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Sad Coming of Age

Where Have You Gone, Peter Pan?


“When I was child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason

as a child; when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.” 

1 Corinthians: 11-13



I shave in the shower now. There’s no mirror in there. I don’t even want to see who I’ve become. Too many wrinkles, too many lines, not enough hair, no color. Sometimes, by sheer accident and the laws of probability and statistics, I’ll catch a glimpse of the old man in the mirror above the bathroom sink. I’m not even sure who he is.


What happened? I can still recall those days from long ago, if not year by year, at least by the stages of life and their memorable moments. Why am I not still a part of it all? I remember it all so well. I can revisit the places, if even just in pictures, but the unbeatable foe, Father Time, has taken it all away from me, never to return. How can I not be apart of what I remember so well?


I’m bedeviled with a good memory. I can never stop recalling a time that was better than now. I learned long ago not to gauge my plight in life with how others are doing, but it is hard not to make comparisons within the confines of my own life, that is, what it is today with what it once was. That was long ago, but I remember.


“A Christmas Story” could have been filmed in my childhood neighborhood, huge elms lining the street, well kept modest homes tucked close together, a narrow alley behind garages and fences, friendly neighbors with lots of kids. I could give you the names of everyone who lived on our block back then, but I couldn’t tell you who lives three doors down from me today, and I’ve been here twenty-seven years. It was a different time.


I was Linus with his security blanket. Hopefully all kids feel that way. I feel terrible for those who don’t. The warmth and comfort of my home, my parents. The stuff that life piles on later- stress, worry, anxiety, guilt, regret- I not only didn’t feel such things, I didn’t even know what they were.


Wrapped in love and cared for. I could be naughty, but I could do no wrong. I ate, slept, and played. Sometimes I practiced my numbers, letters and words, or tried to stay inside the lines in a coloring book, but that was about it for “work”. I got tucked in bed at night for Christ’s sake, rested my head on my pillow, and listened to wonderful, happy ending stories my Mom read to me.


My Mom made the biggest cake in the world for my 6th birthday. The thing was in the shape of a clown. I still have no idea how she did it. I got Lincoln Logs for my birthday that year. I could never get the doorways right, but I was proud of everything I built. I remember.



I thought our basement was kid heaven. We somehow managed to squeeze a Lionel train set into the damp furnace room with a smaller American Flyer running inside the outer track. I’d be in there for hours, unloading barrels and moving cattle in and out of box cars. I’d run out of those little pellets that made the American Flyer engine spew out smoke faster than my Dad could buy them.


We had an old pool table down there. My brother and I played a perverted game of handball hockey, trying to slap the ball into a corner pocket. I put the cueball through an aquarium once. The darn thing made a perfectly round hole in the glass, and the water and fish poured out onto the floor. My brother raced upstairs to tell on me, but even my Dad was impressed with the precision entry made by the errant projectile.


My Dad put a basketball hoop up on our garage. You couldn’t put too much arc on your shot or the ball would bounce around in the telephone and electric wires above the basket. I can still picture my friends running for their lives when the wires were wildly flopping around above their heads.


I was Bob Cousy of the Celtics. I knew I would someday play in the NBA, and I could only hope it would be with Celtics. When you’re a kid, you can be anyone you want to be, do whatever you want to do, but not so much when you…I shudder to say it, grow up. I practiced rain, shine or snow. I’d be out there chopping ice and shoveling snow to clear the court so I could shoot baskets. I would take shots from five different spots on my undersized court, and I wouldn’t quit until I hit the five shots in a row. Some days that took awhile, but I loved every minute of it.


Wiffle ball in my backyard. The strike zone marked with chalk of the side of the house. Past the pitcher, a single; over the fence into the alley, a double; on the roof of Cooper’s garage, a triple; over the garage, a homer. Into Christiansen’s yard, the meanest guy on the block, go get a new ball.


The alley was a multipurpose facility. Touch football by day on a playing field marked by two telephone poles. Poor Johnny Cramer once caught a pass, crashed into the north goal pole and fell flat on his back along the goal line. An argument of epic proportions followed while Johnny was directed not to move until a determination could be made as to whether he had scored. I could take you there right now and draw a crime chalk outline of where poor Johnny’s body lay that day. I remember.


At night, the alley was transformed into the hunting ground for the Ghost. Kids hid behind cars, fences and garbage cans while the Ghost, eyes shut tight, leaned on the Johnny Cramer memorial telephone pole and counted to one hundred faster than was humanly possible before embarking on a spine-chilling search for victims.


