I grew up in the 80’s in what I had previously believed to be the dawn of an unprecedented phenomenon called Saturday morning cartoons. Wikipedia quickly disabused me of that notion, as it started in the 60’s. But who among us has not been susceptible to co-opting an idyllic time in our lives and re-writing history at large to retroactively support our bias? Look no further than Trump supporters.
One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was Alvin and the Chipmunks, which kids nowadays are still familiar with thanks to the recent CGI movies. I liked the show because as a kid I pretty much liked any show on Saturday morning, but also because it featured a sibling trio much like the one to which I belonged. It would not be a long shot to believe that the character of Alvin, the lead mischievous troublemaker, was based off my oldest brother. Simon, the middle child, was the smart, rational one which was the middle child in our trio. And last but not least the youngest, Theodore, was pudgy and sweet. That was me to a tee.
Alvin and the Chipmunks are relevant because I have not been able to get a particular episode from the 80’s version of the cartoon out of my mind lately. In that episode, Alvin gets the itch to become a firefighter, and as with all episodes, Alvin coerces his brothers into his harebrained scheme. I can’t find the full episode online for free, so if my memory serves me correctly, the brothers do go out on a fire call with real firefighters. They then create their home fire station and a ramshackle fire truck with the intent to put out fires on their own. Anyone who has ever seen a children’s cartoon knows that this is a set-up for a lesson on fire safety, but what I remember thinking was “I’m going to do that. I’m going to make my truck and serve my community…with a bakery truck!” What can I say? Both Theodore and I were notorious for having a sweet tooth. Now, as childish, naïve and impossible as that idea sounds, had you asked me how I would go about executing my plan, I am confident that the six-year-old me would have had immediate answers.
So where am I going with this? I miss the sense of flat out believing I can do anything; the meaning of a clear and open path. Before fear and doubt had to be surmounted. Before isms had to be overcome. Before risk management and good judgment had to be added to the equation. Speaking of comparisons, like math before you learned that algebra, geometry, and calculus existed. Something so simple gets ruined by too much arbitrary and seemingly made up rules that only a few people know. As a kid, it seemed like life was simply about arranging building blocks. As an adult, it feels like life is a series of avoiding and maneuvering stumbling blocks.
Recently, I talked to two people who were very driven as children and teens to create—poetry and drawing– about picking up their craft again. They shared that they no longer create because “life” has gotten in their way: family, parenthood, jobs and other responsibilities. And that they wouldn’t even know where to start because it’s been so long since they’ve created that the process no longer comes as effortlessly as it used to. The importance of family and finances aside, once again, I have grieved that the requirement of the adult consciousness placed so many impediments in their way that they were unable to create without clear expectations of the experience and outcome.
As children age into adulthood, they become capable of increasingly sophisticated abilities and cognitive processes which allow them to navigate treacherous physical and psychological terrain. I can’t help but sometimes feel like adulthood presents as an elaborate maze which we have the ability to conquer— in fact, we are required to at least try–but stumble out having lost all ability to walk a straight line. Mazes aren’t my thing—I’d rather ride in my bakery truck down the clear and open path. shanna k houser freelance writer firstname.lastname@example.org