There is glamour and magic in the memories of our youth

Today is my son’s birthday; he’s five years old.

Five is so young, but so old at the same time. He’s changed so much. I’m already missing things about his “youth.” I miss the way his head used to fit against my shoulder so perfectly as a baby. I miss the way he used to say “ephelant,” “Indy Nana Jones,” and “CPP-0”. I was so sad when he was corrected by others and learned the right way to say them.

When he blows out his candles, I bet he’ll wish for an action figure or more Star Wars Lego, but I hope for so much more for him (and his sister). Youth holds so much promise.

My wish for him is that he’ll remember his childhood fondly. I also hope he’ll hold onto the excitement he has in getting up each day, ready to play and make the best of it. I hope that he’ll hold onto his precious sense of humour. I want him to continue to dream about what he can be, while being exactly who he is. The sky is the limit for our sons and daughters.

When preparing the loot bags for my son’s party, I excitedly grabbed boxes of Cracker Jack and orange Tic Tacs in the store. Those two treats defined about a decade of my young life, and I wanted to share that part of my childhood with him and his friends. I hadn’t seen a Cracker Jack box in years.

This is not the first time of late that I have reminisced. In one such moment, a friend quoted me part of the poem, Piano, by D.H. Lawrence: “The glamour of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.”

Things just seem so busy and complicated these days, that I too find comfort in simpler times (even when simpler times weren’t necessarily better times).

In Piano, the protagonist sat under his mother’s piano listening to her play. For me, it was sitting in the kitchen watching my mom put together her next meal out of nothing. She’d look in the fridge, then look in the cupboard, then look back in the fridge as though expecting more foodstuffs to have suddenly appeared. She worked her magic from what seemed like nothing at times, and she rarely cracked open a cookbook. The one she did own was The Joy of Cooking. I can see the food-splattered pages in my mind — pages made wavy by spills from too close liquid ingredients. It is the one cookbook I will buy my son (but not for this birthday). Perhaps more important than the book, I’ll show him how to make some of my favourite recipes.

It was a sound that triggered my next walk down memory lane. I heard hockey played at an outdoor rink. I was 10 again, pleading with my mom to let me go out and play, even though it was getting late. She finally conceded, so I grabbed my hockey stick, my skates and a rag for my blades, and was out the door. As I crossed the field, the crisp night air was punctuated by pucks hitting the boards, players calling out for a pass, and skates shaving the ice with a quick stop. I’d play hard (wearing my figure skates) and wouldn’t stop until my cheeks or toes told me it was time to leave (or the rink attendant turned off the lights). I won’t buy my son figure skates for his birthday, but I will take him skating.

As he fills his lungs to snuff out his candles, I’ll wish (for him) that he’ll have many happy childhood memories to muse over in the future. Years from now, or even sooner, my son may not recollect who was at his fifth birthday party, but digging for the prize in his first box of Cracker Jack might be a memory that endures.

He may not recall what presents he received on any number of his birthdays, but he’ll probably remember me taking him skating and teaching him to cook.

My take-away is simple: after presenting him with the Star Wars Lego blocks he asked for, I’ll focus on giving him gifts that cannot be wrapped (like building a giant snowman, playing Go Fish, travelling to fun places, and other life/learning experiences) all year long.

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