Monday, March 27, 2006

My Young Life: Explained

Summertime. Such a wonderful time for a pleasant walk; meandering through the blossoming flowers. The warm radiant rays in the Sierra Nevadas make one feel as though they breathe the air of angels. Such a task would have been adequate for me at the age of five; however, I remained at home to watch my two-year-old brother as my mother took the dogs for a “W-A-L-K.” I smell a recipe for disaster.

Ah, the troublesome twos; that mysterious age when one begins to notice their own existence in this God-forsaken world. When the youth realize that they can actually have an impact upon what happens in a given day. To be two is to be invincible; to be whom or whatever you want in a given day all based merely upon the slightest change in imagination or train of thought. At the same time, at two your whole world can come tumbling down with one word. The one word we have learned so well, repeated over and over such that we know, yet hate to its dire ends, that one word, “No.”

No? How could anyone tell us “No” at the age of two? To tell a two-year-old “No” is as to give a dire chunk of kryptonite to our beloved hero, Superman. “No,” will stun a mighty two year old from his self-assured invincibility for the next twenty minutes and not a second longer. Next thing you know, that two-year-old is right back up trying to fly faster than a speeding bullet once again.

Well, to tell the god-honest-truth, my two-year-old brother was not the troublemaker in this scenario, I was. At five? How can this be? It is around this age of five that one enters the likes of Kindergarten. “Keednergirdin?” Sounded like trouble to me. I knew from the moment I stepped in this dreaded place that big change was coming. I cried the whole way to school that first day. I do not know that I truly understood what this endeavor was, but nonetheless, I was completely afraid. Afraid to color in the lines. Afraid that I would have to learn to “Loop, schwoop, and pull” my shoelaces. Afraid that I would have to count magical beans all day.

Being afraid, herein, I had to find some escape of misery. The magical and uplifting escape that only a child’s imagination can supply. I had to think back all those five years and find something that interested me. Now on this wonderful summer day, that cricket chirping in and behind my ear told me I was a hair stylist.

My living room instantly transformed before my eyes and I saw my first customer just back from his most recent adventure: my dear brother. I ushered him through the many giant doorways as he told me of monstrous deviant creatures he, being Batman, had just conquered. I sat him on the lid of the giant white bowl where the grownups always grunt, and began my work in my field of mastery. A little snip here and a chop there made my brother’s hair o-so perfect. I had made, this day, a prince of my brother because I knew it was a faultless triumph in the everyday workings of this hair stylist.

All too soon did my mother return to the “Disaster.” Triumph you say? My mother saw it as the crumbling of her world. “Why would this be such a disaster,” I asked myself. Well, this stylist had taken a step outside his limit into the unknown and had crossed a line, a line a five-year-old should never cross. I see now that it was a big deal, in and of itself, but nary was I aware, at the time, that my grandparents were on their way to our house at that very instant and they were due to arrive that very morning. All too soon did mother return from her own venture.

With a sense of curious propriety did she enter the bathroom in search of her two little darlings. To say she was surprised is an understatement. I was supposed to be watching the terrible two-year-old, but who would have thought I needed the watching. My brother and I simply looked up with a gleam of pride in our eyes. Andrew and I were so proud of the work I had done, “Look mommy, look! I cut Andew’s hair!” It was as if some Godly-force has suddenly stricken the floodgates that had, for so many years, held back the stream of emotions. The stream was no longer any minute entity; the trickling of this morning’s episodes had tipped the scales, the mighty force that was my mother fell to pieces that moment: fell as rapidly as had the chunks of hair from my brother’s head.

If a mother’s screams are piercing then she was a deadly great white shark. I know this day she would have all but had our heads had we been but a little older. She knew not what to do with her emotions. By impulse, she called our father in tears; “Steve you have to come home right now!” my mother bawls with urgency. “What’s wrong?” my father replies with great concern. “Just come home right now!” I can only imagine the thoughts that must have run through him mind at this time. One would most verily assume from the tone of her voice that my mother was facing death. In my mother’s eyes, the reality was that it was much worse.

I don’t understand, “Why won’t grama like my master piece.” My mother had only a shrilling scream in reply. Not only were my grandparents on their way, but we were to have a family portrait taken that very night. The every deliberation running through my mother’s mind must have spelled “D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.” The arrival of my grandparents this morning meant that Judgment Day had arrived for this hard-working mother; Grandmum was coming.

