Nine years ago, after I had recovered from the initial shock of the nine-eleven attack, I sent an email to a New Yorker friend, to see that he was OK. Below is his reply.
Turns out, I didn’t know anybody. I thought I could put all the names and faces together, but I didn’t recognize my best buddy. I probably would have had somebody asked me to find him in the crowd sitting in the sun, but when he came to shake my hand, I drew a blank.
Then again, he wasn’t sure who I was, either.
Almost like the first day of school.
Except a lot more fun.
Because on the first day of school I cried.
The last time I saw the dozen or so people I’m about to meet in six hours, Ronald Reagan had just sworn in as President of the United States of America, and a rockabilly fever swept over Finland. No cause and effect, at least I don’t think so, but simply a coincidence.
The sports camp is about to end. We’ve had a week of fun, a week of cracking jokes in the dark when we were supposed to be sleeping, and getting ready for the sports activities we’ll be doing the next day. It’s always the same guys, too, with the same jokes, but they’re kind of funny, and I’m the new kid anyway, so I’ll just lie on my mattress and listen. And giggle.
There’s nothing like a nickname to date you. Not to the whole world, but in relation to your buddies. What works in high school, may not work in the adult world. Sometimes people outgrow their nicknames. That’s why the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs doesn’t want to be called “Tico”, like when we played minor hockey against each other, but Alexander.
“Dad, can we play that things-that-didn’t-exist-when-you-were-a-kid game again?”
– Son, from the backseat, yesterday
Oh, where to begin. Of course we didn’t have cell phones, flat screen TVs – color TVs, actually – remote controls, shoes with Velcro instead of laces, and in the words of a 4331-member strong Facebook group, “When I was your age, hockey bags didn’t have [bleeping] wheels on them”.
There were no Crocs, no CDs, no DVDs, no Euros, no toy Kalashnikovs, and no Star Wars Lego merchandise. We did have clogs, and VHS, and my father used to make wooden pistols, and leather holsters for me.
“It feels so unreal, was it the same for you?”
– Brother-in-law, 48 hours before the arrival of his first-born
Apparently, only four percent of children are born on the actual due date, which, to me, makes the whole concept of having one date simply ludicrous. If that’s the best they can do, why not simply give the parents a good ballpark guestimate, say, a week, and leave it at that.
“Do you remember the first time you watched a movie on a DVD? What was it?”
– Wife, last night
Sometime in 1978, my father brought home two boxes that did wonderful things. Both were really good at just one, of course, but together, they revolutionized the way our household worked.
I’m in the water. I’m telling myself to stay calm. Breathe. I inhale and move my arms and legs fast. I seem to be floating. Maybe I can do this after all. I move my limbs too fast. Too fast. No, too slow. I’m drowning. I move my arms faster. I kick the water as hard as I can. It doesn’t help. I. Can’t. Stay. Afloat. The water tastes likes shit. I spit. I close my eyes. I want to rub my eyes but can’t because if I do, I will go under water, and I will never get up.
Here’s a fact I’m 100 percent sure you didn’t know: You’re reading the collected works of the speed reading champion of the Oulunkylä Elementary School, circa 1976.
One day on third grade, each of us had to leave the classroom at some point, sit down with the teacher, and read as much of a book as we could in 60 seconds, out loud. I can’t remember how many words I read, or even what the book was.