Category Archives: Growing Up

The Greatest Night of My Life

It is easy to point out the best day of your life when you are young. Here is the story of one.

I was in sixth grade and I had just been invited to a party with girls. Not only a party with girls, a lot of girls. In fact, I was one of only two boys invited.

It was the holy grail of parties. Somehow I had been invited.

And the girl I had a crush on was going to be there.

“Mom,” I asked, “There is this party on Friday I was invited to.”

“Yeah?” she said.

“It is, um, at a girl’s house.”

“Okay…”

“And, it’ll just be mostly girls but I was invited and I was just wondering if that is okay and maybe I could get a ride and I can call you when it is over and I–”

“Yes, that is fine.”

“…Really?”

“Yep, just let me know.”

These were the days where your level of happiness was defined by how much interaction you had with the girl you liked. These were the days where ‘dates’ were an abstract concept. These were the days where you weren’t sure what you would do if the girl you liked liked you back.

She was going to be there.

A few days before the party, boy number two dropped out. He couldn’t go. I would be the only boy at the party. The only boy.

And she was going to be there!

I got dropped off and I was painfully nervous. I was standing outside a girl’s house. There were girls inside. Lots of girls. I rang the doorbell.

A woman answered the door, the mother. She was happy to see me. She showed me the stairs to the basement and I went down. As rumored, the girls were there.

There was a lot of talking and eating of snacks. It wasn’t all that different from the parties I normally went to with boys, except I had no idea what the girls were talking about. It was awesome.

Then they put in the movie. It was a scary movie. Pet Cemetery. The lights were turned off and we were all crammed together on a couch.

It was awesome.

We all watched as the slightly disturbing images of Stephen King’s novel were brought to life before us. I hardly paid any attention.

A particularly scary moment occurred. The girls were all holding each other’s hands. The girl I liked stuck her hand out.

“I need a hand!” she said.

I looked around, not wanting to make any assumptions. There were no free girl hands.

“Mine are the only ones left…”

“That’s okay!” she said.

It was okay. It was okay.

I reached out and put my hand in hers. She squeezed it. She was squeezing my hand. I squeezed back. We were holding hands.

We were holding hands.

There are times in your life that are moments. This was a moment and I knew it. I was holding the hand of the girl I liked and she was holding mine back. The movie was scary, but all I felt was elation. Euphoria.

Eventually, the scary part ended and girls started to let go of each other’s hands. We let our hands fall apart as well. I felt a sense of peace sweep over me. I had just held the hand of the girl I liked. And it was good.

The night continued uneventfully enough after that. There were some more games, some more talking, and eventually my mom picked me up. I said bye to everyone and left.

“Did you have a good time?” my mom asked.

How could I possibly answer that question? How could I explain that the things I had imagined had come true? How could I describe my sense of wholeness? How could I say that I just had the greatest night of my life?

“Yeah,” I said, “I did.”


Drawing

DrawingStill Life ~2 hours

I like drawing.  It is one of the most, if not the most, relaxing things that I can do.  Give me some music and a sketch book and I can get lost for hours.  I enter a trance that I can only awaken from when I realize my back is killing me and my foot is asleep.  Imagine if I didn’t draw on the floor!  I could probably go forever.

Which makes it all the more strange that I hardly ever draw anymore.  The picture above, which I did immediately preceding this post, is the first time I have sat down and seriously immersed myself in… I really don’t know how long.  Years.

When I was young, I’d say first or second grade, I created my own superhero comic.  And by comic, I should really say epic, because it took up notebooks of ruled paper.  I honestly couldn’t tell you how much time I put into drawing it, but it was the first time I ever really got into drawing beyond doodles.  I was an avid comic reader at the time (some things never change) and I found myself trying to copy how characters were drawn.  My heroes couldn’t be super without awesome looking costumes and powers and big muscles!  I wish I could remember the name of, well, anyone on the super team, but I don’t.  And that would really bother me, except I still have them to look at whenever I want.

I always enjoyed art classes growing up and had a bit of a knack for it.  People in my classes were often surprised that I had any art skills because I never really paraded them around.  And for awhile I thought about pursuing some sort of art-based degree, but a couple things turned me away.

