Nostalgia: Summer Nights, Kiddie Pools, and Undoing our Growing Up

I still remember everything quite vividly. Whether I see us by a campfire on a warm summer night, playing guitar and singing ad hoc lyrics, or in a lake on a burning July noon, what I reminisce about remains the same: we will never share similar moments again.
We won’t have those awkward moments where your mom and my mom start fighting over mundane things like whether we should play this song or that. We won’t have those moments where we are gathered together—all of us—around a campfire strumming noisily on our cheap guitars. We won’t ever be seen again together, walking hand-in-hand on a virgin beach. There will never be another shooting star witnessed by the two of us, by the all of us.
What has been, has been. It will never be again.
We won’t ever be seen again playing hide-and-seek until 2 in the morning—no, we have become too “grown up” for that. We won’t attempt to go skinny dipping in a private lake where only the rich kids are allowed to pervert the waters. There will never be another day where we are stuck in our old Marlin 1977 boat finding ways to get it working again. We won’t be getting chased down by the park rangers for fishing without a license. There will be none of that. We have grown up.
There won’t be another time where we are all piling up into an old Oldsmobile, seven in the car and four in the trunk. We won’t have to ever turn up the music really loud in a Wal-Mart parking lot, hoping that those passing by will not hear the kids in the trunk shouting “When are you going to let us out?!” We have become too mature for such a thing.
We will never again experience what it feels like to drive with all of our friends, for the first time, on a wild road trip. You know, the ones where everybody sings at the top of their lungs to songs without worrying about what someone else may think. That kind of road trip.
We will no longer share the joy of spending twenty bucks on a two week vacation; we have become too civil for that.
Whatever one may think, we will surely never sleep like bums in sleeping bags in an upper-class neighborhood in Southern California. If hotels couldn’t take us at 3 in the morning, the parks were always available. Those were the days.
We’d wake up playing tunes on guitars, watching rich kids get up for their daily dose of self-serving epicureanism. We’d put on our shades—rolling our eyes beneath them—and get to busting out melodies. And then we’d leave (ain’t no rich kid getting a free concert from us!).
Gosh. I doubt we’ll ever experience what it’s like to go fishing whenever the hell one feels like going fishing. You’d call me up at twelve at night and I’d be ready by one to hit the forbidden, late night shores. Give me an energy drink of death and I’m ready to stay up all night, spitting sunflower seeds, cracking miserable jokes coming straight out of hell, whatever, we’d do it all. We could talk about girls or we could talk about what it’d be like to have sex for the first time.
And yet, whenever the time seemed ripe, we could talk about life and death. We could even reflect theologically upon the nature of the gospel. In fact, we were pretty good kids. What happened?
There probably won’t ever be another road trip to California, where the shores of Pacific Beach find our surf boards licking the sand. There won’t be another walk around San Diego, in the middle of the night, passing out sandwiches to the bums there. We won’t have a philosophical discussion about the meaning of life from a fellow friend, that is, a beach bum. We won’t ever be the same again.
Will we ever date our friends just because we feel like it’s the right thing to do? Will we ever hold hands for the first time because “Well, your other friend is doing it, so we should too.” God, those were the days. And, heck, we never thought it would happen to us, did we? Remember us? Remember when we were kids and all we thought about was the neurotic depression of adulthood. Those adults—those party-killers—were out to ruin life and blessed childhood. We swore we would never become like them. Ever. We made pacts, even in blood, vowing with a bitter vengeance to never let anything come in between us and our love of life. Have we failed so soon?
Gosh, you do realize we’ve barely hit our mid-twenties? We’ve barely dropped our balls; we’ve barely learned to swim. I, honestly, hope that childhood never leaves me. Didn’t Jesus say that we should be “like children”? What happened to that version of the gospel?
I’m not sure we’ll ever be together again. It simply won’ t be the same. Even if we saw each other now, we’d probably walk like two boring couples on a sidewalk in downtown Manhattan that is plastered with newspapers, soda cans, and cigarette butts. We’d never dig our toes into forbidden shores again. We’d never leave the world and say “Go to hell!” We would lead another menial existence.
But does it really have to end that way? I thought at twenty-five you figure out life, you figure out whom you love and whom you like. Why have we created categories we’ve never imagined. Could you ever really hate me? I mean, we used to swim naked in a kiddie pool together, doesn’t that count for something? Maybe not. In today’s economy of grace, we’ve lost grace itself.
Despite everything adulthood cast upon us, I know one thing: I’m still a kid. I’m still barely old enough to walk around in diapers, contemplating whether I should go with breast milk for dessert or Similac baby formula. I’m still stuck in traffic, thinking about what all this means. I’m still hungry for life. I still want us all to gather around a table and talk about girls who have cooties and boys who are gross.
When we were kids, we never really got hurt by arguments or disagreements. We could even throw punches, leave the ring bruised up, and still get back together for a game of freeze tag by the end of one summer evening. Heck, arguments were seen as a joke. We weren’t adults, we couldn’t really fight like mom and dad fought. We weren’t grown up yet.