Sometimes we would just hang out in the alley, trade or flip baseball cards, or just talk stupid. No worries, no troubles, carefree. When the street lights went on, we’d all head home.


In the summer, I could walk five blocks in two different directions to find a place to play baseball. There would almost always be a pickup game going on. I was a decent fielder, but I sucked at batting. I considered it a successful at bat if I didn’t get hit by a pitch, but I loved every minute of it.


My Dad would drop me off at the County Park on a summer morning. I would fish all day, landing a few undersized bluegills and maybe a couple of carp. The ultimate prize would have been a turtle. I never caught one, but God knows I tried. Today, my Dad would probably be arrested for leaving me there. It was a different time.


Ice skating was a big deal in my hometown. I’d call the weather information number every winter night hoping we had sub-freezing temperatures. Weather permitting, I’d see my friends there every night. Sixth grade, I met my first “girlfriend” at the rink. We held hands, actually gloves, as we skated under the lights to the screechy tunes blaring out of the loudspeaker hung on a light pole. I remember her, the old wooden benches in the warming house, and skating into a snowbank to stop. I remember it all.


Snowmen, snow forts, epic snowball fights that were waged all across the neighborhood. In the alley, front yards, backyards, even porches. There were no safe havens. The battles would go on forever, or at least until I could no longer feel my fingers.


I liked high school, friends, girlfriends, sports, parties and proms, but that’s when it started to slip away. The pressure to get good grades, make a team, and of course the fear of rejection by the girls who had captured my heart. College cranked all those same pressures up several notches.


And then the real world. Work eight hours a week, fifty weeks a year, mortgage payments, credit cards, car repairs, house repairs, the pressure to move up the ladder at work, get a bigger house and a nicer car, get that yard looking like a page out of Home and Garden magazine. Hop on that treadmill and keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.


A person doesn’t “grow old”. One day you realize you are old. The first step for me was when the young bank teller called me “sir”. I remember the moment. That was many years ago, but I could pick her out of a lineup today. Somewhere along the way, I had become a “sir”.


Step two was the bag boy at the grocery store asking me if I needed help carrying my groceries. When did I start looking like a guy who needed help carrying a grocery bag? If you haven’t been there, trust me, it’s a troubling moment.


There are too many step three’s to enumerate, but I’ll give you a taste. The twenty pound bag of dog food became two ten pound bags. The small hill next to my house somehow got steeper. I injured my shoulder playing football forty-seven years ago. It hurts more today than it did then. The little numbers on the inside of my “cheaters” keeps going up. Tying my shoes became more challenging. Doctors appointments and meds until my head spins. I think you get it.


But as the physical declines, the memory stays intact. I remember.


Play. Where did play go? I want to go outside and play. Maybe I could get the widow Jensen to step outside, and I could recruit some other senior citizens to play ring around her walker. Or I could put a sign up at the entrance to the grocery store and get a team of old guys to meet at the park to roll a basketball around. Then we’d walk over to the big slide and hold a competition- “Who Can Reach the Highest Step Without Falling Off?” No, I’ll have to settle for memories.


Sometimes I’ll take long, lonely walks through the park. I don’t understand the empty basketball court, the silent tennis courts, and birds hunting for worms between the weeds on the baseball field. I haven’t seen a red and white bobber bouncing around in the lagoon for years. On a winter walk through the neighborhood, I will see snow covered lawns, but no snow forts. There are no signs of snow splattered against cars, fences, houses or any other evidence that a great battle was once fought there. I feel bad about that, but then again, maybe these kids will never miss what they never had.


How do I differ from my younger self? I’m old, and I know what comes after that. Thanks for asking.


“Rosebud”. I understood what it meant when Charles Foster Kane uttered it with his last breath. But now I know it, now I feel it. We all will.













November 30, 2022 18:03

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28 comments

Jack Bell
10:02 Dec 01, 2022

Can a too-happy childhood be a disadvantage? It’s not an entirely facetious question. The narrator of this story gives a wonderfully evocative memoir of childhood happiness—but to what end? He seems to use it as a method of self-laceration. There’s a ritualistic, quasi-religious feel to the way he tells and retells his story. He seems to have cut himself off and become a priest who tends the shrine of his sacred memories. Whatever the quality of one’s childhood, it’s impossible not to sympathize with the narrator. He is reflecting on the b...

