The problem with the memoir is that our memory of an event, a time gone by, is clouded by our prejudices and colored by what we want to remember or have forgotten, more a fiction than the truth.

We all muck around in the past, pigs in a sty, rolling this way and that, scratching and itching, cooling and baking, a bit of glee at the mess we’re making of the truth, some of it covered with mud, other bits rubbed clean which we are quick to highlight, “Look how good I am at telling you the truth,” we might squeal, as we promptly drop back into the wallow.

The truth is (whenever someone uses this phrase, you know a lie is about to be laid at your feet), the truth is that none of us want to grow up. When you’re a child it doesn’t take much to realize that adults have little fun in their lives. Why would you want to leave the garden of childhood? I realize not every child’s life was mine, but mine was exceptional for the bubble of protection my mother went to the trouble of creating around me, whether instinctual or consciously constructed, she let me live a child’s life well into my late teens, in spite of its economic shortfalls, that any child would have envied. Perhaps many did, I don’t know.

And by a child’s life, I mean she allowed me to live a creative life, to live instinctually, to fail and to win. I did have an after-school job as soon as I was sixteen and I worked part-time through high school and in the summers; stock boy at Kmart, dishwasher at a German restaurant out on old Highway 16 outside of town, a legacy hire at the Elks Golf Club on the road to Hermosa (my uncle was the “head” Elk at the time), but those were secondary to my creative pursuits.

The wolf at the door…may have been the title of the play featured in the photos above. The wolf at the door accurately describes the transition from childhood to the world of adults that is about to befall (“befall” is such a dramatic word, don’t you agree?) our hero, he said twirling his mustache.

But drama with a capital “D” did not play a role in this perfect summer, the summer after high school graduation. It was a time given over to children, singing, dancing, frolicking (shouldn’t frolicking be spelled frolicing and still retain the hard ‘c’, I ask you? It looks more frolicsome without the ‘k’ which brings it down to earth and puts into a different class of word, less care-free somehow, a word created by archaic rules which is antithetical to the meaning of frolic, is it not?)

Even knowing at the time that it was big fish, little pond, it still felt inspiring, a summer in the theater…such an aphrodisiac and inspiration, I let it set my course for the next few years, but this was the last year that it was perfect in every way. That indefinable ‘it’, the ‘it’ factor, the ‘it’ girl or in my case, the ‘it’ boy, the best supporting actor (never the lead, my size and my own character not leading man material; I lacked the bravado (the hairy chest), that magnetic charisma (the steely blue eyes), the strength (those bulging biceps).

Instead, I was the perfect foil, master (so say I) of the innocent look, (Gracie Allen, not George burns), the second banana (Ethel, not Lucy), the one with attitude (Vera Charles, not Mame). By now you’ll have noticed a trend, should you be looking for one (that my references are all women is not lost on me now or then), for that was my character; the clown, the butt of the joke, the joke itself. On the other hand, in the few dramatic roles, I was more the deus ex machina (the angel of death in a swimsuit, all sinew and feathery movement; the father, stern, bound by his sense of duty; the son, alone with his grief.)

there was a tent, no roof, but tie-dyed burlap sacks stitched together and pulled across a steel tubing-constructed theater in the round–our very own “globe” without the wherefores and thou arts (and less the excellent writing of an in-house playwright…the plays constructed from and improvised upon the great — and not so great — children’s stories, fairy tales, and other tidbits and remnants of our not so distant past.)

I had hoped to be able to wrap this little bit of memory up with a bit of curly ribbon, perhaps with a rose slipped between the knot and present it to you as a complete (compleat, should you so wish) history, but the details of that last perfect summer escape me–shaded by the overhanging years between then and now (a great pine forest with ferns)–the depth of the shadow erasing detail, leaving just a general feeling of contentment, the contentment you might feel just before you realize you’re lost in the dark woods–whether or not it’s deserved I’ll gladly leave unanswered for who would want to spoil the memory of a perfect summer with the truth?



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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