I was often haunted by a childhood more horror movie than “Leave it to Beaver” but, those harsh memories have mostly drifted, replaced by recollections of blessings.
Despite the cowboy hat, I have my laundry done.
It comes back smelling outdoors-sweet, perfectly folded by nice people who complete this business arrangement with a smile and ridiculously cheap price.
My dad worked swingshift, I suspect because he didn’t like being home. Mom was mostly, ahem — roaming. I was 6 and woke one night to a dark and empty house. I made a snack and turned on the TV.
The 1939 monster classic, Lon Chaney’s, “The Wolfman,” was just starting. Perfectly, a full moon peeked through the big picture window. The neighbor’s dog began to howl. Children have no business watching the things they watch. That darn movie traumatized me well into alleged adulthood. A big, strong, strapping man, I’d walk the quarter-mile down the ranch dirt road to toss a bag of trash in the dumpster. Middle of the night. Full moon. Afraid? No. Terrified? Yes. The reasonable part of me was confident that I had more than a 99.946% chance of hiking past the countless and creepy giant oak shadows and making it back to the sanctuary of the main house without being eaten alive by ghoul, werewolf or Lutheran. But, fear is fear.
I remember reaching that glorious state of being sick to death of being sick to death of the habit of lycanthrophobia. I vowed to cure myself. I spent an entire night, alone, in the woods, during the brightest of full moons and just sat amongst the conifers and occasional coyote howl. Cripes. I sure HOPED they were coyotes. I challenged the supernatural. If there were such things as stealthy and toothy canine/human chaps, come hither for one of us was going to die that night. There is God. And, sometimes it takes a while. But He irons out the wrinkles in us. Often, we must take those first few steps ourselves. Now? I long for full-moon nights, hiking through the woods, madly in love with the beauty, gentle softness and quiet of Nature, even in the wee small hours of darkness.
Werewolves and laundry? My nostalgia crept in this week when I dropped off my clothes and saw an ancient “Visa/Mastercard” metal sign on a Laundromat wall. Simple things can make me smile.
I am in the midst of an interesting life, filled with blessings.
I was a little guy when I saw the first Bankamericard sign and Bankamericard TV commercial with the cartoon orchestra conductor. A kid, it amazed me that a little plastic card could replace dimes and nickels. Today, we have magic, ethereal things called “Apps.” You can buy anything from Starbucks to a sofa.
It annoys some readers when I point out I’m flirting with middle age. They’ve done the math, and, being anal, assure me I won’t make it to 146. I think of my daughter, who is NOT in her 70s but shall be one day a seeming blink away. What will my little girl look back upon?
When I was gracing the fifth grade with my presence, a SoCal Edison rep gave a presentation and showed a film on a SciFi device called, “The Microwave Oven.” The man, wearing something called a shirt and tie (and pants) said this magical appliance would, in our lifetimes, grace every American kitchen and could cook a baked potato in eight minutes. Get. The. Hell. Out Of Here. I loved baked potatoes. Still do. They took 45 minutes to roast in our gas-powered stove. Did you know the first microwaves weighed 700 pounds? Seriously.
Fifth grade? 1958? I survived both. No cell phones. No cable. No Bluetooth. Wednesdays were revered as holy because that’s when the fresh new double feature, cartoon, newsreel and previews would be playing at the relatively new American Theater in Newhall.
When I was a kid, McDonald’s was invented, the marque boasting of like, “12 Hamburgers Sold.” Cars were the size of tanks, had no seatbelts and came equipped with in-dash cigarette lighters. AM radio reception was dubious, especially here in Newhall. All metal, every year, a brand-new model came out and cars had beautiful, shiny paint and something called “chrome” that dads washed and polished on weekends in things called driveways and how did we survive demon summer without air conditioning in home or auto? Not all songs, but many, had forgotten ingredients — love and romance. They offered assurance of a happy future that you could slow-dance to.
People had yards, porches and heartbreaks suffered in silence.
You didn’t talk about sex, not in mixed company. Today, activists with clown hair writhe naked in public parades and perverts pole dance for kindergartners. Community leaders offer the devilish suggestion that maybe pedophilia is not such a bad idea. Couldn’t imagine, growing up, eating sushi or owning a tiny Buck Rogers device, clipped to my car’s sun visor, that opens my garage doors 100 yards away. Freeways are relatively new, sometimes blocked by paint-throwing crazies protesting the very oil that powered them to the very thing they’re protesting.
We’ve Zoom and Diet Coke, sunscreen and stealing’s legal in California. Drug addicts freely poop on city streets and I own a super-computer that, in a blink, can tell me which Medici is which or the nighttime temperature in Kathmandu. Everyone is so enraged and I just ordered a new guitar on Amazon. I have my own publishing company, where someone in New Zealand just bought a book with a single click. Someone I don’t know on Facebook said they’d never buy it.
I smile and wonder. What’s ahead for my daughter, now almost 21? We already have AI and robots. TV dinners are passé.
I pray she recalls more delights than devils. Memories, twisted, fear-filled, happy, bittersweet.
Fifty years hence, my little girl will be 70, looking back and remembering, not werewolves. Not car bumpers or the 18-cent cheeseburger. But — what?
John Boston is a local writer and werewolf survivor.