One must understand that my grandmother is a very proper woman, one that all mothers look up to for advice and inspiration in the everyday life. A woman who can cook up a storm in a moment’s notice. A mother that can’t stand to see the smallest particle of dust enter her home. A loving and kind grandmother.

Grandma always comments, “I was born during the Great Depression, deary, and we had to save everything. There was no more of anything.” She has been through and experienced living without, and being without as a child. She has understood the delight in being able to make something of nothing. When you can make something of nothing then you will undoubtedly make the world of everything. It’s the small things that matter; neatness, pride and purity. My grandmother wants her family to be as perfect as perfect can be. This perfection translates down through the generations to her children and grandchildren.

Having this said, my mother was, and always has been looking to fulfill her mother-in-law’s expectations. My mother must ensure that every little nook and cranny of the house be spotless; she was soon to be tested by the master. Why is it, however, that everything goes wrong when it is most necessary that everything fall into place? Why is it at crunch-time that all the pieces fall? Well I don’t know that we will ever know, but it is the inevitable truth. This was not the only time this happened. It seems to be that whenever we are to be visited by my grandparents “Disaster” strikes us and all goes awry. This was not the first, nor would be the last, occasion.

My brother and I had not much lost touch with our imaginations nor our affinity for disaster many years later. This day in the life of Daniel and Andrew had become a BMX stunt rally. We were fearless daredevils comparable only to the likes of Evil Knievel himself. We built monstrous wooden jumps half our size so that we could experience that thrill of weightlessness for milliseconds at a time. For those split seconds, I was Matt Hoffman; I would have believed I could do a back flip on my bike in a moment’s notice. We were the “Bash Brothers” of this newfound daredevil world.

Being there, and in this mode of thought, one would not know the extent of the dangers they face, but I now know how ludicrous we must have been at the time. We took flighting jumps off self-constructed ramps with no bodily protection in the least minus our fragile skin. Jump after jump my six-year-old brother and I would rate each other on the quality of the last jump. As our ratings increased, so did the height of our jumps in huge millimeter increments. Our imaginations this day had driven us to senselessness; we had no regard for safety.

If you have ever watched a geared-up BMX rider, they have a complete set of padding including kneepads, elbow pads, sometimes gloves, and always their most important piece of gear, the helmet. Well, needless-to-say, my brother and I were too good for protection this day. Too perfect for safety. Too harmless until the inevitable. My brother, our family has proclaimed, is a magnet for pain, for harm, for taking a hit. This day was no different.

My brother and I were not using true BMX bikes, but rather our cheap imitation. Our bikes were the type with the pushback coaster pedal-brakes, the kind without hand-squeeze disk brakes. As my brother landed his final jump, his most spectacular feat; his feet flew from the pedals.

Andrew and I had built these jumps on the uphill side of our driveway. On the downhill side was a steep drop to large granite boulders securing the embankment below. This downhill edge of our driveway was under construction. This is where my father had recently removed a wooden barrier in order to rebuild its crumbling fa├žade. He had inadvertently added length to our ramp. Andrew had instantaneously become a runaway train that could not be stopped. He launched; his feet scrambled to find their place, to find the pedals; his bike catapulted; his body went limp, he trembled like a lame duck. My brother plummeted and crashed down upon the rocks over fifteen below. My mother ran with such fervor that her shoes stereotypically flew off her feet amidst the tumultuous sprint to the shrilling screams of my brother. My dear brother lay hewn upon the rocks, gravel embedded in his head; his head deeply gouged, distinctly scathed.

Fall as we have during these times of trial and tribulation, the strength of the love of our family prevails without fault. If there were a cookbook full of recipes for disaster, my brother and I would take the cake, but these calamities are what make the family truly unbreakable. These were “Disasters” in and of their times, but their conclusions bring that family unit together. A stylist’s botched hair cut, the daredevil’s noxious BMX stunt, however detrimental to the contingent time period, don’t really matter in the end. The fact that everyone is still alive and healthy, that is what truly matters. The greatest triumph is that my family is still, and forever more, a whole, indissoluble unit. The important aspect of this picture is that we are unbreakable; through the good and the bad, love is the most essential ingredient. Family is forever.