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The Old Man Down the Road

Updated: May 16, 2023

A rutted dirt road between two fenced fields with beautiful green grass leading to a copse of stately trees backlit by the setting sun.

I am very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by very loving people. My family has a good number of educators and empaths whose combined efforts created what I like to call my Fisher-Price world. Everywhere I looked were books and toys with round, happy people. Nothing had abrupt edges and everything was soft. The Fisher-Price world seemed to be bright in a way that made shadows impossible, but not so bright as to be oppressive.

The world was nice. It made me feel safe to explore and figure things out. Falling and failing were painless. Even as a kid I knew it was a facade. I mean I didn't know that word and I didn't think it was a conspiracy, but I new there was a world outside of my view. I had peeks of it in moments like walking in on a channel being changed or raised voices or visits from adults that didn't know Fisher-Price rules. I liked my world. It was safe, but I was very curious about what was beyond it. But I was most curious about why a facade was needed. What justified so much work?

My first memory of ripping a hole in the facade big enough to get my head through was hearing this song. I got in the car with my dad and this song came on. The song enchanted me. In my round, soft world, something with an edge got all of my focus. My first instinct, so fast that I was doing it before I even realized it, was to see my dad's reaction. I could tell from a grown-up's face when I was too close to the beveled border of my world. I didn't recognize his face. Well, I did, but not the context. This look, a look I loved, was, at its base, pride. He took a special pride in presenting the world to me and it brought him a joy that layered over the pride in a way that was unique to us, to these moments. I typically saw the look when I was about to push limits in a way that felt dangerous like chocolate milk and donuts for breakfast, or taking the training wheels off.

The song had an energy I didn't know what to do with. I was captivated by John Fogerty's gravelly voice and the gritty guitar. My dad smiled as I swallowed my first shot of rock and roll. He turned it up. Somehow the increased volume made it feel even better. I watched the world zip by as my little Fisher-Price cacoon crumbled around me. I remember thinking I should feel sad. I didn't know why I thought I should feel that, but it scared me a little that I wasn't sad. I was happy. I was absolutely buzzing at the thought of seeing more of this world. It felt like floating. Listening to that song lets me build the essence of that moment in time.


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