In our last episode, we were reflecting on how we bonded with our college age daughter when we compared notes of our personalities as high school sophomores, roughly age 15.
We agreed 15 is a pivotal age, a sort of “manchild” period…wanting to be adult, not wanting to release childhood. She calls it “adulting.” I call it… I have no idea. I’m still in my infancy.
That 15 is a pivotal age, you’ll agree, is not novel. Well, actually, it is. A novel. “James at 15” is the name. Actually the novel is a novelization of the TV show created by novelist by Dan Wakefield, a man with whom I have found commonality. same home town, same high school, same high school newspaper, same reporting job, same newspaper mentors.
So, it seemed natural to borrow from his title for this coming-of-age flashback, especially since what’s below is a reprint from the same newspaper we worked — though in different decades.
On this last weekend of Christmas shopping, as my daughter requested, here is my sophisticated sophomoric struggle “Shopping at 15,” as it appeared in the Shortridge Daily Echo, December 1969.
Christmas Shopping Brings Forth
Long-Lost Juvenile Tendencies
So, you think you’ve grown up just because you can drive or hold an intelligent conversation with a university president, eh?
During the first 11 months of the year you may be every bit of an adult, but come December and you begin looking for Christmas gifts for the young set, you learn you’re not as grown up as you thought.
Oh, it’s not too bad when you shop for a gift for your 16-year-old brother or sister, but what of the little six- or -eight-year-old? What do you do when you retreat to the toy department to select their gifts? Huh?
First off, you walk in looking cocky, and every bit over 21.
Toys Bring Old Memories
You see the model cars you were once overwhelmed with. But now that you’re a 15-year-old high school student, you walk on by — a bit slowly.
Then you spy one of the new-fangled toy soldier and cowboy-and-Indian sets in the metal carrying case. A flashback comes of the days when you wanted to add one of these to your collection of toys; and when you were the chief-of-staff over your big brother because it was your army set. Alas, you walk on slowly.
Even though you’re a master pianist now and can make a $700 organ sound like heaven, when your eyes spy a little toy piano, slowly but steadily, you edge your way to the corner and with one hand play a little tune of “Chopsticks.” Then the little old lady comes up. “May I help you, sir?” says the clerk.
Dreams of The “500” Dance in Your Head
You mumble, “No, just looking,” and walk away at about one step per minute.
From there you go to the road racing display and watch as a gentleman and young son play with the set. You see yourself riding your bike or running around the house pretending you’re Bob Unser or Mario Andretti at the “500.” That, my friend, is the last straw.
Scampering back to the models, you pick up about a dozen cars, snatch one of the toy soldier sets down from the shelf, and grab the piano. All of these are for your brothers and sister…you tell the clerk.
It isn’t every day that you get a $70 check from work and your Mom’s charge plates, too, and you just have to make good use of it.
“Big Kid” Plays with Toys
You’re the first one up on Christmas morning and you help your little friends open their gifts and set them up. When they go to bed in the evening, guess who’s up at 2 a.m. yelling, “Go, baby, go! Golly, look at that car move!”
“Look out for the first bunker, sir! Last report says the enemy was over there!”
“Darn, where’s that blessed glue!?”
And all the time you’re striking, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the piano.
Sure, you talk ‘bad’ with your friends and talk intelligently with adults and make all the parties and stuff, but when it comes to Christmas shopping, you soon learn at heart you’re still a kid.
Funny thing about reading published work after a while. You struggle with the compulsion to edit. But that’s not fair. The story isn’t about perfection. It’s about… well, you tell me.
For the moment, my much older self must depart. #TheMrs has beckoned me upstairs. She has last-minute presents she wants me to help her play with.