I think my generation was the first generation to have the VHS tape player at it’s regular disposal. Yes, it existed for many years before I was born, but when I really started growing up and forming memories I think was around the time when VHS tapes were easy to find and purchase. So, kids like me watched a lot of movies.

Most of you will probably say that you love movies as well, but for some reason they seem to be stuck in my mind and connected to important childhood moments. I can remember how I learned what a flash flood was thanks to the movie Rock-a-doodle. I remember learning that penguins ate fish because that’s what Oswald Cobblepot ate in Batman Returns. I even remember why we’re not supposed to mix frog and dinosaur DNA to reanimate long extinct organisms.

Another influence on my life

These movies from my past act a lot like bookmarks for my memory. As soon as I see one of these movies again I instantly recall simpler and more enjoyable times. (I’m not saying times are bad now, but I am saying that things just seem much better when you’re a kid).

Now that you know this about me, I would like to begin work on something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. List my favorite movies.

The actual list for my favorite movies would be….gigantic. I’m not sure I could do all that work. So I will just throw up a few that seem to have made a lasting impact on me when I was just a youngin’.

The Brave Little Toaster– A movie that both captivated and terrified me when I was growing up. I will never be able to ignore the ping of fear every time I see that window mounted air conditioner.

Batman– I had actually memorized every word of this movie by the time I was 4 years old. I believed I would become Batman. Genuinely and truly. I thought I would be able to do any and everything he did. I even drew “blueprints” for constructing my own batmobile.

The Witches– Movie freaked me out, but in a great way. Witches walking around wearing masks to hide their ugly faces was a cool thought to me. Also, I wanted to become a mouse/hamster for a while.

All Dogs go to Heaven– Dogs talking and being cooler than any of my uncles was a pretty big win for me. Later in life I found out that Burt Reynolds did the voice of the main character. Then the movie got that much cooler.

Big– I wanted to be a grown up. This kid became a grown up. A grown up that worked for a toy factory! Not to mention, I always wanted a best friend like the kid Josh had in the movie. They had a cool song/handshake they shared. I still think many 20 something guys want a best friend like this because of this movie.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory– Candy, candy, and more candy. Also, a crazy guy who says some funny stuff always seemed to stick with me. This was even one of movies my parents would watch with me even though they had seen it 40 times before. I think it’s because when they were in high school they saw this movie together on a date.

Ghostbusters– Funny, ghosts, cool costumes, and a giant marshmallow man. What doesn’t appeal to a kid in this movie?

Aladdin– A very fun movie to watch. Not only is it Disney goodness, it’s also Robin William’s first appearance in my life. I watched this movie dozens of times because I just wanted to laugh at the same jokes I had laughed at all those times before. The only problem was that I didn’t totally understand every joke he said, but still, I laughed.

DuckTales: The Movie – Treasure of the Lost Lamp – I wanted to swim in my own pool full of gold coins. I also made sure I ate chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate syrup every time I watched this movie. No joke. If I were to watch it again, I would desire that mouth watering sweetness in my mouth.

Like I said, these are movies I saw at a very early age that had influenced me. They helped to make me who I am. And I really mean this. I learned a lot of moral and social ideas from these movies. So what if they were cartoons and so what if they had quite a bit of violence in them, I still learned a lot. And there are probably 30 other movies that I watched way too many times, but for your sake (and mostly my sake) I’m not going to throw those up here.

So what about you? What movies helped make you who you are? Or were you more of a normal/healthy kid and you didn’t get to watch many movies because you were too busy playing outside?

D.A.

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The Younger Me

August 28, 2011

Today I remembered something about myself when I was just a wee lad. 

I was freaking cute.

I was also keeping the future in mind…

Star Wars fandom took over my life at a relatively young age. I remember seeing my dad watch The Empire Strikes Back back when I was around 7 or 8. It was the battle of Hoth scene, and I remember thinking, “Woah, this is super cool.” After that my friend Bobby let me come over to his house and play with his “aliens” that were characters from the Star Wars films.

Then Bobby let me borrow one of his Star Wars toys to take over to my house. It was all over after that.

It was like a drug. I needed more. Much more.