First, was my high school art teacher.  Not to be too rough on her, but she was incredibly ADD and most likely bi-polar.  She was disorganized and got upset at the class when we didn’t do the assignment she never told us to do.  She tore apart one of my art pieces and then made a passive aggressive remark about not understanding criticism.  She gave me a lower grade because she thought I was taking the class for an easy A, because I certainly would have no other reason to take a class on a subject I enjoy.  All in all, it was an incredibly negative experience.

Secondly, my mom.  More specifically, something my mom said to me.   Again, in high school, I was talking to her about what I was thinking of doing for college.  I mentioned I was thinking about Art and she said, “Wouldn’t you rather do something you are good at?”  To this day I have no idea what she meant by that.  I know she wasn’t trying to be mean.  She was obviously trying to be helpful.  I am just not sure what she was aiming for.  Either way, at the time I felt crushed.  I remember sulking away and I felt like crying.  It was just so unintentionally hurtful.  I look back on it and laugh, but at the time it just made me not want to draw anymore.

I managed to get into a drawing class in college and I loved it.  The instructor encouraged me to take more art classes, but I was too busy double majoring in two decidedly un-arty majors.  So that was that.

Life is busy and I don’t always have the time or motivation to sit down and draw.  Am I sad I didn’t pursue a life of art?  A little bit, but honestly I think I am okay with it.  It isn’t something I torture myself over or anything.  I can still sit down whenever I have time.  I can still draw.  And I still love it.

An additional thought that I wasn’t sure how to work in.  One of the reasons I started to pursue writing as a hobby was because I felt that I was limited by drawing.  Whether or not it is true, I have always felt that when i draw I have to overcome not just what I am trying show/say, but a physical skill as well.  It is also a visual medium which is difficult in its own right.  With writing, I have always felt freer.  With writing, what I am creating is only limited by my imagination and how well I can express that in words.  Still quite difficult, but I feel it is easier to express complex notions with words than hand-drawn pictures.  I love both mediums, but just some inner thoughts of mine on the matter.


Leaves

You don’t need a sense of smell to breathe in the autumn air.  It has an unmistakable crispness.  The air is just a tad cooler than it should be.  A tad drier.

When the wind blows, the trees sound just a tad louder.  The leaves; they are crunchy.  They have lost their green.  They are dying, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at them.

***

I lie in the yard and those crunchy leaves get stuck down the back of my shirt, scratching my neck.  There is the cold sound of a rake against grass.  I look up and the sky is blue in every direction.  I am surrounded by leaves, piling up against me.  My dad is burying me.

I close my eyes when the pile covers me, because I don’t want to get any stems in my eyes.  I am completely immersed.  When I crack open my eyes, little dots of blue sky break through the leaves.  Every twitch of my body and turn of my head sends out a rustle that reveals my location in the pile.

The raking has stopped.  Another body has entered the leaf pile.  I hear it moving towards me.  I don’t move a muscle.  I squeeze my eyes shut like it will make me invisible.  I try not to laugh, but fail.

My dad roars and grabs me.  I scream through my laughter as he tosses me around.  I run and jump at him, brown leaves clenched between my fists.  I throw them and they flail in the air.  He catches me, wrestles me to the ground.

The leaf pile is now a smear in the yard.  My dad begins to rake it up again.  I help with my hands.  When it is large enough I jump back in.  So does he.  We wrestle some more.  He piles a stack of leaves on my head and I fill his hood.

Eventually, we have to stop playing.  My dad puts the leaves into a big black bag that ends up on the curb later.  They won’t be back until next year.


Lightning

It has been way too long since I wrote here.

The Midwest has a lot of crazy storms.  More than you would imagine.  You sometimes hear about the big ones, the floods perhaps, but not always.  You might hear about a tornado touching down.  But for every story you hear there has to be dozens of others you don’t hear about.  Here is one.

I was young.  I would say, fifth or sixth grade.  I lived in Fargo.  Yes, that Fargo.  It was summer and a storm was rolling in.  The rain was coming down and the wind was blowing unhindered across the landscape.  The sun went down and I fell asleep.

