Archives for the month of: April, 2011

You know they, whoever they are, say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Well that maybe, but frankly I think they need buoyant lives, smooth skin, and untroubled brows. By that I mean they have to know that it’s a blessing to have stored memories and images without editing in their newly budding subconscious. They have to know the pure smell of ginger outside of back doors, and feel the swell of budding daisies and feel the delicacy of white petals of a single rose, blooming too early, but not too late.

If youth is wasted on the young, all books would change, and learning wouldn’t be possible. Take for instance Red Riding Hood. She’d become old and wrinkly, no need to go to grandmother’s house. Grandmother is dead. Take the wolf, yeah the wolf. All hair, saliva dripping for his canine teeth, drool covering up the yellow, because he’s young, he doesn’t twig his teeth like his momma youth told him to do. He’s young now, virile, and his canine teeth which point to the sky, are strong, as is Young Wolf. How do you think our wrinkled old Red would do?

So that’s my version, but basically I think that we, older people say, “Youth is wasted on the young,” when in fact we have something they haven’t earned yet. Wisdom. Worth every straw that broke our back in the early days.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d be clearer. I’d be insightful, and I’d call the police on my neighbor Sugar-Baby Martin. Sugar Baby Martin was an old lady with precious little wisdom or for that matter kind thoughts wandering around in the billiard room of her brain.

She would bake fresh bread, and the smells of same would kill me. Finally, one day, I broke down, and wandered over to her broken down porch, up those three white stairs that badly needed paint, and would help a youth earn money if she hired one to help her fix up stuff. I knocked on her screen door, the one that didn’t quite shut. You know how screen doors are. Boy, they work the nerves. She answered that Tuesday morning, and it was about eleven o’clock, and she had something in her hand. A freshly baked loaf of round bread, glossy top from butter spread over it, and I felt it warm and secure in my hands. This was unusual, but I wasn’t about to turn away from a gift from Sugar-Baby Martin.
I guess she wasn’t mad at me for throwing her cat Sour Bo Martin out of my second story window. She baked me bread. Maybe she’d forgiven me.

I thank her, and watched my step going down those 3 rickety planks she called stairs and headed towards my house, my kitchen, my butter set out so it wouldn’t be cold. I set that bread on the bread board, pulled out my best bread cutting knife and cut off the end piece. Don’t you just love that end piece, so pure, so crusty, and so ready to be inhaled?

Well a moment on the lips and forever on the …. You fill it in. That bread was filled with kitty litter, and I thought it was raisins, and now I have a rather large bill from the dentist, and haven’t stopped tossing my cookies (a genteel phrase for vomiting).

Just because her cat Sour Bo Martin, snuck into my house for the umpteenth time and barfed fur balls filled with poop on my white, umpteenth thread count, cotton pillowcase, and just because she saw me throw him out my back window, she got her revenge.

Youth wasted on the young. I wouldn’t give Sugar Baby Martin noth’in, no more. As for South Bo Martin? You ask? He lived. Fell on my yellow hammock, but one leg broke, and now he don’t jump as well as he did.

Youth wasted on the Young? Think of reputedly sweet, scourge of the neighborhood, Sugar Baby Martin, and that vile feline Sour Bo Martin. She doesn’t need youth. She needs the trash can, and that’s what I think.

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This isn’t to say I don’t have regrets or I don’t remember them. Some regrets sweep away easily when manicured estates employ gardeners impeccably blow lawns, long stretching driveways and sidewalks to reveal nary a curved or crisp autumn leaf. I’m not sure regret can be swept away like autumn leaves.. Then again, I loved autumn leaves on the sidewalk, particularly walking back from the library, the West Roxbury Library on Centre Street, my fingertips feeling the rough concrete images of a stone wall along the upper part of Billings Field. I loved walking under chestnut tree branches and kicking thick piles of yellows, burnt orange, tinged red of maple leaves, everything: leaves just thick enough to walk into piles, scuffing. Ever scuffed? It was hard on my brown tie Oxford shoes, the ones my mother insisted were so good for my feet, but still I walked and scuffed and kicked and felt full of warmth and protection as I hugged my books and stopped to smell burnt leaves in the air nearby.

The smell is wonderful, not a good word for a writer to use, but it’s Sunday afternoon, and I haven’t remembered scuffing leaves for eons. Easier to remember the leaves, the scuffs, than the regrets. I regret I never sang for my father, and that I didn’t kiss my mom goodbye, the day she died, and I left that morning in a hurry because I had to take 2 trolleys to high school because were moved to the city, Back Bay if you want to know, by the Charles River near the Harvard and MIT crews, where we walked the Pug and the Boxer even when the wind tore through us.

I certainly wish I had done better with my teeth. That’s a universal regret. Somehow I know this. I wish I had been able to continue piano lessons. I wish I had studied computing, and maybe taken auto mechanics in first grade. But I don’t regret Miss Higgins, my first grade teacher, or my Uncle Bill Johnson, who brought us molasses candy in long oblong boxes, a box for each kid, and the sticky time of it after Sunday roast beef dinner. I don’t regret his cartoons of my mother following our kitty whose tail stuck up to the ceiling, and a string from her rear parts moved along the floor, under the shadow of my mother with scissors. He called this cartoon “The Lost Cord.” I don’t regret the bookcases filled with books, and the absolute privilege I took as a human right, to sit in a huge chair and read, and not be interrupted, because that was normal in my house. “I’m reading,” gave each reader a sacred space.

I regret not knowing my parents, or the other adults for that matter, knowing them as people. I tried with my father, but my mother died early. I regret moments of being a bully, and that’s private and a long ago. I regret being so afraid of things, but don’t want to sweep it away like errant leaves which escape a rake. I regret most that my twin and I were such opposites and lived most of the time in the tension of the opposites. (Reader this phrase is right up there with “grist for the mill” which I use too frequently, but I have dropped, “my dendrites are hanging out.”) We were opposites: when young, she sturdy and athletic to my frail, roller skating, but bookish self. She kept her emotions tucked in like a North Easter, a person from Maine, and yup and nup and her not speaking of emotional revelations fell over her like a yellow slicker preventing rain. I was the emotive, get-into-trouble twin, funny, daring, but underneath probably equally unsettled or frightened. I regret in our later years her wall regarding my beliefs, but I don’t regret going beyond this wall and caring for her 2 years in a row, and in her final days, her reaching out to me, lifting arms from a body ravaged by cancer, and wanting to be held. And hold her I did. Nope, I won’t sweep that away.