ALPHA & OMEGA

YOU KNOW HOW WHEN YOU’RE BORN, everything that happens is your FIRST? First smile, first word, first tooth, first step…

Malachi (as in it’s Me Against The Grand-Girls; that Malachi) just had his first haircut. It’s one of those FIRSTS that seems to cause a giant step in Growing Up. Like the first day of school, first sleepover, first dance, first kiss…

All of this is a part of what I understand to be a “coming-of-age”. Some say that coming-of-age means reaching a certain milestone like getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, being able to vote, etc. Some say it defines the process of maturity, particularly emotional maturity.

When does it end? Is there a point where we can say, “I’ve come of age!” I don’t know. Some seem to remain eternally toddler-like, spoiled brats—you know the ones that people judge as needing to grow up. Some just seem to be blessed with a youthful curiosity, and sense of wonder.

Could it be that at some point our LASTS outnumber our FIRSTS? Is that a sign that we have come-of-age? Our last day of school, our last child to leave the nest, our last day on the job, our last time to drive a car… Stopping now. This could get morbid in a hurry. But, maybe not.

Several years ago, September 2013, to be exact, I started this blog called About Pops . It was a part of a process in my life that I came to call my “second-coming-of-age”, because I’ve discovered this life is loaded with opportunities for FIRSTS and do-overs.

My Amazing-Missus and I have taken adventures in our Airstream Travel Trailer I never thought we would have. Being a Pops is fraught with FIRSTS, because we get to celebrate all of those with each of our grands. I was able to reconnect with a friend from high school days, which may not sound like a big deal, but it was for me. Somehow I found myself becoming a part of a group of young artists in New York City and then around the world—a group called International Arts Movement. I even got to serve on their board which meant making numerous trips to NYC, and then helping cultivate seeds of that arts movement back here in OKC.

So, I’m seeking FIRSTS and finding new joy in the repetitive things of life: road trips to Shawnee and Alva, Seinfeld reruns, eating “Chinese” food with Mom & Dad, going to work. When I kiss my Amazing-Missus goodnight when I go to bed and she settles in to watch the ten o’clock news, I want to do it with the passion of my 20 year-old self. Well… maybe not that passionate (there was a good deal of lust in that passion). You get the idea.

Pretend your opening a fortune cookie and inside the little paper says, “Go do something you’ve done a thousand times and enjoy it like it was the FIRST.”

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Sgt. Pepper & Other Memories

THIS IS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY of the release of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, the album that made a huge mark on the music and recording industries and provided a sound track of sorts for my first coming-of-age.

Months ago, I read a book by Mary Karr called The Art of the Memoir. While reading, I took her challenge to give it a try—writing a memoir, not for publication or anything like that, in fact, not even for anyone ever to read, but as an exercise in remembering stories. Mary Karr warns in her book that it is not an easy thing to do and in fact can be dangerous.

I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.
— Mary Karr, The Art of the Memoir

Still, I highly recommend you give it a try. Maybe go back in your life, grab an experience and write a few paragraphs. It is eye-opening, soul-searching, and scary.

She also warns that remembering and writing it all down can be hurtful to yourself and others and that being honest is hard to do. She’s right. I do want to be honest in my recollection of the past, but my memories are hazy and sketchy. I’ve apparently edited those memories over the years.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. 
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

As I started on the challenge I knew I didn’t want to write my whole life’s story so I chose to focus on three summers, the first, 1967. Because, in the past few days, my mind has been drawn back to that time with of all the news of the Sgt. Pepper anniversary and re-release of the album, and these lyrics running through my head:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

I’ve decided to share just a snippet of the memoir project here.


THREE SUMMERS; THREE FALLS

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, —Ecclesiastes 3:1

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

—from the lyrics of Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

The First: The Summer of 1967

Coming of age in the 1960s, fascinated by the Hippie lifestyle (or my perception of it), raised in the home of a Southern Baptist preacher, the horizon loomed large, and I didn't realize it.

On January 8, 1967, Elvis turned 32 and I turned 16. Although we shared a birthday, I was never drawn to his music to the point that I would have bought one of his albums. My music budget demanded careful curating of my vinyl library. Early in the Summer of 67, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club was released. I was smitten and ready for stardom on the rock and roll stage. Ringo Starr and I both played Ludwig drums, all I needed now was long hair, despite the edict of The Beatles that "All You Need Is Love". The first fall was into adolescent angst, triggered in part by things like the battle over hair.

The summers of youth make for a good season for ad lib in the sense that they tend to be more unfocused. The rhythm of the school routine pauses, along with a requisite amount of self-discipline. Summers as a teen felt natural to me. I didn't have to ease in. I was ready for the freeform of it all on the first day of the break.

The summer of ’67 though, had a cadence to it; figuratively and literally. I was playing drums in a band that was headed for the World's Fair, "Expo '67", in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. So the days between the end of school and boarding the tour bus, were spent in long rehersals.

I had no idea that “Expo ’67” was such a big deal until we arrived there. I had no idea how big the world outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma really was. I had no idea how much I would be changed after that summer baptism of worldliness.

(to be continued)


So there it is. Probably the only part of the memoir exercise that I will ever share with anyone.

Let’s close with Ringo singing…

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends