The bonds that made the joyous summer of 2006 possible were formed so many years ago. That little fourth grade classroom felt lives ago. James, Liam and I sat in a row and Danny sat in front of us. The first and third girls I ever liked sat behind us.
Long ago enough that we were discovering the things that make us human. Also an obsession with pushing the limits of what we could get away with. But things were different back then. I and Liam made straight A’s, barely able to understand circumventing authority.
Our grade school days and middle school days are so hazy to me now, as though they were experienced by different people. And yet without them I don’t know how we would’ve evolved.
September eleventh happened at the start of our seventh grade year during music class. Our history teacher came to the class and told us to turn on the T.V. We watched like everyone else did. We also saw the second plane hit in real time, there is no way to explain that. It’s a wreathing scar for those who saw it and especially those who experienced it, and neither of the two are holding out for it to heal, that’s for the next generation to make better, I hate that it‘s to be pawned off on them, but their perspective will help them pick up the pieces.
Yet the worst thing about that time was the sense of hope and pointed assuredness that was squandered. Not even squandered, but killed. The rest of the decade would be so damn hard to stomach. Those who were there and alive shouldn’t forget the genuine feelings. We shouldn’t have to listen to false-croon country-music stars or watch any eye-drop-tears movie that will dilute the short flash of earnestness that followed. Maybe it was all meant to burn at both ends, anyway that’s what happened and at one point or another every American would wind up against each other and forming new allegiances as they changed their pants.
I don’t know why we stuck together like we did. We were outsiders, more outside than we even realized. But there was more, what it was I don’t know, it was a product of the times but could never be bought and sold, you either were or you weren’t. It was so amazingly personal that only four guys shared the first half and five the rest, then it was gone forever. It could never be the same and probably shouldn‘t be. One day there won’t be anything of us left except these stories. It’s a weird reality at seventeen when reality is already so skewed.
I suppose the life I was living at age ten was like most kids’ lives. I played army with my younger brother, I had toy cars and action figures that didn’t make any sense. I was a Star Wars kid and was elated when they made the new movies, I couldn‘t understand why so many older people hated those movies, especially those older people who said their lives were changed by the first ones. My older brother, who was just the right age for the first set, put this into perspective for me and he did it the way it should have been:
“Those were kids’ movies, they were meant to entertain kids, I was excited to see you two so happy with something that made me happy when I was that age. Especially Kevin, I was seven when the first one came out, like him. That shit wasn’t made for thirty-year-olds who paint themselves up and camp out in front of theaters.”
But why were they so upset?
First, it should be agreed upon that generations are a creation of corporate empire marketing, be that as it may, I’m speaking of the age groups strictly in relation to their age and not their profit margin. In that I hope to get across my honest intentions in writing this. So here we go.
My guess is that Generation X never grew up. They are eternally children and lucky for that. There was no great war, no horrible war, no nation-shaking catastrophe for them. There was the cavalier, smooth-talking president who seemed like your grandfather. Then it was the good-time party-guy president. Desert Storm operations were over 100 hours after commencing and were watched on satellite broadcast at dinner, replete with commercials. I keep the tape my father and brother made of coverage of the war. I listen to the singers and I don’t hear songs of life, but references to the culture that they absorbed in their formative years. The movies read as an elongated homage to their younger pop-cultured years. So much so, that pop culture now only exists to be referenced.
In the face of what may one day be perceived as authenticity, as unearned for myself as it is, I find myself envying my brother. He was able to suspend his childhood into his teenage years and his twenties, just like most who grew up in that time. The people I know basically stopped feeling like kids after September 11, 2001. Even though we still acted like spoiled brats.
To future generations: Don’t romanticize this notion. You'll disdain life if you compare yourself to some asshole's nostalgia.