I remember being sixteen years old. I remember it vividly, in fact. I remember the sort of clothes I wore, the way I styled my hair, the sort of books I read and movies I watched. I also remember being a fan of bowling. No, not watching it on ESPN3, but the actual joy of going to the local bowling alley and lobbing a smooth round thing at some tall things that were standing upright at the end of a long and slippery alley, with the express intent of knocking as many of those sumbitches down as possible. I wasn’t very good at it, but that never stopped me, nor did it inhibit the fun I experienced.
As I got older, I grew to enjoy bowling while intoxicated. Actually, I grew to enjoy a lot of things while intoxicated, but that’s an entirely different story.
I remember going to the bowling alley with the group of usual suspects that made up my crew, or “posse” if you prefer, at the time. Some of these were kids my parents didn’t totally trust, but I didn’t care. We would go there and complain about how there was nothing else to do in town, how the town was so small and constricting that we just couldn’t wait to bust out and see what was on the other side of the city limits. We’d talk about what kind of jobs we wanted, we’d talk about to what places we wanted to move, once we escaped the trappings of the “one horse town” we lived in at the time. Some of these places seemed really exotic at the time, like San Francisco or New York, other places that seemed more normal were London or Tokyo. We were a weird group.
I listened to music that my parents didn’t understand and when I spoke to them, they looked at me as though I was speaking Klingon (though, to be fair, sometimes I was). Those were times that I will honestly never forget, some of the best times of my life. I know the phrase “it was a simpler time” gets bandied about far too often nowadays, but it’s true. We all have our own “it was a simpler time” story to tell, memories to hold on to. It has nothing to do with the era in which we lived, but rather how we lived within that era. There will always be wars, there will always be crime, there will always be disease and heartbreak and celebrity gossip. We just become more aware of these things as we grow older and have children of our own.
Back in November, my step-son turned sixteen. He has a group of goofy friends, some of whom I think are hoodlums who will rob me blind the first chance they get. All they do is hang around and talk about how small this town is, how they all want exciting jobs in exotic places like London or New York, and how there is nothing to do in this town but go to the bowling alley. He spends most of his evenings there, now. With the same group of friends, doing and talking about the same sorts of things.
It’s amazing how these things work, really.
I’m not worried about the drinking thing, because he claims if he ever does decide to drink, it will be when he is of age and it will only be a glass of red wine on occasions. This is the sort of kid I’m dealing with. A smart one.
It got me thinking about how he’ll be older one day and his kids will be doing the same things he does now, and he will get frustrated at times until he remembers being that age, too. I hope he’ll remember these years fondly. The kid has not had an easy life up until recently, for reasons I won’t go into here. He deserves the ability to look back on his youth with nostalgia and happiness and a touch of the bittersweet. I like to think his life is better since I’ve come into it, as I know mine has been since taking him in as the “package deal” with his mother. I try to make his life easier than it has been, I try to give him the things he needs and the things he wants and make sure he knows the difference between the two.
I hope when he’s an older man looking back on this time in his life, that he does so fondly. I hope his children are as weird and funny and smart as he is, though I’m sure they will be. I’m sure he’ll talk to them about video games, the way we talk about video games, and I’m sure his children will think this X-Box 360 business sounds ancient, the way he rolls his eyes when I talk about the golden days of Atari 2600 and NES.
He says now that he won’t have children, but I remember saying similar things at that age. The thought of having children while you’re almost still one yourself is horrifying. It takes a long while to be okay with the thought of having a kid of your own. Things happen over time and our opinions of such things can change drastically over the course of our lives. I think he will have children. I know if he does, that he will love them.
And if he loves them even half as much as I love him, he’ll do just fine.