Tuesday, July 23, 2002

You can’t go back

I don’t know when I first realized the solitary truth “you can never go home again.” Nor do I know when I realized the difference between what home actually is and what it necessarily represents. I only know that the impetus my most recent encounter with that pull at the bottom of your heart, the yearning for lost innocence, was The Karate Kid.

It was late in the evening after I had arrived home from seeing an amazing representation of French cinematography and being the southerner that I am, I settled down with a tall glass of iced tea and turned on the television. I was flipping through channels when I happened upon the beginnings of The Karate Kid. Immediately I was whisked away to my childhood. I remember sitting in a theater in Fort Walton Beach, Florida with my family. I was 12 years old. Life was pretty simple. There was right and there was wrong. There was black and there was white. My family loved me and I was secure.

While watching this movie I began to grieve not only for the loss of innocence that comes with age but for the loss of innocence in this new millennium. Ralph Maccio moves from New Jersey to California and on his first day in town is invited to a beach party. While playing soccer he sees Elizabeth Shue. He kicks the soccer ball over to her and she throws it back then gets up and walks with her friends into the water. Nothing odd about this scene when viewed through 1984 glasses, big brother not withstanding. Elizabeth is wearing a demure one-piece bathing suit, she is somewhat pale, and wearing little make-up. The intent is to see youth. Today however we see very little of this freshness. Today we see dark tans, skimpy thong bikinis, and girls made up to be sexy and alluring. It saddens me.

Throughout the movie their relationship progresses in the typical boy sees girl-of-his-dreams, boy loses girl, boy chases after a dream with hero-like qualities and intent to get girl back. There is a very romantic yet utterly chaste kiss on his birthday and once again you see young love. There was no removing of clothes, no erotic lustfully hot sex. It was all so simple. It made me wonder when we turned the corner.

I am not saying that I think everything in the world today can be blamed on sex. That’s not my point. What I am mourning is a time when children were really just innocent little beings without the “big, bad, adult world –with all of its innuendo, double entendre, and financial woes –assaulting them at every turn. When do kids have a chance to be kids?

There is only one time in your life when you can be free and unencumbered. Only one time when you can ride through the neighborhood on your bike, pull up to the house on the corner, drop the kick-stand and go jump in the puddle of mud left by the afternoon rain. One time when you can run around with a dirty t-shirt, cut-off shorts, no shoes, and catch fireflies in the late dusk of the summer evening. You have not a care in the world. You don’t know what political unrest is. You don’t know what terrorism means; you don’t care that the price of gasoline added to a 25 mile one-way commute each day is going to really take a chunk out of your paycheck. Your biggest concern is whether or not the ice-cream truck is going to drive by while you are supposed to be taking a nap.

I long for a time when getting caught in the rain did not automatically make me think of the money I just spent on dry-cleaning my clothes and how I might ruin my new leather strappy sandals. A time when homemade peach ice cream and Oreo’s was not only a nutritious dinner but also not going to add another inch to my already too curvy hips. A time when my first thought upon getting out of bed was how far I could ride my bike, how many crickets I could catch, or how I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and jump the waves. Someone else had packed my suitcase. Someone else paid my bills, someone else did my laundry, someone else cooked my meals, someone else paid for my clothes, books, toys, et cetera, and et cetera.

I could go on and on.You see, my childhood was great. I got to do all those things and more. I guess, even in my 30th year, a part of me wants to be 10 again -- if only for a week.


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