My twin brother and I shared a room from womb to thirteen-years-old. Those of you who have had a roommate know that you must develop and agree on certain rules to keep the peace. For example, we agreed that the last person to get in bed must turn off the light. Paul was notoriously and egregiously derelict in following this rule. There were several nights when, in our stubbornness, he and I would leave the light on until two or three in the morning because Paul refused to turn out the light under the terms of our agreement. Of course, I would eventually give in, huffing and fuming, and turn off the light.
July has become a natural time for me to think about Christmas. I, as do many, absolutely adore the Christmas season, and I begin to long for it in the hot month of July for so many reasons. So why not?
I’m a believer.
When there is inadequate evidence to support something I want to believe–something which enriches my life in some way–I often choose to believe it anyway. I’m good with Bigfoot, psychic powers, magic, aliens, ghosts, and God. Most adults believe in at least one of these. But what about Santa Claus?
I believe it’s accurate to say that I had a reputation for being straight-laced in high school. If I showed up at your party (rare), and you were thinking of bringing out booze or some illicit substance, you might ask your friend,
“Do you know that guy?”
“Who? Oh, that Burns twin? David?”
“Will he be cool if I bring this out?”
“David? Uhhhhh…better wait until he’s gone.”
I grew up at a time when the brand of your clothes you wore was a major factor in you determining social status. Polo, Izod, Gant, OP, Jams, Guess, Reebok–it didn’t matter if the off-brand clothing item was identical; without the brand, it was absolute TRASH and you were better off not even trying.
I learned this in my days of middle school in Norman. I moved from a small farm town in Arkansas where I was aware of name brands, but so many of us were poor and I think we were more forgiving about clothes. In that town, Lee jeans were the standard. You looked for that genuine cowhide patch with “Lee” branded on it. They weren’t expensive. They didn’t promise any kind of status. We just liked them. But Lee was not cool in 1984 Norman. I was set straight very soon at Whittier Middle School. In a panic, I begged my mom to buy me a couple pairs of Levis, but I had to wait.
Once in a while, my wife and I get asked how we met. We both love to tell it. It shares themes with many love stories–politics, prestige, perseverance, admiration, and hearts that went pitter-patter.
Our story begins with music. Jennifer and I both played instruments in the band at West Mid-High in Norman, Oklahoma. She played the flute and I played the tuba. She sat on the front row and me on the back row. Ninth grade passed without any interaction that I remember. Other, she was just one of the nameless gaggle of giggly flute players on the front row.
It’s a little early to think about Halloween, but this story is ultimately about growing up with an extraordinary father.
Eighth grade is a weird time for Halloween. Eight-graders are caught between childhood and adolescence. They want to enjoy all the fun of a childhood Halloween and also enjoy the teenage and adult age fun of parties. It was the last year I tried to trick-or-treat. Over the summer, I’d become a six-foot-tall bass-baritone. I wondered if I could still pull it off one last time. I blew what little money I had on a hobo mask. Yes, this was a day when dressing like a homeless person for Halloween was acceptable. The mask was replete with a tattered cigar protruding from a weather-worn, unshaven rubber face.