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Sunday, January 13, 2013

It Will Happen to You, Too

The other day I was driving to work with my car-pool buddy, Chrishele, when for some reason I mentioned Jackie Gleason.

Chrishele's response was, "Who's she?"

Okay, she didn't actually say, "Who's she?" she just said "Who's that?" but she was thinking "Who's she?" because she didn't realize Jackie Gleason was a man.

I did not lose control of the car, not even briefly, a careful driver, me, but a shudder ran through my frame, not as if a rabbit had run over my grave, but as if troops of rabbits, in relay formation, were stampeding over it, and stomping their furry feet as they went.

Not to know who Jackie Gleason was!

It wasn't Chrishele's lack of cultural knowledge, it was the awareness dawning on me, that I had passed from the familiar regions of my youth into a new land, wherein dwelt tribes uncognizant of...  Okay, I've lost control of this metaphor.  The point is, you know you're getting old when you mention a familiar cultural icon from your youth, and some whippersnapper comes back with, "Who dat?"  My mother Mur must've felt the same way when she mentioned, say, Fatty Arbuckle, and I said, "Who?"  (Parenthetically, I have since seen several Fatty Arbuckle short features, and they are quite amusing.)

I will not go into the resume of Jackie "The Great One" Gleason, he of "How sweet it is!" and "To the moon, Alice, to the moon!"  (Ah, for those simpler days when spousal abuse was still a rib-tickler.)  The point of this essay is not Gleason, per se, it's - and I'm going to try to re-enter my metaphor here, so bear with me - that you are born into a certain region, but that you leave it at once, day by day crossing new frontiers.  Everyone you know is on the same journey with you, almost giving you the illusion you have not moved at all, except each day, one person falls behind, left on some hill or valley somewhere, only remaining in the memories of migratory mankind.  And each day another wanderer falls, and another, and another, and with them fall not only themselves, but what memories they hold of people who fell before them.  Until one day, in that mighty wagon-train of time, you mention to some fellow-traveler an old comrade, someone who was mighty in his day, or famed, or loved, or even hated, and your companion has never heard of them.

And at that moment, it strikes you, that your whole life has been a journey, and you look around with a shock and realize this broad prairie is not the same one where you have always lived, and that the land where you were born, is far behind you now, and those mountains on the horizon, how much closer they have grown.  What a long way you have come without even noticing.

It will happen to you, too.  It will happen to you.

1 comment:

  1. Reading a short story I wrote to all the fifth graders here, I had to first ask: "Who knows who Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were?" I really didn't expect many children to know (I think one or two children out of 12 classes raised their hands)...but A TEACHER DID NOT KNOW!