There was a period of a few short years before my mother married the second of her three husbands, before my sisters were born, when I was the only apple of my mother's eye. I loved that period of my childhood. We lived in a series of modest one or two bedroom apartments in Yonkers and Dobbs Ferry and every morning before I went to school and before she went to work we had what my mom called cuddle time. I remember waking up, crawling into bed with my mother, listening to the chirping birds in the trees outside of our window and feeling so loved.
During those years, every weekend, or almost every weekend, my dad would pick me up and bring me to his apartment in the city. He would spoil me lavishly. We'd go to movies and circuses and shows. Of all the things we did together on those weekends I remember going to see performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and puppet shows at The Bil Baird Puppet Theater in the village. It was a special time. I would get so excited on Friday afternoons waiting for my dad to pick me up. I felt like the luckiest boy ever.
As I think back to it now I realize how difficult it must have been for my parents. They both would have been in their early thirties, not much more than kids themselves really. Divorced, single parents finding a way for themselves and their child. How disconsolate I am thinking of just how totally unprepared they were for what life was to throw at them. My mother was to endure much harsh criticism from her judgmental and overbearing mother and then suffer a succession of abusive men.
My father would have been just starting to drink and womanize his way into what would later become alcoholic isolation.
But I'm turning aside from the main object of attention. I don't want to focus on what was to happen to those two innocent kids who had nothing but good intentions for their prized little boy. I want to recall those feelings of being the most loved and special child in the world.
There is a beautiful song by Brahms that is, for me, the ultimate nostalgia for childlike innocence, for the past and for all that is irretrievably gone. The song is entitled "O wüßt ich doch den Weg zurück". Klaus Groth is the poet and roughly translated it says:
Oh, If only I knew the way back,
The lovely way back to the land of childhood!
Oh, Why did I go seek after happiness
And let go of my mother's hand?
How I long to have a complete rest,
Not to be awakened by ambition,
Only to close my weary eyes,
Gently tucked in by love.
And searching for nothing, watching for nothing,
Merely dreaming lightly,
Not seeing the passing of time,
A child for a second time.
Oh, Do show me the way back,
The lovely way back to the land of childhood,
In vain I keep searching for happiness,
When all around me is a barren coast.
Bleak and very German, I know. But sung well in the original language and set to Brahms' beautiful piano accompaniment it is truly a lovely song. A wistful and excessively sentimental yearning for return to an irrecoverable past.
I'd like to imagine, just for a moment, going back to that happy land of childhood, to be able to gently lead and direct my parents with all that I know now. Having witnessed the passing of time and the result of the choices they've made, how I'd delight to delicately direct my young parents toward choices that would have better benefited us. I'd like so much to lovingly express my gratitude to those two young people for giving their little son such boundless love. For giving me a childhood, even if just for those few years, that I long to go back to.