There came a moment not long ago that I realized I’m probably not much different from when I was 10. The wisdom of youth, I suppose. This makes sense on some level, especially given that my personality usually ranges from one of a pensive old soul to a sort of nostalgic wondering. Maybe I’ve just always been caught in the middle, a part of me looking forward as another looks back. Who knows, really?
Family came first then, as it does now. Mom was the most caring, nurturing woman I knew at age 10, and she still is today. I idolized my dad when I was little, and here I am 20 years later writing a freaking book about the odd man and the lessons he taught me during these formative years. His is a shadow of influence long cast.
Friends come a close second behind family. This seems to have always been the case. At age 10, the best days were those spent playing whiffle ball in my friend’s backyard blasting home runs through his family’s ill-placed tree house. Now, I look forward to an annual backyard badminton tournament that will be the best Saturday afternoon of the fall. Maybe there’s a little more chewing tobacco involved at this stage, but when it comes to guys who have been friends for more than 20 years, the competition and razing matters the most.
My favorite sensation is fall, and I don’t even know what this means. The sights and sounds, smells and feels, everything about the season mesmerizes me. From an October morning’s chill spent in shorts and a sweatshirt underneath a changing yellow to red collection of leaves, to the scent of grills cooking patties and dogs and the sight of smoke wafting into the sky outside a football stadium, fall enchants. It brings a rush of life that seeps into my body from the frosted blades of grass that soak my tennis shoes on a morning jog. As a kid it reminded me of being older, more mature for some reason. As a thirtysomething, it reminds me of being a kid.
I liked Boyz II Men as a 10 year old. My favorite song was the Motown quartet’s heart-tugging ballad End of the Road. My favorite musician now is Ray Charles. And my favorite song is a cover the gospel-inspired soul innovator first performed in 1962 of the country favorite I Can’t Stop Loving You. Surprising nobody, the song is another 3-minute saga of a heart’s longing.
Some things don’t change.
Michigan lost the 1993 NCAA Championship when Chris Webber called a timeout the squad did not have. I sprinted away from the TV, pounded my fists against my bedroom wall, howled feral noises into the night, and cried. “Why, God, did Michigan have to lose?” I wondered at age 10.
Michigan lost the 2013 NCAA Championship to Louisville after building a double-digit first half lead. Being that I’m 30, wise, and mature, I didn’t cry when they lost. Instead, I merely walked barefoot into the alley behind my house and screamed, “F***K! Why did they have to lose?”
Lastly, Stand by Me has been my favorite movie for a minimum 20 years. The movie is heavy. Death clings to it like the shadows that follow the four boys on their journey through the woods. The movie instructs, though, on family, friendship, loss, growing up, letting go, and looking back. I’m a sucker for the phrase coming of age, and to this day there is no better movie scene than when the first unmistakable beats of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me conclude what will always be my favorite film.