My mom woke me up, candle in hand.  The power had gone out.  It would be wrong to say that this was uncommon in such a storm, but it was still somewhat exciting.  My room was lit by a few flickering lights as the rain continued to pound the window.

My dad asked me if I wanted to go with him to go pick up a generator.  He knew his work had some available to use.  Even at the time I knew that the generators probably weren’t for personal use, but if my dad wanted one I’m sure he could safely use it for an evening.  I was more confused as to why we were getting a generator this time as opposed to other times the power went out.  Looking back, I can only imagine that it was because our basement was flooding, but I had no idea at the time.  Despite the many thoughts and questions in my head, I said yes; I wanted to go with him.

We began to drive to his work in a world with no artificial light besides the headlights of my dad’s company vehicle.  The water that filled the streets acted like a mirror.  It was like driving on a lake.

I was nervous.  I thought we might run into something or get stuck in a pool of water.  I thought we might get hit by lightning, because I never really believed that whole thing about cars protecting you.  I was scared.

As we exited the residential neighborhood and got onto the open road, the sky laid unobstructed in front of us.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Have you ever seen something so amazing that nothing else seemed to matter?  That everything in the world melted away except for what was in front of your eyes?  This is what happened as I watched the sky before me.  Lightning like I had never seen tore across the horizon, never striking the ground.  It didn’t make any sounds, only flashes of light.  It traveled horizontally from east to west, filling the sky.  It didn’t move fast, but slowly working its way through the clouds.  It was as if the sky was breaking open, light shining through the cracks.

I was in awe.  Not the awe that is thrown around but real, true awe.  I was transfixed.  I was no longer scared, because I couldn’t be, not with something so amazing happening in front of me.  It just went on, and on, and on.  It was hard to believe.

We reached my dad’s work and got the generator.  We got power back and our basement didn’t flood.  They seemed like afterthoughts.  To this day I still talk to my dad about that night and he remembers it like I do.  To this day I am still in awe.


My Friend

I had a friend when I was young but I don’t remember his name.  The memories I have with him feel like slices from my past that I can’t fit into chronological order.

We are outside rollerblading.  We are in a parking lot near his apartment.  The sun is shining and it is warm.  Summer.  It is the perfect summer day.  We rollerblade around and around.

It is his birthday.  There are a lot of other kids around, many of which I don’t know.  It is nighttime.  Pogs are really popular and my friend got plenty as gifts.  We play many rounds of pogs.  I am jealous of his pogs.

I am at his church.  I have to memorize bible lines in order to get prizes, like candy or chips.  The first couple are easy, because they are only a few lines.  Older kids quiz us.  The third passage is nearly a page.  I don’t even begin to memorize it before we leave.  Later that night, when I show my mom the lines I was memorizing, she tells me she doesn’t want me to learn these things.  I don’t understand.

We are in a dark room in front of a television.  We are playing Pitfall on the Sega.  It is pretty much the coolest game ever.  Also the hardest.  We can’t beat the level with the rolling boulder.  It keeps knocking the guy over.

His mom is showing us pictures from their trip to Disney World.  She cut locations out of a park map and put them in a scrapbook next to the corresponding pictures.  It looks really cool.

I bring over a video game I rented that I thought looked fun.  I had never heard of it before.  It is called Dungeons and Dragons.  I show it to him and he says his mom won’t let him play it.  I don’t understand.  I play it by myself.

We are in his room.  He is showing me some of his comic books.  He has some really cool ones, including some Spider-Man issues I am missing.  I have never seen the covers before.  They are awesome and I want them.

We are outside by a big tree.  The trunk splits low enough that you can sit in it.  He tells me how he is thinking about running away.  I tell him he could live with me.  I say that I have thought about running away too.  I have a good family, I just think it could be a fun adventure.  I don’t think that is his perspective.

It is an odd feeling to forget the name of a friend that so obviously played a role in my life.  These memories evoke emotions within me, but for the life of me I cannot think of the name responsible for them.  Part of me wonders if I am combining multiple childhood friends into one.  I don’t know.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  Maybe all that matters is that I remember.  A name is just a name.