A Boy’s Life


I read A Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon over the Christmas of 1991. In looking back through my old journals I found this extract which I think is worth sharing.

“I have seen many boys come and go,” she said. “I’ve seen some grow up and set roots and some grow up and move away. The years of a boys life pass so fast Cory.” she smiled faintly. “Boys want to hurry up and be men and then comes a day they wish they could be boys again. But I’ll tell you a secret Cory. Want to hear it?”

I nodded.

“No one,” Mrs Neville whispered, “ever grows up.”

I frowned. What kind of secret was that? My Dad and mom were grown up weren’t they? So were Mr Dollar, Chief Marchetta, Dr Parish, Reverend Lavoy, the lady and everybody else over eighteen.

“They may look grown up,” she continued, “But it’s a disguise. It’s just the clay of time. Men and women are still children deep in their hearts. They still would like to jump and play, but that heavy clay won’t let them. They’d like to shake off every chain the world’s put on them, take off their watches and neck ties and Sunday shoes and return naked to the swimmin’ hole, if just for one day. They’d like to feel free, and know that there’s a momma and daddy at home who’ll take care of things and love them no matter what. Even behind the face of the meanest man in the world is a scared little boy tryin’ to wedge himself into a corner where he can’t be hurt.” She put aside the papers and folded her hands on the desk. “I have seen plenty of boys grow into men, Cory, and I want to say one word to you. Remember.”

Remember? Remember what?

“Everything”, she said. “And anything. Don’t you go through a day without rememberin’ something of it and tuckin’ that memory away like a treasure. Because it is. And memories are sweet doors Cory. They’re teachers and friends and disciplinarians. When you look at something, don’t just look. See it. Really, really see it. See it so when you write it down, somebody else can see it too. It’s easy to walk through life deaf, dumb and blind, Cory. Most everybody you know or ever meet will. They’ll walk through a parade of wonders, and they’ll never hear a peep of it. But you can live a thousand lifetimes if you want to. You can talk to people you’ll never set eyes on, in lands you’ll never visit.”

She nodded watching my face. “And if you’re good and you’re lucky and you have something worth saying, then you might have the chance to live on long after – ” she paused, measuring her words. “Long after,” she finished.

******************************************************
The words resonate more strongly for me now than they did way back then when I was a 34 year old father of three. Though even then I was searching for the boy that had been locked away by the expectations of myself and others. I wonder if I ever did actually take the time to walk that parade of wonders, in keeping my journals I am thankful that at times my eyes were open and the voices of my children as children echo strongly from the pages of those books. I will always be grateful that I took the time to record some of the things they said and did at the time they were said or done. There is of course no recapturing the lost moments.

I recognise in the voice of Mrs Neville the feeling that at times I do want to return to the bedroom of my childhood, with it’s vintage car wallpaper and venetian blinds, and the safe feeling of being tucked in at night by Mum or Dad. Where the dust motes floated in sunbeams and the steam from the paper factory could be heard late in the still of the night. I wish the man I am now could revisit the homes of his grandparents and soak up the smell of freshly baked scones, or hear the laughter from the crowded kitchen table as another game of cards were dealt. Or be licked on the face by a dog and not care. Or splash in puddles of water on unmade roads, and fall over in the schoolyard skidpans and gaze in wonder at fireworks as if for the first time.

I am thankful for all that has gone before. I look forward to rekindling my wonder, to the things that were once simple pleasures. I am grateful for this world now which does mean that I can connect with people all over the world and with them continue to explore this journey.

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