When Liverpool won the Premier League championship a few weeks ago, the first thing I thought of was a Kevin Keegan interview I had taped up on my wall when I was 14. Dad had cut it out because he knew Keegan was my idol and because he liked the message the headline sent: “I always keep my promises”.
But that’s not all I keep.
In the basement, in a red cardboard box, there’s a small piece of paper that says, “Risto, do your regular morning routine, then call me, Dad”. The piece of paper is slightly crumbled, and there are some stains, but that’s to be expected since it’s almost 40 years old and has been with me in different boxes and different basement since that summer morning I found it on the kitchen table.
You may think it’s cute and it is, but to me, it’s a time machine. I said I found it on a summer morning and I know it was because when I pick it up, I’m back in the kitchen, eating breakfast, looking at the clock on the wall, wondering – like every morning – if I really have to go for a run that morning, couldn’t I skip today and do a harder run tomorrow, and then heading out for a run and trying hard not to take that shortcut through the woods.
If I want to go farther back in time, I’ll go to one of the other shelves, and take out the pink poncho that’s neatly folded underneath a tiny rocking chair. The pink pocho may be my earliest possession as it originally came with the world-famous Finnish maternity package as a blanket. Mom, who has been making life hacks before there was a word for it, cut a hole in the middle of it, when I wanted to have a poncho a few years later.
The rocking chair looks like a regular rocking chair, but it was actually also a spaceship, and when flipped upside down, an airstair that I could walk down like a king.
The rocking chair is also the reason I have a scar on my chin. Well, the actual reasons are my carelessness, my inexplicable speed already at the age of three, and my curiosity to see who rang our doorbell. Somehow, I fell down and hit my chin on the chair which, at that moment, was simply a rocking chair.
I pick up the card my kindergarten friends sent to me to the hospital, and I’m back in our sunlit main playroom, playing musical chairs for the first time in my life. There’s a binder full of Donald Duck comics from when I was ten and I still know them all by heart. When I read them now, I see that I still use expressions from those comics.
There’s a newspaper clipping from around the same time, in which I tell the reporter that “hockey is fun” and the smell of the rink, and the wooden benches outside the locker room take over my senses.
Among the few newspaper clippings, there’s one in which I’m named Player of the Week. But more importantly, I remember the reporter, a star defenseman on the men’s team in our town, sitting in Dad’s chair in Dad’s office one early September afternoon, and how he refused to accept that I listened to “all kinds of music.”
“You listen to opera? No? Didn’t think so. I’ll just put down ‘I like all kinds of pop and rock’.”
I’m happy he did that because on a cold February afternoon a few months later, out on the skating rink next to our house, a girl I almost knew, pulled out the clipping from her purse as an icebreaker to talk to me and I was barely able to talk with her at all, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to talk about opera.
There’s my English textbook from my language course in Oxford, and at the same time, there’s also a plate in front of me, with the greatest sausages I’ve ever had, next to a pile of beans that I still can’t eat, and, oh, there’s Jim in his TV chair, watching cricket, and there’s Johanna punting on Thames.
There are photos from Harbor Beach, Michigan, a Billy Idol show in Toronto, and from last day of high school, with me in a home-made Phantom costume. In the same box, I have the two red water pistols that went with the costume and underneath them, the wide faux-leather belt with a white skull painted on it that Dad made me.
There’s a Huey Lewis and the News concert review that I had pinned on my wall at the university and it makes me think of the show and how cool Huey’s introduction of the band was (“My name is Huey Lewis … and you just heard the News!) and before I know it, I’m humming ‘Power of Love’.
“Don’t take money, don’t take fame, don’t need no credit card to ride this train.”
Don’t even need a DeLorean.