Wednesday, September 07, 2005
I'm a seasonal guy. I live my life most viscerally through each new season's ability to snap to mind memories, scents, sights, and sounds that have become ingrained into the fabric of my being. We're fast approaching my favorite time of year, as I'm pretty decidedly an autumn/winter guy. The reasons for this are fairly straightforward. My most potent memories - the kind that still bring to mind vivid images and involuntarily bring smiles to my face - surround fall and winter.
When I was seven, my dad's mom (who we called "Gammy") moved to Denver. Starting a couple of years later, I would spend every Saturday evening (more or less) at her apartment. What started out as a novelty - Saturday night with Gammy - became the cornerstone of my week. Each week worked out roughly the same way; my dad would drop me off at her place, which was just a few miles from our house. Gammy and I would eat McDonalds, or whatever other fast food struck her fancy on a particular weekend, I'd get her mail from across the apartment complex parking lot, and we'd settle in to watch TV. First? Small Wonder on Channel 9. Then? Over to Channel 4 for NBC's lineup at 7. The Facts of Life. 227. Amen. The Golden Girls. Empty Nest. About nine o'clock, my dad would pick me up. I'd kiss Gammy on the cheek, and thank her for the evening. I remember the way her apartment smelled. I remember the tick-tick-tick of the clock on her mantle. I remember the big bowl of Peanut M&Ms she had on her coffee table, and the way she'd switch out the regular ones for the red & green Christmas ones around the first week of November. I remember stories - passed from an 80 year-old woman to a ten year-old boy. I remember leafing through her enormous book of Norman Rockwell prints, and the way that those paintings delighted me. I remember looking out her sliding glass door, checking to see whether or not it was snowing hard enough to show up in the white lights of the parking lot.
Saturdays haven't been the same since she died. I still miss Gammy.
The other day, I was struck by a sensation that caught me unprepared, and made me laugh at myself. As I walked outside to check the mail, I found myself quietly hoping to see something very specific in the day's deliveries. I wanted to find a Sears Wish Book there. When I was a kid, the Wish Book - that most heady inducer of 10 year-old lust - always showed up right about now - a few weeks out from my birthday. This fortuitous timing allowed me to circle and surround with exclamation points items for both my birthday and Christmas, in contrast to my less fortunate friends with summer birthdays. Suckers.
Sometimes I got the stuff I circled, other times, I didn't. Didn't matter. The anticipation alone was worth it. September marked a tipping point of sorts. In September, we began the ever accelerating rush toward the "holiday season". There was just no stopping the endorphin flood.
I suppose this is why I still hold onto the few Wish Books I managed to secret away through the years, and why I still possess a truly embarrassing number of toys from my childhood. When I hold them...or when I thumb through the worn pages of a Richard Scarry Christmas book as I read it to my daughter, I am once more transported.
I touch memories.
Last night, I popped in a VHS tape for The Girl™ to watch. Her chief request for the evening? Kermit, and lots of him. At this point, for one reason or another, our entire solar system, if not the very universe, revolves around a frog puppet with a funky frilly thing around his neck. I cannot account for her sudden Kermit obsession, but it allowed me an excuse to bust out a time capsule from 1987 - a tape of the original airing of A Muppet Family Christmas, complete with commercials (wow. Oprah looked SCARY then.). I still remember coming home from a rehearsal of some sort, and finding that my older brother had taped the thing. At the time, I found it amusing. Now? I'm trying to find a way to get the entire tape (there's also a Julie Andrews Christmas special on the tape. It aired directly after the Muppet special) transferred to DVD. It's worth its weight in gold.
Well, due to the fact that Kermit only averages a screen presence of around 85% of the show, The Girl™ lost interest around the 30min mark, and wandered off, muttering something about the frog - "Kermit...need fine Kermit". I, on the other hand, ate up the whole experience anew.
Bronco season. Cool, cloudy days, and the sound of maple leaves crunching underfoot as the smell of chimney smoke fills the crisp air. Christmas. These are the things...the memories that I cling to with all my might.
It's getting to be that time again, and I, for one, can't wait.
(Cross-posted at The Retroplex)