Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 18 — A Series of Anecdotes
~ four salient childhood memories
One of my first memories:
Don’t know how old I was, young. I am within the darkness of a room in our house and in the hallway before me, my brother is standing within the light.
Hearing the word several times now and not comprehending it, I ask him right there what the ‘future’ is. For me, it was always maddening to not know a thing. Through early childhood, I would ask my mom what words meant, and her response was always the same: I don’t know, look it up.
In response to this question, my older brother turns to face me but due to the light behind him and the darkness from the room I am in, I only see a silhouette of his face. He responds “the future is tomorrow.”
I understood perfectly. The future is what comes after. Unrealized time. A word became a transcendental law. Even now, a distant moment in the past, I distinctly remember this.
Sins of the mind
I can remember, as a kid in grade school maybe 6 or 7, sitting in a church pew with my mother. We were kneeling, praying. We were at a different church, for the purposes of going to confession there.
I was relatively learned at that point in my religious education on the idea of sin, morality and the Ten Commandments. The general code of the Catholic faith was known to me; I often considered the mind-boggling eternity of heaven and feared the fires of hell. I used to try to think about eternity before going to bed, after praying. And before / after / during doing something mischievous, I pondered the existence of hell and having to be there. I would wonder how anyone did anything knowing these two eternal places existed; there was so much to unpack, truly infinite unpacking.
Kneeling there praying and thinking, I had a thought: when I just think about something bad, but don’t say anything or take any action, does it still count as a sin? Do my uninhibited thoughts step me closer to damnation? It was of great concern to me.
I turned and asked my mom, whispering. She didn’t say anything, wanting to remain silent in this place, she just pulled out a pamphlet that was in the seat and brought it before me. This paper discussed confession conceptually and was a kind of FAQ on the sacrament, one I had recently undergone. She slowly pointed to a section of it titled, Sins of the Mind, Sins of Thought, or something like that. I read through it, it was clear. Thoughts could indeed be sins. I was startled at the revelation. Now I knew. My fears were confirmed.
So no one was safe, even in their own minds. He really did know everything.
I remember being in the mall with my brother and my father one day. I’m about 8 years old. Don’t exactly know why we are there that day, but at one point we go into a store, one I’d never seen before and one I probably never went into again. It was a shop dedicated to Japanese merchandise. Manga, anime, action figures. Japanese culture was something I had limited exposure to, up to that point. I had to two primary contact points. The first was Toonami. It was there I watched Pokemon, DBZ, Gundam Wing, Yu Yu Hakusho, Cowboy Bebop. Anime was a marvel, it was different and exotic, in subject matter and art style. My brother and I looked forward to watching it every day after school. So I did recognize some of the action figures in this place — giant robots, samurai, Super Saiyans.
The second, and one of my favorite things from childhood, was Godzilla. We had many of the movies on VHS: Godzilla vs. Mothra, vs. Rodan, vs. Gigan, vs. King Ghidorah, vs. Mechagodzilla, vs. Destroyah. I even had some of the Dark Horse comics. We had to tape up one of the covers of the comic because I read it so much it was ripping apart. Of course, the original 1954 film’s significance was lost on me at that age. But Godzilla was my hero, and my muse concerning my own art. My notebooks were filled with dozens of pencil sketches of Monster Zero. Godzilla is likely responsible for my enduring fascination with science fiction and monsters to this day. At this time, the film Godzilla 2000 had just released in the states. We’d seen it that summer — the first and only Godzilla film I’d ever seen in actual theaters. It was incredible, decidedly “my favorite movie ever” at that point.
Now browsing in this random, unknown shop in the mall, I see it. An incredibly well-made Godzilla figurine. It was the Godzilla 2000 model, imported from Japan, it had an official tag with Japanese characters. Authentic, and you could tell. I pick it up, feel its weight, move the arms, legs, the tail. I had to have it. I ask my dad, “pretty please…it could be an early Christmas present…I’ll earn it with extra chores…etc.” As a kid, I was pretty spoiled by my parents, concerning games, toys, comics. I was used to getting my way — if I asked for it, within reason, the odds were good I was going to get it. With this in mind, I pleaded my case. Unbelievably, tragically, my dad said No. We were not getting anything, put the toy back, we’re leaving. He wasn’t angry, and it wasn’t that expensive, it was just… no. Asking turned to begging, and I could make no ground. I started to silently cry, unconsciously, my heart was racing, my breathing uneven. I’d never seen a toy like this, I’d never seen a Godzilla at all / I might never see one again. I didn’t even have the energy to throw a fit, I just couldn’t understand as we left the store and the mall. It was like the Holy Grail of toys and we were just leaving it behind. Needless to say, I was upset. Stuck with me for a while, then I got over it (probably).
Fast forward a few months. It’s Christmas morning, my brother and I are vigorously opening presents from under the tree. I tear off the wrapping paper on what appears to be a generic cardboard box. I reach inside, past some paper, I grasp something and bring it forth. There it is. The Godzilla figurine. And I’ll never forget that nameless feeling of joy of being reunited with something you believed to be forever lost. My earlier despair turned to euphoria in equal or superior measure. Considering the saga and my feelings regarding it, I still consider it the best Christmas gift I ever received. I still have it, it’s on my desk right now. I wonder what my dad’s face looked like in that moment, I didn’t see. He told me then that Santa must’ve known I wanted it. But I knew. I thanked him.
Early elementary school / recess / on the playground. It was the time of our little lives. Soccer, jungle gym, tag. So many options, all of them fun, effortlessly so. But there was a bully. I remember his name even now. Huge kid, held back a grade level if I remember correctly. He wasn’t always a bully, but it was something he was capable of. This day, he is being a bully. He’s pushing someone around. One of my friends I soon see. Don’t know how it started, don’t know how it’s going to end. Don’t know where the teachers are. Some other kids notice and avoid the situation. I don’t. It’s not something I normally ever do, but I walk up.
It took courage, for two primary reasons: he was tall and I was incredibly small. I am of average height nowadays, but in those days, I was the runt. One of, if not the smallest kid in class for all of elementary school. But I felt I had to do something, this was my friend. I decide I am going to just stand up to him, whatever that entailed. I didn’t really think the execution through. I am certainly afraid, but I keep walking towards the two because I forget to stop walking. Before I realize it, I am standing before him, in between him and his victim. My friend gets up and retreats, he’s crying I think.
Now in this moment, standing there before his towering presence, I realize the stark disparity in our size. My heart sinks, fear threatens to overtake me. I honestly can’t remember if I even said anything. Maybe I made some noise, like a grunt or a more likely a squeak. I do remember him staring down at me, in surprise / confusion / anger. I was very concerned he would strike me, of course. The fight or flight stuff was happening in my brain. In the few moments I stood there, standing up to a bully for the first time in my life — I made some kind of internal compromise. I remember thinking, if he hits me — then I’ll take it. This is the price of friendship.
He didn’t hit me, he shoved me, said something mean or stupid and then walked off. And it was over. My friend thanked me. I don’t know why I even remember this. But I do. ~