The Cast: My Family, (those who mocked), Myself (the dreamer).
As a child born in the mid 70’s, and getting to grow-up in the 80’s I was exposed to some really great things that shaped what I wanted to be when I grew up.
The television shows like Get Smart, Inspector Gadget (the cartoon), most of the 007 movies, pretty much all the cool spy movies, cartoons, and t.v. shows alike (even if they were parodies), romanticised the role that was destined to be my future. Now, if you have read some of my earlier posts like, Drunk Bill, When is a Hole Not a Hole?, Erich Throws Me Through a Window, or P.A.W.s an’ Claws (parts 1 or 2), then you think that what I wanted to do was to fight crime. But, you would be mistaken. That dream, was as a teenager. No, as a child I wanted nothing more than to share that one thing that a character in every one of those old spy movie/t.v. shows shared. The quiet fame of a particular trade.
In all those great shows there was almost always a line that they would use, “There’s only one man who could do this job…” And then, the people would turn, face each other and say, “(that guy’s name).” Or something like that. That’s what I wanted. The quiet fame of being ‘That guy’. Being ‘That guy’ known by only by those within that small circle of people—on both sides of the business. The ability to walk about each day, knowing what my skills were and that I was one of the best in the business (if not the best), but having the ability to interact with regular folks, in regular ways. Like, going to the store to buy some milk and not get hassled, or weird looks from other people. Getting to be a regular, stand-up neighborhood guy. But then, when my skills were needed, that’s when I would ‘go to work’. Yeah, that’s the kind of life I wanted. And again, if you’ve been paying attention to anything I’ve written (in this post, or others), you may have figured out what I wanted to be.
Now, in order for this to make any sense you need to understand my family, and our religious upbringing. My family is good people. Decent, God fearing people. Not the, “Oh no God’s going to destroy us!” type of God fearing. But the scriptural kind. The “We believe in God and that he loves us and knows who we are” kind of God fearing. The good kind. So, needless to say (and yet here I go) I knew from a very early age what was right and what was wrong. Helping people: Right. Hurting people (like stealing and murder): Wrong. And, after watching all those spy shows I still knew no other line of employment that would bring me greater quiet, personal satisfaction than… So real quick, before I tell you what I wanted to be, understand I have only told three (maybe four) people this. I have kept this secret for 38 years, so this is kind of a big deal for me. Alright, here we go… I wanted to be an international cat-burglar.
Yup. I wanted to be that guy that zipped down on wires from the ceiling and then by-passed all the laser grid security, then slithered my way passed the cameras, or slunked passed the security guard dogs, stole the Mona Lisa (or whatever my client had asked me to steal), and then disappeared—without a trace… Or maybe leave a sticky note that had a rough sketch of what I had just stolen, so that the art exhibit could still go on. I mean really, why leave a blank space on the wall. That’s just inconsiderate.
So, yeah. I wanted to be a top-grade, high level, super skilled, have no equal, theify-kinda guy. Oh, it was going to be glorious! I would first make my name by becoming the best jewel thief. Then I would prove myself and move onto other treasures of the world. Also, I was going to live in some remote home, off in the countryside of some European place (as a 6 year-old, Europe was just one big country with a bunch of really big state-like things). And I would only be able to be contacted by those who knew how to contact me—sort of like how Bill Murray lives now. It was going to be awesome!
So this dream-life was it for me for some time. I think it began when I was around 4 years old and stayed until about 7–8ish. However, like I already stated, I knew that it was wrong to steal and be a criminal, but I really, really, really wanted to do it. Television made it look sooo cool!
Anywho… One fine Monday night, my family was sitting around and discussing this, that, and the other, when my mother decided to ask what we all wanted to be when we grew up. My answer came to me before she even finished the question. I had known. I had planned. I knew. I also knew that I was going to get into a lot of trouble!
As soon as my mom asked her question we began to go around the room, my three siblings answering one by one. I was to be last (for no particular reason). One of my sisters gave a response, then my other sister, followed by my brother. While all this took place, something inside me took notice of not what words were coming out of their mouths, but of what they were saying. They were not saying things like, “I wanna be a Drug Lord.” or, “I wish to evict old people from their homes and take all their money.” No, that’s not what they uttered. They were saying nice things. Good things. Jobs that would have a positive impact on society and make my parents proud of them. No, I realized, I could not tell them my dream.
Suddenly, it was almost my turn. My happy-place had gone away. I could not be in that grand state that I was just moments ago. My smile was fading. If I said, “I want to be an international cat-burglar.” I would have been in trouble. Grounded. Yelled at. Spanked! (yeah, parents used to whap the butt of the child that misbehaved. and do you know what the kids didn’t do again? whatever they got spanked for. we didn’t like it! spanking worked well. almost too well) Back to our story: Oh man! I’m going to get it. I can’t tell them I wanna be a professional thief. They’ll kill me! It’s almost my turn! I need something new. Not just any old thing, something believable, I’m six. Maybe if it’s cute, they might just move on and leave me alone… What to say…? Wait!?! My turn?!? What do I say!!! “Uh, Big Bird.”
That’s right, I said Big Bird! Yes, that big, feathery, friendly fellow found on Sesame Street! Got a problem with that? Now, back to the story…
“Big Bird?” My mother laughed (along with everyone else). “Like the guy in the costume?” my brother asked. “No. I wanna be Big Bird.” I responded with incredulousness. Guy in a costume, please. Everyone knows Big Bird is real. Stupid. “You can’t be Big Bird, silly,” my mother finalized.
It worked! They bought it! My answer had placated them all. It was spoken with just the right amount of seriousness, while still maintaining that simple child-like innocence that my family believed me. Phew!
To this day, when my family recounts that story they only have ever known that I wanted to be Big Bird. And why not? Big Bird is awesome! He’s kind and considerate. Friendly and playful. Thoughtful of others, trusting… What’s not to like?
So there you have it. As a child I wanted to be something that I would later spend my nights hunting down. All the while my family believed that from about the ages of six to eight, I wanted to be a 8-foot, 2-inch tall talking, yellow bird. And my secret is still safe, because my family will never know otherwise. Unless they read my blog—but I don’t think they do.
So, in the end, my point is this: Have dreams my friends (good, positive, contributory dreams). And dream big. Big Bird big.