(Originally posted 2/2017)
So, what does a fellow do when his world seems to have gone empty, and he is left to dwell on his own thoughts. When the future seems filled with dubious possibilities perhaps it is time to return to the past……..revisiting the times we have left in our wake. Would that be enough to have me acting my age?
Ah, the wonders of late-life. Who would believe that an eighty-six year-old mind could still be hiding those eighty year-old memories? More to the point, how could that eighty-six year-old mind still manage to locate those well-hidden recollections?
Those were the questions today’s reposting of a 2017 October Years blog had me asking. I’ll bet you have been in that space too……trying to fathom how ancient memories of once incidental events still have the power to set you thinking.
Truth to tell, it was a bit humbling to realize the impact the following bit of remembering still produces.
It’s okay, you know. After all, I am used to it by now….showing my November age like this. The more I do it, the easier it becomes, even when I am reliving a slightly unorthodox memory.
For instance, let’s take a moment to consider something as mundane as Saturday morning. I’m guessing that most of us like Saturdays, don’t we? Especially if it is not a work day.
But I must admit that I am not talking about just any Saturday morning. I happen to have some particular ones in mind….from a time when Saturday morning was something especially special. I invite you to join me for a moment as I return to some of those well-remembered, all-time favorite Saturday mornings….circa 1945, 1946, or 1947.
What is that? You say you cannot ‘return’ to 1945, because it had come and gone before your arrival on the scene. Darn, I am sorry to hear that, because that means you missed some really good Saturday mornings.
Take this, for example. As I recall it was ten o’clock, mid-morning, when the living room radio greeted us with a loud and enthusiastic.........”It’s Big John and Sparky! And There’s No School Today!” Man, after all these years I can still hear that happy call to action as clear as anything. I’ll bet you would have loved it too.
Or how about Chandu, the Magician? I think that was nine o’clock, or maybe nine-thirty. True, he was a semi-creepy fellow, at least the way I saw him in my mind. But he always had a trick up his sleeve. And in the end he was on our side. What I remember most of all was the spooky organ music that played in the background.
Earlier that morning, at eight-thirty, we had tuned in to Smilin’ Ed and the Buster Brown Gang. Actually, it seems like I ought to remember more about that half hour than just the excited introduction.....with Tige, the Buster Brown dog, barking like he was happy to see us. At the time I don’t suppose I even realized there were other programs airing at that hour, or if there were why anyone would bother to listen to them. By then Tige’s happy-yapping had me hooked.
It was, as you can tell, a different time. Later, many of us would learn to consider Saturday a ‘sleep-in’ day. But not so in those post-war radio days, at least not in our home. Mom had to get us up early enough on Saturday to have breakfast finished before eight o’clock. Though getting us up and about on a school probably took some doing….Saturday mornings were different.
After all, brother Roger and I needed to be parked in front of the old hardwood Zenith radio by eight o’clock for Let’s Pretend, the storytime program that always started our radio Saturday. (Why was it we had to ‘watch’ the radio?)
So, you might be wondering….what the heck does that have to do with anything. What was there about my childhood Saturday mornings that warrants all that? Let’s see if I can explain.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why some obscure thought or memory, one you had not considered for decades, suddenly pops into your head? Was there an existential purpose at work, or was it purely accidental? Whatever the reason, those are the questions I am asking myself on this morning.
You see, as I have mentioned before on these pages, I have spent my October Years writing stories….fictional stories. By definition that means I have made them up, created them out of thin air…..and a dose of dubious brain matter.
Yet not until a few days ago, for reasons I still don’t understand, did it dawn on me that I was actually in the “What if?” business. That is, after all, one way to describe fiction, isn’t it?
The writer, any writer, begins with a question…. ’What if an alien force is threatening the earth?’….’What if zombies are about to invade?’ ….’What if the killer is about to get away?’…. ’What if an eighty-year-old guy falls for Lady Gaga’ Thing is, no matter what the question, the answer will be told in the form of a story.…a fictional story.
That is what writers of fiction do. They provide their personal answers a series of “What if?” questions. That’s what I try to do. Except, my stories are not about world annihilation, zombie invasions, Donald Trump’s truth-telling skills, or the hard-to-define allure of Lady Gaga. Instead, I tell ‘What if?’ stories about late-life folks facing their own October….and/or November.
It was those thoughts, those questions, that had brought me to an awkward pause…..wondering how I would introduce my latest story, Closing the Circle. I had stumbled around a bit before the possibility dawned on me. In a very personal way it felt as though I was closing my own circle….from Let’s Pretend to What if?
The more I though about it, the more my sometimes muddled mind saw the irony of what I was up to. Having learned to pretend as a child, here I was spending my October Years creating “What if?” Tales, i.e. “pretend” answers to ‘pretend’ questions. In a very real way I was right back where I had started.
So what about Closing the Circle, you ask? (At least I hope your do.) What if a young man, adopted at birth, sets out to find his birth parents? What sort of story might I create to answer that ‘What if?’ question? Then, to further complicate matters, what if the birth parents he finally finds are still nursing their own deep regrets about having separated before his birth, leaving each of them to wonder what might have been had they stayed together.?
Of course, there are as many answers to those questions as there are persons who choose to answer them. I happen to like the answer I “pretended” into being. And at the same time, when I was done it felt a bit like closing my own circle….from ‘pretending’ to ‘what if?’ and back.
Following that same line of remembering I invite, actually I urge, those of you who remember those long-ago radio days to use the “Comment” section below to offer your own examples of radio favorites.