When we look back at our childhood years, we tend to remember the best parts. This is why we feel that it was our golden era. Not everyone has an ideal childhood, and not everything is pleasant. That’s just life. However, whatever your situation, childhood is a time of wonderment. You have free rein over your creativity, and you don’t care what others think. Simple things amaze you, and small pleasures make you feel like a million bucks.
If you grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, as I did, your family most likely had limited funds to spend on anything more than putting a roof over your head and keeping your stomach full. Of course, children have no idea of the sacrifices their parents make to ensure their health and well-being.
You probably shared the only bathroom with six or more family members, slept in the same room as your siblings, wore the same hand-me-down clothing, and slept in your living room during the hottest summer days.
The other day, I was sitting in front of my computer in my home office, drinking a $6 cup of coffee, checking my text messages on my iPhone 11, and listening to a Billie Eilish song playing on my Google Echo Show 5 when Alexa interrupted me to flash a quote on the screen:
“Old age is a second childhood.” –Aristophanes
Alexa is a pretty intelligent voice bot, but my body tells me I won’t be able to toss my sneakers up on the electric wires any longer. I can, however—and you can, too—revisit my childhood to see what simple things created a sense of wonderment or delight. Here are a few things that did it for me:
Finding a penny on the sidewalk was like finding a pirate’s gold. That penny bought a delicious Grade A chocolate or a licorice baby.
Finding a nickel or dime in the pay telephone was like winning the lottery. That would buy you a Pepsi or an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
Dad sometimes brought home hamburgers from the Olympia restaurant. Never did a greasy burger taste better.
When a family friend gave us a puppy, the first thing the puppy did was run to me. That was one of my most memorable pleasures.
Every time I went to the A&P with my grandmother and smelled the fresh ground coffee, I felt happiness. I still do.
Driving over the bridge on Wildwood Boulevard into Wildwood, New Jersey, was an immense relief because the two-hour trek was over. More importantly, it was a portent of fabulous days at the beach and boardwalk.
The first time I had pizza, I was amazed that something could smell and taste so good.
When I came home after a hard day of play on the street and realized that mom had made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, it was the best surprise.
One day, when I was about nine years old, I ran eight balls in a row playing pool at my dad’s pool room, and he praised me. I felt like I was Willie Mosconi.
When I made a cap bomb that worked, I thought it was a feat worthy of the best engineers.
My brother taught me how to make a paper airplane to throw from the top row of seats at the Philadelphia Boat Show. I felt like I was one of the big guys.
Once I noticed that Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the Howdy Doody Show was hot, I always smiled when she was on the show.
When the snowfall was significant enough to sled, it was one of the happiest parts of the cold Philly winters.
When I was four years old, I learned that Earth is round. It amazed me, and I wanted to know more. Some adults still haven’t learned that the world is not flat.
A rainy day after a midsummer heatwave in Philly was such a delight that we reveled in getting soaked to the bone.
When someone was able to open a fire hydrant, it was like going to a day at an expensive pool.
Getting a quarter for helping a lady take her groceries home after sitting in my wagon for hours at the local A&P gave me a sense of worth.
When Bill Haley’s song “Rock Around The Clock” played at assembly when I was at Cramp Elementary School, I felt like it was the beginning of rock and roll. It was my generation’s anthem. Just as Danny and the Juniors sang,“Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay,
It will never die
It was meant to be that way,
I don’t know why
I don’t care what people say,
Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay”
Seeing a television playing in the window of an appliance store on Front Street in 1948 was the beginning of my lifelong fascination with storytelling.
I can’t tell you all the things from my childhood that made me happy because it would take a 1000-page book. Instead, I will leave you to ponder what made you happy during your formative years. Please post some memories so others can share them.
By the way, I was fibbing when I said I was listening to a Billie Eilish song. I was actually listening to the top songs of the 1950s. Oh, what a time it was!
As I mentioned, Alexa is a pretty smart cookie. As I approached the end of this story, she posted this on her screen:
“The final stage of wisdom is becoming a kid again.”
Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.