I saw the first cardinal of the season this past weekend – and WHAM! I was transported back in time…
1980: As a boy, I remember early April days – usually cold and raw. But this was also the time when winter snow would melt and I could finally go outside to play with my matchbox cars and army men. April in New England means lots of grey clouds and damp air. When the sun appears – even for short bursts through the clouds – it feels so good on your skin. I’d close my eyes and tilt my head towards the sky. Ahhh.. it filled you with hope and joy. Sounds of birds would break months of winter silence and everything just seemed so VIVID.
I loved the cool, damp earth under my little knees and hands. Those first days of April were glorious days when I would play for hours with those little die-cast cars and plastic army figurines. I’d create elaborate stories in my mind and play them out on the terrain around me. The smell of dirt and grass and decomposing leaves…and the sound of birds. A little slice of heaven I imagine.
It was an early April day thus occupied when it caught my eye. It was something red moving in the neighbors yard. Yes, it’s hard to miss the Cardinal in early Spring. It had been attracted by the bounty of the neighbor’s bird feeders. My theory is that little red creature became etched in my mind as a permanent association with this wonderful childhood memory…
Fast Forward – Present day: It’s early April here. Chilly, with grey-drifting clouds and occasional rays of warm sunshine (sound familiar?). But it wasn’t until I saw the little red bird flit through the air that I was transported back in time. Zzzzzzooooom!!! That visual cue – a little red bird – was the powerful trigger which brought me back to 1980. Michael Jackson. Abba. Mr. Potato Head. And, of course my matchbox cars and army men.
As I pondered the whole childhood scene playing out in my feverish little brain, I began thinking about my own children – and today’s children in general. Instead of die-cast matchbox cars, they’re more likely to be using virtual autos in GTA (Grand Theft Auto). And those little green army men? Well, more likely they’re playing “Call of Duty” or “Assassins Creed” on their Xbox or Playstation (or maybe even “Clash of Clans” on their mobile device?). Wow, things have changed. We’re moving faster and faster. Technology. It seems to have a mind of its own (check out the interesting read “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelly).
The Future: Perhaps technology is enabling kids to develop valuable skills to confront challenges in our future. We may bemoan the fact we lived a different childhood. We were more in touch with nature. Yada Yada. There is the skeptical side of me which believes things were better back in 1980. The optimistic side of me believes we have yet to reach our potential. We are marching forward to eradicating disease, extending life (read Kurzweil) and achieving world peace. We’ll be colonizing other planets and solar systems (See Elon Musk)…. and…. Time Travel? I don’t know if it’s possible for Time Travel in the future, but I know it’s possible in the past. All you need is a Cardinal.
What are some of YOUR favorite childhood toys or experiences?
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