There was this kid in my neighborhood named Frankie Stewart. He lived in a big old house with his extended family. Now when I say extended, I mean really really extended. There was his short Italian grandmother, his aunt, mother, father, older sister, and two younger sisters. I think that his granny did babysit for my brother and I, briefly. I became close friends with Frankie after I made the move from elementary to junior high.
Now Frankie’s family was as dysfunctional as mine. I can only assume that every kid’s family was dysfunctional, since that was the experience that I had in almost every person that I became close friends with. It may be that there was some sampling error, due to some fault in my friend selection processes.
Frankie and I would regularly creep into his father’s “man cave” to swipe a six pack of Genesee beer. We would then slither off to the local playground after dark to quaff a few. The fault in this process was that a 13 year old kid can only quaff about one beer before he is totalled.
I also remember sleeping over at his house a few times after a Saturday night of pounding down brewskies in the park. His granny would pop out of bed at about 5 AM and commence to slamming pots and pans in preparation for the gigantic meatball dinner that they would have every Sunday. This did not go well with a hangover. Although it did enhance my mental acuity.
I have this theory about the direction in a person’s life, which I shall call “The Meteor Theory”. It goes something like this. Let’s say that a meteor is headed towards earth and is currently near Mars. At that point I could probably hit it with a flicked booger and it would be deflected just enough, that by the time it got near earth, it would miss us and I would have saved all of humanity with my booger.
Now let’s say that that same meteor never got struck by the aforementioned booger, and is now 1000 miles from hitting the earth and sending us all back to relive an episode of “It’s About Time“. There is no booger big enough to deflect that meteor.
So it goes with a child’s life. You set their direction early and they end up in a place that reflects that direction. This is not always the rule, as there can be mid course corrections. Such corrections are far more painful and life changing than something as simple as your old man planting his foot squarely on your ass.