I would go to the store with my mom and always beg for an action figure. It didn’t always work, but when it did, I felt like I was assembling the worlds greatest collection of awesome toys ever. The scale of my collection really isn’t anything to sneeze at, it’s quite good and was meticulously taken care of, but it also served another purpose in my life.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve shared this on the blog or not. (So if I have, I apologize for repeating myself, but there are so many posts on here by now that I have no real idea what I have/haven’t said about my life)

But my brother was a high demand special needs child. He always needed attention to make sure he was doing good. If he ended up in a bad mood he could harm himself or others. He was also prone to having serious seizures, so we always needed to keep checking on him to make sure we knew if one occurred.

As a kid I understood full well what that meant. It meant that I would have to entertain myself as best as I could because my parents were quite busy taking care of Todd (we’ll just say that’s my brother’s name).

This explains why I watched T.V., movies, played video games, and fiddled with toys all the time. If I was home, I needed to be in my room. Todd couldn’t play with my toys because he would likely destroy them. (He would also drool all over them and they would get super icky.) He was also much larger and stronger than me, so if he decided that he didn’t want me to be around him, he could physically dominate me. So, me alone in my room was the safest and most fun place I could spend my time.

So, back on topic. 

I spent a lot of time in my room playing with Star Wars action figures. And when I moved to Florida from Georgia I made friends with many more kids that loved Star Wars. My collection expanded to not only action figures, but MicroMachines and assorted items as well. Then one day my enjoyment took a strange turn.

I thought about how these toys may one day be worth money. I think I saw one of my neighbors collection those 12″ G.I. Joes. They were nicely displayed and kept in the boxes and I figured the same had to be true for Star Wars toys. If their toys were important…so were mine. Star Wars was waaaay cooler than G.I. Joe anyway.

And I began collecting and amassing toys that were still in their packaging. I proudly displayed them on my wall. I would routinely make sure they were dusted and unaffected by anything that would potentially affect their value. I used thumb tacks and pin them to my wall. The tack would then but used as a hanger to slip the packaging onto. (I never punctured the packaging at all.)

I even had toys in boxes that I really wanted to play with. Still, I held out. The whole packaging issue became so important to me that I eventually started keeping the packaging of toys that I decided to open. It just felt wrong to get rid of it. Even if the price was now nearly worthless because the package was open.

This continued until I was around 13.

I stopped collecting and didn’t feel as proud about my mint conditioned Star Wars action figures. I guess I was growing up. Or maybe I was told that I need to clean out my closet or something.

Then the day came when I decided that I needed to put them away. They needed to be put into the closet with my Jurassic Park, Power Rangers, and Batman toys. They were going to be officially retired.

As I was putting them into boxes I started to think about time. All the time that it took for me to collect these things. All the time that they spent on my wall. All the time that I missed out on playing with these guys. But then I realized that I didn’t even play with my opened packed toys anymore… so why should these be any different.

I might as well throw them away.

I found a whole mess of packaging with no toys inside. It was just garbage. It had no value at all. So I decided to throw it away. Then I found some of those silly little toys. Maybe it was from Taco Bell in a kids meal or something. And I threw those away. I even grabbed a few opened action figures and thought about throwing them away…

But then I said to myself something along these lines. “Maybe I will want to play with these later. When I grow up I might want to sell them when I get into college. Maybe I’ll still think they’re cool and will find a better way to show them off. Hey, I can even get a job one day and I can start buying more.”

But none of those reasons seemed to be really feasible. I didn’t’ really think I would keep a hold of them for much longer.

Then it hit me.

What if I have kids and they want to have some cool toys?

In that moment I decided that I needed to do it because of them. Just in case they had a brother like Todd that needed a lot of care they would have some cool toys to hang on their wall. They could even play with them if they wanted to.

I would let them open the package. If they wanted to. I would still tell them they should not open it, but if they really wanted to they could.

And that’s the really cool thing about my young self I remembered today. I was thinking about my future children having my Star Wars collection.

I’m not sure if that is more nerdy than cute but I’m still pretty happy about it.

I just hope I find a wife who’s okay with me moving my boxes Star Wars junk into our first home.

