I know I should probably be more worried about a nuclear war with North Korea or sweating bullets about how I’ve procrastinated doing my taxes (again) but lately I cant stop thinking about my childhood in Highland Park, Illinois. Growing up in Highland Park and the Chicago area is something one never forgets. It inspires such distinct memories and overt sentimentality that there are entire Facebook forums dedicated to my H.P. peers and their reflections, recollections, and picture postings of everything from old photographs of the Pre-Port Clinton Square era (no doubt taken with a “real” camera or one of those Instamatics with those attachable flash cubes) to vintage HPHS posters and authentic Fell’s plastic bags and wood hangers.
Recently I participated in a lively debate online as to which Chinese restaurant in Highland Park (or Glencoe) had the very best egg rolls and why (hint: a hint of peanut butter). It’s still debatable but left most of us salivating if not downright drooling on our laptops. No matter what XYZ H.P. generation one belongs to there is a near magical pull and siren song that makes former residents wax eloquent and smile just thinking about the “good old days.” I think for many people it’s possibly related to finally gaining something resembling adult maturity and having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. We didn’t realize how darn good we had it. Let’s face it, most people on planet Earth didn’t grow up “signing” for things sans money or credit card at practically every store in town and having the bill automatically mailed to your parents at your home address. When I went off to college in 1972 it took me almost a year to adjust to the fact that the University of Colorado, Boulder was not the same as Birchwood (M-140) or Bob-o-link Golf Club and you actually needed to carry a wallet with a picture ID (not to mention real coins for the dormitory laundry machines). I was extremely spoiled and sheltered in my childhood and I am the first one to admit it. I miss that too…..
In a 2013 world of strife, stress, and constant barrages of information of both immense superficiality (think Kardashian) and alarming substance (ie., school shootings, gang violence, drug cartels and ongoing threats of impending war), we grew up in a picture perfect suburban town that may not have been really perfect but was pretty darn close …..especially if you factor out the acne and the unavoidable angst of adolescence. The hard part is getting people who didn’t grow up in HP to believe us. Friends and acquaintances I talk to now seem to think I’m overidealizing my childhood in Highland Park, like it was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting or a campy Broadway musical like Brigadoon. Actually, if I remember correctly, the drama department at HPHS, (acclaimed for it’s unusual talent and leadership) did mount its own production of Brigadoon, and it was excellent.
Soaking in so many memories of good food, good people, and natural beauty, I’ve even taken to writing and blogging about my childhood and teenaged years in suburban Chicagoland. Publishing such material is, of course, a different story. Its what most editors and publishers would call an overly-selective “niche market”. I also realize how difficult it is to compete for feature print space, especially with other riveting news stories to share like “Overcoming the Stigma of Incontinence”. I did read that particular article in the Highland Park News recently and it’s subject matter and growing relevance to my life is just beginning to “sink in”. There is no doubt that my personal demographics as a mid Baby Boomer and 1971 graduate of Highland Park High School as well as my “old school” proclivities (functionally illiterate on the computer) may make me a database “gold mine” but a total bust for hipster-centric publications. That said, I still cant figure out why there is a “Meet Muslim Women” ad on my Facebook page every day right under the one for arthritis and cosmetic surgery.
When I do get a response to my blogs it is often an autobot generated incomprehensible reader comment, ie. “Your pertinent matter in exhaustible blog gains new force.” I usually answer them back anyway. I wouldn’t want to be rude to a reader even if it is robot or rogue hacker attaching a Trojan virus to my software…or is it hardware…or hard drive?
As someone who long ago threw away my purple leather Beatle boots, colored dickies, matching John Lennon polyester beret, and all the cheap novelty gifts I acquired during the infamous Edgewood School trip to Washington D.C., I guess I now represent a dinosaur cohort of humanity, one caught between the “rock” of really good rock and roll and the “hard place” of the skinny jeans, sneakers and scarf-wearing generations of punk rockers and Brat Packers. To their credit they at least grew up knowing how to program the VCR and reset the time displays on everything when the power inevitably went out. In contrast most of us, except for maybe John Preskill (now a CalTech Professor of Theoretical Physics and the world’s second or third smartest man) stood around deaf, dumb, and blind in front of the blinking electronic appliances and array of new gadgets that came and went like the sportcoat styles in Fell’s window display. Maybe that explains my lifelong affinity to the 1960 movie, “The Time Machine” starring Rod Taylor in which the time traveler witnesses the skirt lengths on a store mannequin changing like the blooms on the flowers in the metaphoric garden. The most famous quote in the movie, “He’s got all the time in the world” seems less and less true but more and more important to believe in. Either way, I really wish I did have a time machine. I know exactly where I would go first. Even now I can smell the subtle peanut butter scented egg rolls, hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce.
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and humorist living in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact: 404-932-7193