Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ah, Youth!

Last night I, as Black Ink Pad Designs, was a vendor at an arts and crafts show to benefit the arts at a local high school. The night included performances by several of the school’s music groups. As I looked around at the mystery species that is The High School Student, I realized that it has been 28 years since I darkened the doors of any high school - 1982, my younger brother’s graduation. I had an odd rush of emotion that I didn’t recognize right away. Then, after listening to the choir sing a tune that I remembered singing, I figured it out. The emotion was an unprecedented longing for my youth. Never before have I longed for my youth. In fact, I’ve done everything possible to distance myself from it. Yet, there it was.

I found myself identifying with the trio of girls who sang exuberantly, if slightly off key, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I was one of those girls once. My heart went out to the heavy set, awkward looking boy who got off to a shaky start on his rendition of Old Man River, then slowly forgot the audience was there, and at the end, knocked it out of the park as he belted out at the top of his range, “I’m tired ‘o livin’, n’ skeered o’ dyin’… but ol’ man river… he keeps on rollin’… keeps on rollin’ along.” I knew that boy once upon a time, in fact, I may have gone to the homecoming dance with him. I nodded benevolently at the girl who has yet to understand that the ability to play a Chopin piece is somewhat nullified when there is a lack of grace in said playing. I smiled at the gusto with which the orchestral ensemble, looking like confused alien invaders in tuxes that were a size off in either direction, attacked (and I do mean attacked) the allegro movement from Handel’s Water Music.

The main attraction, a three man(cub) pop-rock band, had me wondering if I should laugh or cry. They were clearly the coolest boys in school, as evidenced by the screaming groupie girls whose thighs were skinnier than my arms. They had all the style of hip young gods, in their low slung jeans, worn t-shirts, and hair with enough hair product in it to easily withstand a magnitude five hurricane. Mancubs, they were indeed. Think Mowgli, only in jeans and with a bass guitar. They were too cool for school, fool. They were untouchable, man. My indecision between mirth and sorrow came when they rocked out their first tune. They were confident and energetic, and completely failed to realize that one really cannot supercede talent (or lack thereof) with youthful enthusiasm. I admired their chutzpah, but it was painful to watch... and tons of fun.

As students and their parents meandered around, I saw the same kids I went to school with over thirty years ago - geeks, nerds, jocks, popular girls, homely girls, the off-center fringe, space cadets, freaks - all the cruelty and kindness of that ubiquitous physical, mental, and emotional fusion that is found in the 14-18 year old species everywhere on the planet, and in every decade since dirt was invented.

There it was, the longing. I heard a timid voice inside me saying, “May I please have a do-over?” I wanted to go back to that time of semi-innocence when youthful passion ruled the day. I looked around and thought of all the might-have-beens, had I wandered through that time in my life as The Now Barb rather than The Then Barb. Where was my Inner Gypsy when I really needed an imaginary friend? No matter. After all, she did show up. It was just a case of better late than never.

But I think Henny Youngman said it best…
Youth is wasted on the young.

1 comment:

  1. Facinating living this through your mind Barb.
    Very lurical writing here.
    I think I may be one of the few that really LOVED my teenage years and long for that time period frequently. I was young, thin(er), truly pretty, happy, carefree, full of love and energy, loved school, loved everyone around me basically. I was not a part of the popular crowd, but was rather friends with everyone and TO everyone, which made me popular in the end. But it was more the sense of freedom, of having fun and being (mostly) worry-free that I miss.
    Ahh those WERE the best years of my life. Kinda sad in a way though...What is there to look forward to?
    Now I'm just miserable, sad, and stuck in a rut.

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