The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Love Phase Two: Those THINGS That Make Me Smile

Continuing to list my 'first loves', I will now remember the world of things. In this context, my favorite things are of several types; not just tangible items that recall positive feelings, but maybe activities, or sights or even sounds.  Let's see.

My four older brothers had long since conspired to wreck the full scale train set they had so thoroughly enjoyed as kids, so by the time I was old enough to play with it, all I found was a cardboard box with a bunch (but not enough) of track, a few cool looking train cars (some without wheels) and a big old transformer that was rumored to have operated the whole thing. I remember studying those rather realistic plastic cars. There were box cars and a car hauling car and a flat car and a couple of really heavy (but useless) engines. I never had enough track to make even a complete circle, but I would connect what I had and set the dual sets of wheels ever so carefully on the rails. If one wheel was offset the thing would not budge, but I loved the satisfaction of getting all 8 wheels in their proper place. With just a little push that car would then glide so smoothly all the way to where my imaginary workmen (funny how they looked like little green army men) were repairing the tracks! A train car is no more than a bothersome roadblock when off its track, but when in its right place, fitting and connected, it serves a grand purpose. I still love putting things together successfully. When all the pieces fit, when the light switch actually works or when the pipe's connections don't leak? Gotta love it!

I loved watching the wandering light beams from street traffic bounce across my bedroom ceiling. We lived on a 'busy street' on Chicago's south side. When a car came from the east, its lights would come in our north facing window to shine on the western wall long before I could hear the car coming. As the vehicle approached I was mesmerized as the light slowly crept up the angled part of the ceiling and then suddenly dashed over, and dimmed going down the eastern wall. Throw in a light splash and spray if the street were wet with rain, and the light show was complete. Simple pleasures for a simple boy.

Only a winter or so ago now, I suddenly remembered that when I was a kid, I loved walking to school early in the morning after a light snow. But only because in that circumstance I could walk right in the tire tracks of the few cars that had been out before me and had left a perfect path. If the line I was following was not going to my school; no problem, another one would have intersected mine so I could readily continue on my way by 'switching tracks'. The best feeling though, was to be tracing a tire tread that turned when I wanted it to, and I could take the curve by leaning into it and providing my own screechy tire noises. Sorry, if you were in one of the cars waiting for that stupid kid to get off the street when you were trying to drive to work, but the only drawback for me was that I got to school so fast on those mornings!

I loved sitting on my front porch on a summer's day keeping track of all the numbered traffic. Did you know that police cars and taxis and city buses, at least in the 1960's, all had prominent four digit numbers posted on their sides? I would sit there for hours with a pen and note book, keeping a careful log of each sighting: Vehicle type and number, direction, time. It was all there.  Buses, of course, went back and forth on 59th street all day, so each one made a regular appearance. Police cars might stay in certain patterns, but diverged at the whim of local bad guys, and taxis never even tried to put order in my records. Now I wonder if my Mom put this whole 'sitting on the porch for hours' thing in motion. I loved the whole analysis thing, but she probably loved it too.

You might be shaking your head already at the weird things that this Chicago kid 'loved',  but it gets worse. When I finally left the city and ended up in a high school seminary boarding school, I found a new love. It's one that still clicks some pleasure node deep in my simple brain. The rural school was isolated in the middle of the thickly wooded sand dunes of lower Michigan's western lake shore, and when I began to hear a sound that I had probably never heard before in Chicago, it made a great impression. I never knew what bird it was, and only years later did I discover that I am not 'supposed' to even like it. But the truth is,  this kid still LOVES all the raucous sounds made by your basic Blue Jay!


  1. reading your line 'I loved sitting on my front porch on a summer's day keeping track of all the numbered traffic.', I remembered how as a small child I was sitting at the window and trying to guess how many blue / red / black cars will come in the next half an hour. That is how I learned to count! Thank you for sharing and helping me remember!

  2. @Claudia That's really neat. Makes me want to go try it.

  3. Remembering your childhood days makes me remember some of mine. Good post.

  4. These are good choices.

    --Diana Jillian

  5. That's great Peter. Now I'm curious....

  6. What an exercise in positive attitude maintenance, recalling childhood "happies." I like it.


I can't wait to see your response so, unless you can leave a pizza, please leave the next best thing; your comment!