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Murray Burns
02:32 Dec 04, 2022

Thanks for reading it and your comments. I was always struck by Citizen Kane's dying word..."Rosebud". Whatever he accomplished in life, his fondest, perhaps most important, memory was his childhood.

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Murray Burns
02:32 Dec 04, 2022

Thanks for reading it and your comments. I was always struck by Citizen Kane's dying word..."Rosebud". Whatever he accomplished in life, his fondest, perhaps most important, memory was his childhood.

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Laurel Hanson
12:38 Dec 04, 2022

A beautiful exploration of the Corinthians passage, painting an evocative scene of childhood in a different time, one that is immersive and feels real. What we remember is play, which speaks to the necessity of it. And then, I guess, there is the necessity of "putting away childish things." I feel like you are writing about the mistake in that notion; by putting away childish things, play, we start the process that leads to a kind of death (not the actual inevitable death, but the death in life when we live without childish things). The son...

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Murray Burns
19:42 Dec 04, 2022

Thank you. I've always bee affected by the last word of Citizen Kane- "Rosebud", the name of his sled when he was a little boy. Of all the things he accomplished in his life, the thing he thought about at the end was his childhood. I got to play again when my kids were little, but then they went and grew up on me! I will probably be moving to a place near my 3 little grandchildren, and I'm sure I'll get to play again...so I'll be ok. In the meantime....I think laughter is a close cousin to "play". I was also affected by the speech Jim Valvan...

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Laurel Hanson
20:46 Dec 04, 2022

Speaking as a grandmother whose grandchildren can run down the drive to visit, I cannot strongly enough endorse the value of grandchildren in reminding us (giving us permission??) to play! Go for it! It seems to me that laughter is the result of play, genuine play. For whatever reason, I laugh when sledding down the hill and tumbling out into the snow, I laugh when I make a terrible move in a game. I was profoundly blessed to work with high school students for 34 years; they brought so much laugher I can't even tell you. May you enjoy yea...

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Kevin Marlow
04:41 Dec 04, 2022

The dwindling resources of the planet have forced the youth into a quasi-meta existence. Nature is idolized, yet participation from a western perspective is demonized. We want the connection to our environment, yet fear the damage we will do. The planet survived the Mega-Fauna and the poles being liquid, I'm sure it can survive whatever our offspring present. Without a doubt, we need to conserve and be conscious of our resources. Disconnecting from nature is not going to solve anything. The human finger is already in the pie. We have chang...

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Hilary R. Glick
03:05 Dec 04, 2022

This was filled with wonderful, juicy nuggets of nostalgia in every paragraphs! The mention of specific toys, moments, and memories brought up memories of my own. I hope some of these things are true for you too, and I hope you had a fun reminiscing and writing, as I had fun reading!

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Murray Burns
00:47 Dec 05, 2022

Thankyou. I appreciate your reading it and your comments. I grew up in a simpler world, perhaps a better world for kids. Sometimes I feel bad for my grandchildren because they won't be growing up in that world. Thanks.

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Wendy Kaminski
17:37 Dec 03, 2022

An enchanting retrospective of the wistfulness that comes with aging. Not just wistfulness over your own lost youth, but what seems like the lost youth of the world (re: your last paragraph) - that was particularly evocative. I also really appreciate the "Play" paragraph... it made me laugh out loud when I needed it!

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Murray Burns
18:13 Dec 03, 2022

I've done my own personal survey of the world, and it's disappointing. I live in a Midwest residential community with a population of 15,000. I walk through neighborhoods a couple hours a day. After an 8" snowfall, I won't see any kids out playing in the snow. In three years, I've never seen a snow fort or a snow ball thrown (myself excepted). There is a magnificent sledding hill 2 blocks away adjacent to a school- I've seen someone sledding there about 4-5 times in 3 years- and then it was just a parent with one kid. I don't get it. I guess...

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08:35 Jan 11, 2023

I love this story. I can identify with it completely, from shaving in the shower to avoiding mirrors. :-) May I suggest one change? I think the story would have had a stronger opening if you had moved the three paragraphs starting A person doesn’t “grow old”. One day you realize you are old. .. to the beginning after the biblical quote and then worked in the section about the wonderful childhood that you had. Thanks for posting it.

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16:31 Dec 09, 2022

This is a lovely collection of memories, and I love them - and can relate (I'm 76), and all you say about aging is so true. What the hell happened? And I guess that's why old people kept telling us to make the most of our youth. There was a song about "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." I always recommend Grammarly; it's free and helps make stories more readable and tighten them, so it shines. I didn't realize how many redundant words I used or how my short sentences needed to be joined into one. "Hopefully, all kids feel that w...

