An allergist once told me he can tell where people grew up by their allergies. The dusty carcasses of leaves drive me bonkers. I like a season that’s all about loss and rotting dressed up in perky colors. That’s me with my angry face and my pink hat trying not to breathe the spore filled air. I didn’t think this way in childhood. I might have felt it but I didn’t have the words to express it. Maybe I would have put it this way:
“The wind rose, the leaves cheered, applauding the long awaited opportunity to fly. They dashed off to their earthy destinations in no particular hurry, a deciduous spectacle of un-choreography ending in chaos and a big rotten mess.”
I remember Saturday mornings in the Lincoln Street house. Full of animation, the usual fight about The Banana Split Bunch or The Beatles cartoon. I liked both but I liked to win and be right even more. Now I can see that my choice of The Beatles cartoon was indeed very bad and wrong. The Banana Split Bunch and H.R. Puffenstuff were the defining hallucingenic material of the era. But I have not been that wrong for a long time.
We would do all our chores together in the Soviet Youth style my mother favored. Then we would eat something delicious like tuna fish or baked beans with a side of hot dogs and wait. First I would see the out of town busses come down Lincoln Street from the School Street exit of 128. They carried foreign gladiators from the tiny towns and sometimes islands of The Mayflower League. Then we would hear some warm ups, bands tooting, players grunting, nasty chants from girls in heavy sweaters with pom poms which looked suspiciously like chopped off heads.
We waited because we couldn’t go to football games until half time when it was free. This gave me plenty of time to skulk in my mother’s room just under her window. Before “the new addition” to the high school was built you could hear things best there and feel like a real outsider. I would duck down under the other window of the house which faced the school entrance during Jr High dances spending an hour or so watching people go in and out as I debated the merits of joining my misery to the misery of others.
I liked the listening and the waiting better than the games themselves which wound up being exactly like my experience of the dances. I would arrive alone, sit alone, leave alone but try to look like I wasn’t. I was embarrassed that all the football players listed their heights as taller than my own as if they were Tom Cruise. I didn’t ever consider lying about my height, I just slouched. Football games were just another stage to show off my “I don’t care” attitude to all the people I wished would care. It didn’t matter how many times I walked on stages real or imagined, I did care, and it took all my energy to pretend I didn’t.
The football games, The Fourth of July parade, The Fireworks, The Carnival, The Town Meeting, Manchester really got together a lot. Maybe we were really lonely. This evening I walked by a game between Eagle River and some Anchorage high school team. They had some weird floats on trucks which looked like they were going to be driven onto the field during half time, very team spirit like. Maybe thats where we went wrong in my family. We didn’t have a team we had a communist work force. We grew up to like the crowd and the spectacle but missed out on sharpening that competitive edge which unites a community to roar for a kill.We were efficient and productive, sad and creative but alas not cutthroat. Perhaps that’s what my mother wanted.
I look at Manchester football as a slightly aggressive version of Burning Man. Everyone comes out, chants, toots horns, dresses up and performs ritual sacrifices. I remember the only bake sale I participated in at a high school football game. I made chocolate caramels, commonly known as tootsie rolls by hand. People thought they were poop and none of them sold. Making a name brand treat by hand was a bit anarchist in intent and luckily I got to eat them all myself so that nobody in my family knew I had failed. Now I know better and I would have especially sold them as poop and popped them occasionally in my mouth. That’s the best way to deal with life.
I was born in the fall. There’s some research that says children born in the winter and fall have more mental illnesses. I just think we talk about it more. But there may be something about being born in a storm of falling leaves with distant chants in the background.It may bring out the fantastic freak in us, we who love what we are most allergic to. Let it bloom this fall!