We never planned what we would say; we would simply say what we felt or what was on our minds. We never would premeditate anything. That would have been stupid. Imagine a two-year-old walking in circles beneath a wooden dinner table thinking, “What will I tell mom about the pacifier that I flushed down the toilet? Should I answer her question with a question like Socrates the philosopher or should I go with the good old ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Whaaaaaaaat?’”
We’ve all developed our critical thinking skills, it’s what school was for anyways. Now we could lie and not feel guilty about it; it has all become so logical and reasonable and rational to do so.
We have grown up.
But I could never really forget everything that has been. Despite my ability to use Kantian imperatives and analytical philosophy, I’m still weighed down by my love for my memories. Memories of days gone by.
In the middle of reading Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling I still get images flash across my mind like a bolt of lightening on a hot summer day. Impossible, you may say, but oh-so-real. I still have a mind that does things of its own accord. I remember us, our times together, our lives together. I remember. In the act of remembering, I find not only who I was, but who I am—and who I will try to be. I like myself now. But I like my old self more.
Like right now, I see us lying on a beach, Liberty Lake, and we’re planning on flirting with the gorgeous lifeguards. We throw around the idea of whether we should approach the girls and ask them what time it is or whether we should fake a drowning. Drowning sounds better, for then they may end up doing CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
You see, we’d throw around all of those ideas, act on them, and then later find out that mouth-to-mouth is out and mouth-to-plastic-face-mask is in. Oh well. Such is life.
We were kids. The beautiful truth that I want all of us—all of you—to remember is that we are still those same kids. Our bodies have changed, sure, but we still have the same set of eyes, the same set of ears. We are still able to play tag, even if it’s on a phone application. We are still able to speak truth to one another. We are still able, as far as I know, to go skinny dipping in Liberty Lake (when it’s dark, of course). We can still rent peddle boats and attempt to actually move anywhere with them! We can still call one another up, having our best friends’ numbers all memorized by heart, and anxiously ask, “Are you coming over, it’s like 30 seconds since school got out?!” We can still have our doors always open, waiting for our friends to show up. We can still write one another letters. Those letters could still be written with Crayons in second-grade handwriting. Who cares? So long as I have something to hang on my “grown-up wall” (to be honest, it’s empty now). We can still call one another up and talk about going fishing at, well, right now. We can. In fact, I think we will. I have hope for us. We haven’t changed much; we’ve simply become a little rusty. I am writing this letter to remind myself—and all of you—that I still love you all. You are all my friends, people I’ve become quite used to. I can talk about stupid things with you and I can talk about serious things with you—and you accept me for who I am. I’m still that kid who’s dying to grow up. But now that I’ve grown up, I think I want to grow up differently. I want to grow up in such a way where the older version of me isn’t as nasty as it now is. I want to grow up in a such a way where I can still call you up and hear you call me back in less than five seconds. I do miss how we used to be excited, even breathless, to announce to each other that we would play hide-and-seek.
When we were kids, we would hide and we would seek. We knew that there was always a way to find that which was hidden. Maybe our inner-child is something that we have hidden inside ourselves. We bury it behind mundane office work, professional societies, legalistic church services, you-name-it, we bury it. But beneath all of the social encrustation, I think the real you is on the verge of bursting out.
I thought about us today.
I thought about us today because it seemed like some of us have died. Quite literally. I feel like my friends, who are getting married and who are “growing up,” have all died—to me and to those around them. They died and nobody noticed. I read no obituary. I got no invitation to go to a memorial service. They died and nobody seemed to care. Life shouldn’t be like that. You shouldn’t have to bury your friends, family, and loved ones before their time. It’s not even a humane thing to do. You simply can’t do that to people. Just because you’re still breathing doesn’t mean you’re still alive.
I’ve thought about us because we still have a chance. We still have time to make our (future) obituaries better. We still can go back to being three-year-olds in five-year-old skin pissing under trees and seeing who pisses further. We still can attempt stuffing a toaster with dough to make “bread.” We still can love one another despite our weird differences. We still can date friends. We still can go hit up a beach and care not about our weight status. In fact, I kind of like this beer-belly. I’m getting used to it. It’s better than a teddy bear. I go to sleep and wrap my arms around it and dream of us…

5 thoughts on “Nostalgia: Summer Nights, Kiddie Pools, and Undoing our Growing Up

  1. Hey Moses!
    I know I’ve already commented on this and I really don’t want to be creepy but this is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever read. You are so good at writing with your heart and soul and this is so fricken relatable.
    Also, it makes me feel so happy and so sad at the same time and I’m still figuring out how that could be. Thank you for sharing + you should write more stuff like this please 🙂

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