I don’t know about you, but my kinder gentler ghost usually visits me just as I’m drifting off to sleep. For all I know, he’s part of my sleep. I’m talking about the endearing ghost who comes from the kinder gentler times of my childhood neighborhood in America. You remember….! Those green days waiting for you just outside the front door each new morning when it was always sunny, skies always blue, family always stoutly in place, and life was forever.
I am told by my more rational-minded ghost-buster friends that I am remembering my childhood like…. well, like a child. My answer is…well, exactly! I’ve had to live like an adult for many long complicated years now. Why wouldn’t my kinder gentler ghost wish to whoosh me off to a safer more wondrous time in my America? If only for a little while each twilight-zone bedtime.
As he does, I can’t help but to begin smelling the fragrance of fresh-cut lawns and blooming Lilacs …. seeing the neighborhood moms taking in the delivered milk bottles…dogs yapping playfully down the street of red bungalows and white frame houses…the local gentlemen in three-piece suits heading off to this mystery which Dad always referred to as “the office”….oh, and lovely, long-haired Rebecca whose critical attentions I occasionally earned.
My childhood neighborhood was the far westside of Chicago in the 30s and 40s. But the geography and and even the calendar is not the essential part of this report. Everyone has a childhood neighborhood. One in which they lived, played, grew, stretched, and dreamed. It’s the dreaming that seemed most important back then, for you felt too small in this world to dare anything larger.
Ironically — after achieving the long awaited dream of being a “grown up” — you’re often left wanting. And wondering. Is this all there is…? Is this what I was so desperate to become…? But like the wistful theme song from Victor Herbert’s classic operetta TOYLAND: “…once you cross its borders, you can n’re go back again.”
My kinder, gentler ghost thinks otherwise. He thinks, I think, that reverie is not always a waste of time. Rather, an investment of time. Now-time investing in then-time in order to better understand what and where you came from. And your country came from. In today’s crush of social and economic traumas, there’s something efficacious about going back to Go. Returning to what and where we all came from, in order to get a better fix on what we are and where we might better be going to.
Clergy and campaigners especially want to own the past. Want to recall it in ways that help them play the Moses Card: leading their people home. Perhaps it’s their own kinder, gentler ghosts who motivate their quest. As far as I know, my ghost is always willing to listen to their ghosts. Just so long as their vision of our past is similar to mine…
…an America still young and small enough to dream kinder, gentler dreams.
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