Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The lost art of anticpation.

Have you ever wondered why some memories are just burned into your head, and why others--perhaps those attached to more significant events in your life--get lost in the neurosynaptic shuffle (and, yes, I made that term up, but I kind of like it.) For instance, I have very few memories of my graduation from grammar school, and yet I have almost visceral recollection of an event that took place the following summer, an event that will seem very mundane to many of you. I was fourteen-years-old and an avid reader of comic books and similar magazines for boys. My favorite part of these was the small ads in the back hawking all kind of things that a boy my age might want--like a model airplane with a real Cox engine.

I can still feel how badly I wanted that plane. When I spoke to my father about it, he shared my enthusiasm for it. "Best get going earning some money," he said. So I put a sign up looking for work, lawns, raking, weeding, stacking wood, whatever. I remember being very excited when the lady with the biggest house in our small town called requesting my services. The next day I biked down to her estate and started the process of cleaning up her many gardens which had become overrun with weeds since the death of her husband, a process that lasted three long days. When it was all over, I was rewarded with a five dollar bill and a glass of weak lemonade. I can remember my mother being somewhat put off by my earnings, remarking, 'the reason she has a lot of money, Peter, is because she like to hang on to it.' My father, of course, felt differently: 'Well, you're five dollars closer to that plane.'

Within a few weeks I was close, and good weather that spring translated into a good crop of black raspberries which grew in abundance along the hedges of the many hay fields dotting the landscape. I used to pick them ten quarts at a time and sell them to the neighbors for a quarter each. (1978 prices.) By the time the blackcaps had gone by I had enough money for that plane. So I cut out the ad and addressed the envelope, and my mother took me down to town to get a money order. On the way home we stopped at the post office and I dropped my letter into the slot, officially marking the start of the waiting period which was forecast to be six-weeks long.

I know what you are thinking. Six-weeks? Really? But I am not making this up or even exaggerating the length of time. The difficulty in comprehending this is that there is no modern comparison, and that's the problem. Today, most boys would just visit the website, click on the model they wanted, use a credit card to pay, and the plane would be on the doorstep in two days. More efficient? Most definitely. But better? I don't think so, most definitely not. Let me explain my reasoning.

The next six weeks were not difficult for me, they were just the opposite. Rather than be frustrated by the wait, I spent my days anticipating my new life as a pilot of a model airplane with a real Cox engine (I promise I won't use that same expression again.) I remember waiting for the postman to come, weeks before the package ultimately arrived, pacing around my yard like an expectant father. When he came without anything for me, I remember being excited that I would get to do the same thing on the following day, one day closer to the due date. It was just the way of things in those days; one waited for the things that one wanted. And it forced one to be more patient--a virtue which is in short supply these days,

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand the value of the internet as well as the next person, and I take advantage of it all the time. But here's the point I am trying to make: I eventually got the package and I remember that the plane was purple which remains my favorite color to this day (if you don't believe me, check out my website http://www.peterhogenkamp.com ). But that's about it in terms of my recollections after the plane arrived, other than that I had a lot of problems with the real Cox engine. What I remember so well is how much I enjoyed anticipating the arrival of the plane I had worked so hard to get. That is what has been lost in our modern 24/7 world, anticipation. And my inner fourteen-year-old tells me it is a big loss.

Thanks again for your attention, see you next time. Bloggers please check out my tribe, The Big Thrill, on Triberr; I am looking for like-minded bloggers.