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Murray Burns
17:09 Dec 09, 2022

I appreciate your reading it and your comments. Sometimes the "Golden" years don't actually seem so Golden. "Hopefully, all kids..." It's actually written about how I feel now, about present day kids. Thanks.

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Murray Burns
04:00 Dec 26, 2022

I want to thank you for the Grammarly recommendation. I thought my "careful" proofreading would be sufficient on a longer project I'm working on, but I applied Grammarly and was surprised at how many "small" things I missed- a word or comma missing, spacing, etc. Writing is the fun part, and proofreading is the work part. I think Grammarly is going to help. Thanks!

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19:13 Dec 07, 2022

A walk down memory lane, thanks. Lol... By the way, I want to live where you live. I am definitely getting up there in years, but no one offers to carry my groceries. Just kidding— sort of. A great childhood vs an okay childhood. I guess my childhood prepared me a little better for the hard parts of adulthood because I don't remember it being much of a shock. Advantages and disadvantages to both, I imagine.

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Murray Burns
19:28 Dec 07, 2022

Here's a sign that it's a different time...My six year old grandson called me to tell me what he wanted for Christmas. A football? A toy gun? A Tom Brady jersey? Nope. He wants an iPhone 13! He's six! I appreciate your reading the story and your comments. Thanks.

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Edward Latham
16:50 Dec 07, 2022

The descriptions from childhood were beautifully detailed and so lifelike. It makes me want to ask if you drew on your own memories to write this? Regardless, it was a fantastic piece!

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Murray Burns
18:08 Dec 07, 2022

Yes, those were childhood memories, right down (unfortunately) to having a tough time hitting a baseball. Here's a sign of the times- My 6 year old grandson called me on Google Duo the other night to tell me what he wanted for Christmas. I was thinking a sled, a football, a toy gun, or maybe a Russell Wilson jersey. ( He's in Colorado.) Nope. He want's an iPhone 13! He's six! I told him good luck with that. I guess it's a different world. I appreciate your reading it and your comments. Thanks.

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Susan Williams
01:05 Dec 07, 2022

Your detail and descriptions brought back great memories to me. A Christmas Story is still a family favorite. You brought out the sense of loss as we grow older, of a simpler bygone time. Nicely written.

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Murray Burns
14:02 Dec 07, 2022

Thanks for reading it and for your comments. It was a simpler, and in many ways a better, time. I watch The Christmas Story at least once every year- for the story and for all the scenes and events that bring back memories of those times. I sometimes feel bad that my grandkids will miss out on much of it. Thanks.

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Julie Squires
22:00 Dec 06, 2022

Beautifully written story. so honest and poignant because all of us can relate to it or ... like the story teaches us ... will someday for certain. I really liked this piece. You should be proud of it. :)

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Murray Burns
23:53 Dec 06, 2022

I appreciate your reading it and your comments. If we can't play, we should at least try to laugh about something everyday. I got play back when my kids were little...and then they all grew up on me! (Shocking) But... I plan to relocate close to my 3 grandkids...and then I'm going to play my brains out! Thanks.

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Susan Catucci
01:32 Dec 06, 2022

Thank you for this story - I smiled through most of it because of its relevance and truths. Our lives have dimensions, several layers more than we can probably fathom from within or without the experience. Your words resonated with me and had meaning and I enjoyed the journey - lots of shared thoughts, so that's always fun. Well done.

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Murray Burns
02:57 Dec 06, 2022

I always remember that after all Citizen Kane had done and accomplished in life, his dying thought was on his childhood sled. All serious all the time isn't good for the soul. We should all try to keep a little play and laughter in our lives. I appreciate your reading it and your comments. Thanks

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Lily Finch
22:27 Dec 05, 2022

Beautiful! LF6

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Mike Panasitti
17:13 Dec 04, 2022

I read once, somewhere, that the word "rosebud" in Citizen Kane was a not-so-veiled reference to the clitoris. This association somewhat clouded the innocence of your story for me, but I did enjoy it. Starting with a Biblical quote effectively hooked me in as a reader and your expository eloquence kept me reading.

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Murray Burns
18:20 Dec 04, 2022

Oh no! Now I've got one more thing in life to try to not think about. I had only heard of the sled reference, but after seeing your comment, I did a little research. The sources are all a little sketchy, but one said Gore Vidal came up with it...? I appreciate your reading it and your comments.

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