If she asks me why I still keep these toys, I’ll just smile and say, “What if our kids want to have cool toys?

Still making flying sound effects with my mouth,

D.A.

Let me tell you about one of the most interesting women I’ve ever met. 

My friend James grew up in a broken home. His mother had struggled with drinking while his father had spent decades in prison. He never really had a relationship with his father, and his mother was his only family/authority in his life. She had to fill the role of both mother and father; provider and protector.

She was her own woman. She was strong and confident. She was kind of trippy (she told us stories about her hanging out with the guys from AC/DC when she lived in Australia). She was not afraid of standing up for or against anybody. She was bold. And she knew how to live.

She eventually kicked her drinking problem and really did the best she could to provide for her son. While he was a typical teenager, and quite rebellious, he still had a level of respect for his mom. He had a level of respect that most people don’t get to feel for their parents because of the extreme conditions of their lives. They had moved to a new home every 6 months. They were lucky to just scrape by. But they always did.

Even thought he always found something to argue with her about and always ended up getting frustrated and annoyed by her, he still had a level of respect for her. He even bragged about his mom in a way.

You see, James used to claim that his mom, Sharon, could beat up everybody else’s dad any day of the week.

Nobody doubted this. Well…

I always remember this one time where she arm wrestled the biggest guy I knew. His name was Mack and he was a friend to me and James. We had known each other for a while and just hung out with each other while we were in middle school. But Mack wasn’t your typical middle schooler. He was well developed and was built like a senior in high school.

He was 6’2″ and she was 5’2″. She was thirty five years his senior and he wasn’t even doing algebra yet. She had hard calloused hands from a lifetime of hard labor and his hands were soft from playing video games.

Mack thought he was big enough and tough enough to take down this fiesty old lady. So he decided that he would take her on in a good old fashioned arm wrestling match.

Oh, and did she accept…

The battle was epic. They decided that they would have the arm wrestling contest right on top of the hood of her beat up Mazda truck. As they locked arms and tightened their grips, Mack’s hand enclosed Sharon’s tiny hand. She even had to stand up on the tire of the truck so she could make sure she could start with her arm at a 90 degree angle (as any seasoned arm wrestler would know).

When the match began, I thought her arm would break like a twig. Her sun battered skin flexed and tightened and the muscles formed small rocks underneath the tattoo of a tiger hiding in grass on her right arm. In ten seconds nobody’s arm had moved either direction. She was hardly even flinching. James just leaned on the side of the truck a watched the way a boxing manager watches a match that has  rigged.

He had no doubt about the outcome.

After the initial ten seconds of contest passed, Mack’s arm began to retreat into submission. He let out a yell of frustration and confusion. Soon the back of his hand lay flat across the hood of that dented Mazda.

All she said was, “Huh, I beat you, and I’m not even right handed…”

I could swear that tiger tattoo smiled…

I received some news today that made me call James. When he picked up I said the only thing I could think of.

“When did it happen?”

“Last Tuesday.” he said calmly.

I paused for a little while. I needed to think of something else to say. What was I supposed to say?

“I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry. Are you okay? Do you need somebody to talk to? Can I come see you?”

“Yeah, tomorrow. Come over around 10.”

“Okay. No problem. I’ll be there. When is the memorial service?”

“July 3rd.”

“Okay bro, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I had called him because I learned that Sharon had died in a car accident.

Tomorrow I’m going over to his house. I’m going to comfort him in a time of need. He lost his mother. I should say, he lost his provider/protector/mother/father/arm wrestling champ. He lost his everything.

For those of you who pray, please pray for James, his fiance, and son. Pray that he finds strength and hope in a time when it may seem like there is very little.

Play “For those about to Rock” by AC/DC on your sweet stereo and imagine the toughest broad you’ve ever met embarass a middle schooler in an arm wrestling match. She would have enjoyed the thought of this.

For those of you with mothers and fathers still alive, please remember how much they mean to you. Even if you’re mad at them and don’t speak anymore. Even if you’re still in constant contact with them. Maybe you have had other people in your lives who were like a parent when you didn’t have one. Just try to reach out to them and tell those people, whoever they are, that you love them.

In deep thought,

D.A.