Archives For boyhood


It’s Christmas, 1977. For this recently transplanted Pennsylvania family, the Arizona weather is mild–balmy, even. It’s sheer joy to be outside in short sleeves and shorts. Dust swirls up in the breeze from the hard-packed, sun-scorched earth, in little eddies all around the boy, and his dad.

Civilization, the march of progress, has stopped at their subdivision, leaving only open desert in a swath a mile long, and half a mile wide, just across the street. The landscape is as foreign as Mars.

But the boy doesn’t care. He’s there with his dad. His dad is thirty-three, recently transferred, the youngest plant manager in his company’s history. But none of that matters today.

Dad is there, in his own boyish glee, to teach his eight year-old son–the boy–how to fly. Not windmills, nor spinning, but a real plane. An honest-to-goodness fuel-powered, remote-controlled plane.

It’s one of the boy’s presents. The smile on his face tells the story: of all his presents, this is his favorite.

Its purple plastic glistens with possibility as it sits on the hard-packed ground there in the bright sun. The boy, who had just recently flown on a jet plane for the first time in his young life, imagines the hard ground is tarmac, and he the pilot.

But before he can take control, the old captain–his dad–must show him the ropes.

The boy can’t wait for his turn. The old captain gases up the plane, gets its engine going. That glorious sound is akin to a lawnmower heard from a distance. Its propeller slices the air, and it is aloft–launched, and flying free.

The old captain is at the helm, the joy of flight writ large upon his face, forgetting the pilot trainee who stands watching.

“Daddy, when will it be my turn?”

“Just a minute.”


“Just. A. Minute. Chad.”


The plane swoops, and swirls in the too-bright sky. The boy–Chad–has to shade his eyes to follow its arc.

Then, a sudden noise. It’s down. His beautiful plane is down, crashed onto the desert ground. Chad rushes with his dad to see.

Is it alright? Will the old captain impart his knowledge of flight? It’s not to be: his beautiful plane is smashed into pieces.

The boy looks at his dad for… something. Reassurance, a promise of another plane, a look of love, a tousle of his red hair. Anything.

“Tough shit, kid,” his dad says.

Life, like the plane, has come crashing down again.

Little did he know, but like a plane at altitude losing cabin pressure, the boy’s family was already on life support. It had less than six years left to live.

Has anything like that happened to you?


Please note: I don’t hate my dad. He is a very wounded man. I’m merely trying to chronicle my authentic experiences in this series of posts, as these were some pivotal moments that shaped my soul. Also, I had something else planned for today, but was assured by those close to me that it wasn’t quite ready for prime time.

'Batch 1 ready for the Ice Cream machine' photo (c) 2010, star5112 - license: boy is eight. Having been held back a year, he is just beginning second grade. After living those first eight years in one place, he’s moved, with his family, to a new house. And this means a new school, new teachers, new friends.

Like a suit of well-worn clothes, he wears a pinched, serious expression on his face. He is quiet, would rather go unnoticed, stay out of the way.

He has learned to stay out of the way.

Life is easier that way. It is easier to forego trying, than to try, and subsequently fail. So this boy lives quietly in his mind. It’s comfortable, and safe, there. He couldn’t verbalize it, but if he doesn’t try, there’s no one to disappoint.

Again, life is easier that way.

But he starts second grade with a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He makes a couple of friends (he’s never had many). Then one day, it happens.

The class is making ice cream. Each child must take a turn turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream machine.

On that still-warm not yet Fall day–the leaves still verdant on the trees–the children line up. The boy, red hair shining in the sun like fire, is neither first, nor last; he’s in the middle of the pack.

He doesn’t want to stand out, or draw attention to himself. So he blends in. Even at eight, he’s good at blending in.

Finally, his turn comes. He steps up, grabs ahold of the crank, gives it his all. His teacher says:

“Come on, Chad, even the girls can do better than that.”

The message of those words reinforces one he already lives:

You’re not good enough. You don’t have what it takes. Move on, let someone better do that.

How many moments like that have you had in your life? Did you have someone to help you interpret them?

Protected: Cotton Candy (a short story)

randomlychad  —  January 27, 2011 — Enter your password to view comments.

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