Back when I was a kid

One dozen attempts on my life in the past 24 hours I’ve survived. I feel like an action movie hero. Tom Cruise. All ready to go be silly on Oprah and shit. It’s always like this on the roads around the full moon*, but yesterday and today have been odd in the extreme.

Also, I took a walk at lunch and was all like
When I was your age
Back when I was a kid
I can remember back when

All these things going through my head that cannot be spoken, only listed, in italics.

I remember when, you called someone on the phone, you knew exactly where they were: standing by the wall phone in the kitchen. Sitting in the foyer by the telephone table.

Later, people got extensions, but you still knew what house they were in. Nowadays, it’s like, Are you stuck in a traffic jam or are you in the men’s room taking a crap?


Where was I. Attempts on my life. Tom Cruise. Walking.

Did you know that when someone tells you that they are 47, and you say, Oh, nearly 50! that that jinxes you? Within a week headhunters posing as Girl Scout cookie saleschildren come to your door and cut off your fucking head with a fucking jigsaw?

At least I hope so. If there is a god, it does.

I mean, my image of god is pretty open. It doesn’t disallow a god that would not jinx people for saying that. I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be interesting if that were the way it turned out to work?

My daughter asked me to stop cursing people recently. Apparently in traffic I have a habit of calling down the wrath of god on their ass. With good reason, IMO, but eh.

A friend cursed her recently and she got on a subway GOING THE WRONG WAY so I have to be careful.

Indeed, I suppose, images are powerful. See what you want, and maybe you get it. Maybe it happens. Like a positive jinx. I got a cell phone that way once**. So, the fiberglass cello case is only a matter of time. As is peace on earth, or at least peace in my house.

This is what I was thinking at lunch: we laugh at children for what they say they want to be when they grow up, but.

Imagine, if you will, the following. Imagine that what a kid says she wants to be when she grows up is simply the best label she can come up with for what she sees herself doing. It’s an occult image, secret to her, hard to name.

A boy sees himself saving people, or chopping down doors, or standing helplessly by while things burn, any number of possibilities, and says, I want to be a fireman when I grow up.

A girl wants to ease pain, or handle drugs, or tuck someone in, or watch people die, and says, I want to be a nurse.

I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. And here I am, mysterious affinity for fish, swimming underwater, holding my breath.

Maybe our dreams don’t change, maybe we don’t outgrow them. Maybe they are not dreams, but just children trying to describe something words can’t directly name. Like symbols in a dream, so not dreams but elements of dreams, dream-like things, things similar to dreams but not exactly dreams, strictly speaking. Quasi-dreams. So, more like dreams than goals, I suppose, I’ll grant you that, so for lack of a better word, okay, dreams. But in quotation marks, sort of. Or italics. Dreams.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

    *No one knows who built the roads around the full moon. They are hard to see with the naked eye, because, you know, the sky is black, and the roads are black.

    **Thanks, Novala!

17 responses to “Back when I was a kid

  1. pam

    I used to want to be JC too, but it turned out I wasn’t as good at math as I was at looking at fish.

    Then I wanted to be an “artiste” but I wonder if maybe what I really wanted was to have some kind of cred behind my desire to swan about the continent with no apparent purpose.

    “I’m LOOKING at things, back OFF!”

    A-hem. I’m not sure one is supposed to say one wants to wander around looking at things when they grow up.

    Though it’s not really clear that I ever DID grow up, though I did get a LOT older.

  2. in order of appearance: a ballet dancer, a teacher, a time traveler, a singer, a single mother, a truck driver, a writer for television, a purser, a small business owner (especially a bookstore, a small dry goods store, an art gallery), a writer of books, a journalist, a professor, a writer of textbooks, an editor.

  3. sue

    I can’t remember thinking about what I wanted to be—maybe because when I was growing up little girls became wives and mommies–in that order. If they had jobs, they quit when the kids started to arrive.

    (Actually, the job I had when I was pregnant with number one ended about a month before she was born, so there wasn’t really an option available.)

    But I think I have broken the mold for being a proper old lady! (At least I hope I have.)

  4. mig

    I forgot hermit. Doing pretty good there, too, for a while, sort of letting that slide lately though.

  5. Wait, isn’t this an annual question of yours, Mig?

    Succesful novelist.

  6. Tim

    Wanted to be: Test Pilot

    Am: Aerospace Engineer

    Now want to be: Math Teacher

  7. I only knew what I didn’t want to be.

  8. I had all the desire squeezed out of me because I was told what I was going to be. Now, I don’t know.

  9. I wanted to be a rentier and to live in a big house with all my friends. Now I read histories of the reign of Louis XIV, shivering with gratitude that prayers are not always answered.

  10. I wanted to be: a journalist, a novelist, a fashion designer, a teacher, a vetrinarian, a CIA agent, a lawyer, an anthropologist, and whatever comes after being human. I’ve dabbled pretty deeply in each of my callings, just short of making a career (a lucrative one, anyway) of any of them. I’m going to go ahead and give the second one some effort and possibly even some follow-through, and perhaps even work on that first one again.

    {My grandfather figured me as the new messiah. My mom saw me as president. I always wonder about people who hold (with a steely grip) aspirations for others, like that.}

  11. i wanted to be a musician when i was a kid. i wanted to create and be part of something outside of me. i also wanted to be “a good mom” to my someday-kid(s).

    i like this post, very much Mig. though i thought you’d be mauled by werewolves in the end, under the full moon. eh, road construction, werewolves, same diff.

  12. Hmm… I remember thinking that, for a profession, I would do something… fun. I would live in an urban environment — like a big loft — maybe a lot like Tom Hanks in “Big”. I knew it would involve lots of lovely ladies.

    Turns out, I’m not too far from that reality. However, what is now looking like my life looks nothing like I thought it would.

    At one point, I thought I’d be a writer. I was even “pushed” that way by teachers, counselors, professors. Turns out, writing is hard. And if you have any self-doubt, something that writing seems to multiply, then it’s even harder.

  13. mig

    but scotty, you write so well!

  14. I never ever wanted to be a journalist, btw.

  15. Once I wanted to be a taxi cab driver until my older brother told me that cabbies get shot. This made me cry.

    Then I wanted to be a pizza delivery boy until my older brother told me that they get shot too. This made me want to be a CEO for domino’s.

    Now I just wanna be a shot in the dark.