Fifty years ago when I was ten, the world was a very different place. Many people long for the time when they were young. They see it as a better, more innocent time. Not me. Childhood was both a blessing and a nightmare for me. I was creative and artistic and full of life. And my family encouraged that. But I was also a victim of a sexual assault and believed I had to keep a terrible secret even from my parents so that the world would not reject me as something horrible. We were on the way to the moon and the future looked bright. But President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, and Apollo 1 would end in a fiery tragedy in 1967. I look back with longing at many, many things, but I would never want to go back to that time and place without knowing everything I know now. I am grateful that I survived. But I remember the nightmares as vividly as I do the dreams.
As a teacher, I learned that childhood and young adulthood defines the adult. And the kid who is coddled and never faces the darkness is the one who becomes a total jerk or a criminal… or Donald Trump. I almost feel that the challenges we faced and the tragedies we overcame in our lives are the very things that made us strong and good and worthy.
When you are a boy growing up, hating girls on the outside and pining to get a look in the girls’ shower room on the inside, you can’t wait to grow up and get away from the horrors of being a child. Except, there are good things too. Tang, of course, wasn’t one of them. We drank it because the astronauts drank it, but it was so sweet and artificial it tasted bitter in that oxymoronic way that only fake stuff can achieve. Quisp is nasty-tasting stuff too… but we begged for it because, well, the cartoon commercials were cool. I only ever choked down about two boxes of the vile stuff. You went to school a little queasy on mornings when you ate Quisp in milk for breakfast. But one box had a toy inside, and the other had an alien mask on the back that you could cut out, but not actually wear.
But when it comes down to how you end a goofy-times-ten-and-then-squared essay like this one, well, how do you tie a proper knot at the end of the thread? Maybe like this; It is a very hard thing to be a boy and then grow up to be a man. But I did it. And looking back on it, the pie was not my favorite flavor… but, hey! it was pie!