring back the Fever again / And don’t loose the Fever again