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Monthly Archives: September 2012


Image Source: Collectors Weekly

I never got bored during summer vacation, and I never wanted to go back to school. Those brilliant clear days at the end of August meant a return to regime and order and new teachers and hall passes, and I still feel that tug of apprehension this time of year. But there were perks, mainly of the material variety.

As the days of summer dwindled, we always got new clothes for school. I now realize that not all kids in my school had this luxury, and that it was probably a bit of a sacrifice for my parents. But we never went without.

We always got new pencils, erasers, paper, notebooks and the rest, of course. And my grandmother frequently got us new backpacks from L.L. Bean.

Best of all, though, was lunch-box shopping. These were the days when the lunch-box and thermos set was be-all end-all, and the options were seemingly limitless: metal or plastic; sports or TV; rock n’ roll or cartoon. My favorites from my collection over the years, in no particular order:

1. The Six Million Dollar Man (metal)
2. Snoopy as Joe Cool (plastic – I often had mac & cheese in this thermos, and I would pour it out whole so it looked like a nuclear yellow cylinder of brain
3. Emergency! (metal)
4. NFL (plastic with hologram sticker: lean it left for all AFC team helmets; lean it right for all NFC team helmets)

I always wanted a KISS lunch-box, but never got one. I guess my parents had their fill with all our KISS records and had to draw a line somewhere. (Or maybe they realized what a suck band KISS was and tried to subliminally push my ear in better directions. Fortunately, this worked.) Regardless, I always had a great lunch-box, and wish I still had them all, seeing how dramatically their value has risen over the years.

Once the bell rang for the year at Jordan Acers Elementary, in Brunswick, ME, my creative cup ran over.

I used to draw all the time, often just the shapes of my every-day life, like an Amoco sign. My mom told me a teacher said that one of my drawings was so good she “couldn’t get over it”, and I remember picturing my teacher trying to jump over the drawing and not being able to clear it.

During recess I would stick my ear to the support pipes on the swing-set to hear the squeak and echo of the chains. In my head this cacophony sounded like a party, and I evidently mentioned these swing-set-people soirees to a teacher, because I remember my parents being called in about it. Were they marveling at my creativity or questioning my mental state? Who the hell knows? But the party continued every recess, and to this day I still hear music in sources as mundane as an air-conditioner unit.

Jordan Acers was my educational and social world through third grade, when we moved to Florida. My friends included Anthony Favreau, Kris Kirker, Katie Goodwin and Ellen Domingos, all of whom I’m blessed to have reconnected with via the almighty Facebook. We played kick-ball at recess, went roller-skating at the Brunswick rec center after school and had Star Wars and Batman theme parties. And we all probably swapped around the contents of our lunch-boxes.

I never wanted to return to school when the summer ended. But when I did, I always had new threads, creative opportunities, great friends and awesome lunch-boxes. And that was more than I needed.

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My OCD and ADD often result in beauty.

Mowing the lawn at the farm is a ritual and an exercise in design and geometry. Even when I was eleven and twelve I took great pride in making the place look like a country club, and this came from following exact patterns. And if my mind was on the task, I had plenty of time to go on mental jags, and I remember many of them.

The job begins with the triangle formed by the tool shed, the driveway and the barn. I follow the edge of the rock driveway to the end of the barn, then turn around and follow the barn back to the wooden gate opening to the sheep pasture. From there it’s a left and ten feet back to the tool shed, and repeat the pattern inside the first pass until I’ve come to the middle and this section is done.

Next I start where I ended off at the corner of the barn, and go on the great lawn until just past the big rock that serves as our pitchers mound. Left about thirty feet to the edge of the hayfield, left to the fence, left to the driveway. Once this is done I get the rest of the great lawn to the road in the same way. Then the little bits in front of the hen house, the shed and the front of the house.

The side of the house is tricky, because a steep drainage ditch leads to the road. But then it’s the back yard, which is square and long, like a football field (this is, of course, where we play football). My parents currently have a fruitful pocket garden along the right side, but back then it was a thick tangle of bamboo and blackberry bushes. I still sometimes expect to get pricked on the thorns as I pass along to the large tree at the edge of the pasture. I mow circles around the tree, continuing the pattern until I have a nice wave cutting into the middle of the lawn. And then I’m done until next week.

As I’m mowing, the detritus of my zeitgeist flashes across my mind. I remember a time in the summer of 1987 when the image of a Cubs-era Dennis Eckersley Topps card stays in my head as I’m doing the driveway/barn/tool shed triangle. Summer of 1986 I read the current Red Sox yearbook in my head on the great lawn. (Roger Clemens’ favorite song is Dire Straits “Walk of Life.” He’s cruising to a 24-4 season and the phrase “Performance Enhancing Drugs” is nowhere to be found in our worlds.) As I get the little strips in front of the house I am entertained with jingles in the summer of 1989: Lowery’s Lawn & Patio (“Lowery’s for the good life…come and see what life can be”) and Funtown USA amusement park. During 1986, 1987 and 1988, I happily reminisce on recent trips to the Maine State Museum in Augusta or the lighthouse at Pemaquid Point with my mom, brother and grandmother, and I crave chocolate chip ice cream and Cherry 7Up, though not necessarily at the same time.

I now know that it’s good to vary the pattern of your mow, in order to allow the roots of the lawn to grow, but my OCD won’t let me go it. I could mow in a different pattern, but it would bother me greatly after the fact, and I would ruminate on the difference. These early glimpses into my hyper-ordered mind thoroughly amuse me now: once a neurotic, always a neurotic. But I greatly enjoy knowing exactly what was going through my head at specific points of my life well over twenty years ago, and I love that thanks to my need for pattern and repetition, the farm always looked like a country club. And whenever I mow today, it still does.

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