I was homeschooled. Yes, and please understand that this is nothing of which I boast. In fact, I seldom admit to it at all. Until I was nine years old, I lived in a home far removed from any metropolitan influence. I had no cable, of course no internet access, very few friends, no modern reading material… perhaps you get the idea.
What I did have were my books and a television plugged into a VCR. With that VCR, I was allowed to watch movies that were dated pre-1970. While other children my age were going to the movies to see Back to the Future 2, Die Hard, and Indiana Jones, I was home watching Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and To Kill a Mockingbird, with the likes of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Gregory Peck along with their beautiful and always submissive love interests.
My book collection consisted of age-old children’s literature which some may have called archaic; although, I’ll admit to having enjoyed them. Now when I say age-old literature, I’m including everything from Kenneth Graham’s, The Wind in the Willows, Arnold Lobel’s, Frog and Toad and Grimm’s Fairy Tales (illustrated by Arthur Rackham, who is my favorite illustrator to this day. I have, in fact, used two of his illustrations in this very post) to Christian family books from the nineteen-thirties through the fifties. In these books, men were chivalrous. They wore suits and combed their hair impeccably. Their wives respected them, and their children revered them. They didn’t neglect their family for the game, piss on the toilette seat, or retire early in the evenings to indulge in online porn. They were never effeminate, nor were they ever “stay at home dads”.
My dad had a good job, and one that required him to wear a suit and tie. He always opened and closed doors for my mom, and ultimately had the final say in most of the big decisions for the household. He was kind and we felt his love, but when he said jump, we jumped till he said stop (figurative).
I remember riding horses with ease by the age of six; being completely familiar with how to operate my Grandfather’s tractors and other equipment at the age of nine; and being proficient enough with any hunting rifle or shotgun at the age of eight to rival many adults.
The first time I ever touched a girl, I was seventeen. She had taken her shirt off. My god, I remember it so well. I suppose it was nothing really. I bumped into her recently; she was my age, but she looked old. I suspected she had “touched” a few other boys.
In short, I was raised in another world. I supposed that the odd choice of style by everyone around me, who never wore suits and seldom bathed, were simply a byproduct of where we lived. Perhaps they were inbred. Surely when my Dad left for work every day, he needed to wear his business suits because… well, out there, everybody wore them. Didn’t they? The world had changed dramatically from the only age to which I was ever exposed, and I was certain that the conflicting view that I saw around me was only a local element. It must just be here; it must just be the people around Spring Hill, Arkansas.
When I made it to college, I befriended Sean. He was worldly and experienced in everything from drugs and women, to serious felonies and jail. He decided that I needed a dose of life; a good dunking in the real world. He was good at that. I learned quickly, and although there were certain lines of misbehavior I simply would not cross, those lines were far over the horizon.
I stood recently at the conference center of that school thinking to myself, if only we had known then. If only Joel would have known then that his future wife would leave him, and he would call me periodically with a gun to his head. If only Sean had known that he would be arrested for operating a drug enterprise and prison would be in his near future. I wish I could tell Amanda that she would drop out after her first semester, and ten years later she would be a single mother waiting tables back in her home town of Berryville. I looked at those old seats where we had all once sat, and I thought those things.
I now have a son whose name is Alek. Alek is four. How shall I raise him? Might I expose him to the world as it is, or place a facade over all that is bad? A world of make-believe that hasn’t existed for half a century, or the world as it truly is today?
Alek, wanted to stay up on New Years with me to watch the ball drop in New York from our living room in Berryville. I couldn’t see why not.
“Daddy, why is that boy dressed like a girl?” he’d ask. “Daddy, I think that guy’s a monster?” he’d say.
And when Lady Gaga appeared on the screen, “sang” her “song”, and she had finished, “You know Daddy, I think that lady is sad.”
“How do you think son?”
“I saw it on her face”
I want to close the curtains, and make everything beyond them disappear – All of the scary things – The monsters and such. I want for my little boy to dream, like his daddy once did, that the world is at peace; that monsters aren’t real; and that men are still chivalrous.
Do I dare?
Certain names have been changed to protect the identity of certain people mentioned