Movies were a big part of my childhood growing up. Being we lived in a rural town, there wasn’t much else for us to do as a family. So nothing was no more exciting than on Friday evening when my mom got home than going to the movie store and renting movies. You got to go and pick out the one movie you had wanted to see since you saw it advertised on television for the movie theaters. I was always drawn to the horror movie section when we’d go in there. Even when I was little, and my parents wouldn’t let me watch those movies yet. The terrifying covers of the boxes just captivated me and terrorized me at the same time.
The Exorcist was the first horror movie scene I ever remember seeing as a kid. I wasn’t supposed to be watching it. I was young. Probably not even five years old. I had two older brothers who were teenagers at the time. Somehow, I wound up in the room while they were watching it, and I saw the scene where her head spun around. At that moment in my life, I decided that was it for me. I jumped up and ran out of the room, screaming and crying to my mother. My brothers laughed at me. It was late in my teens before I ever decided to watch that movie.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
I never saw The Amityville Horror till I was older and could handle it. But I was terrified of it at a young age. See, my brothers told me the story of it. They also had the book. I remember the book so vividly in my mind. It was a thick paperback book that had a picture of the house on the front of it. I’d see the cover, and it would instantly bestow fear onto me. Another thing was my grandparents had a front door on their house that had windows at the top of it that looked like the Amityville house’s windows. So I couldn’t be in their living room at night without my sister.
My brothers got me with this one as well. I was a little older when I saw this than I was with The Exorcist. So, I made it a little further into the movie. When the alien popped out of the seed pod and attached to that guy’s face, that completely blew my mind; but when it became too much for me was when it detached itself, and the alien erupted from the guy’s abdomen, I was done. This time I graciously exited the room, though.
The early childhood trauma thrust onto me by my older brothers didn’t deter me from horror movies, though. As I grew older, I always had an appreciation for a good horror flick. The only thing was, they just never packed a punch as those three movies did. I watched all The Nightmare on Elm Streets, Friday the 13ths, and Stephen King novels made into movies, and they all just never got me there. I guess it was kind of like being an adrenaline junkie. You do that thing that gets you off that first time. Then you spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that feeling.
I awoke this morning to start my daily routine. Before my daily study time began, I was scanning news feeds to see if anything happened during the night that may have been of any importance to me, and this article caught my eye. I smiled a bit as I read it. Last night, during the airing of the Oscars, AARP aired an advertisement geared at getting Gen Xers to enroll. I thought to myself, “I’m a Gen Xer. I’ll be 50 in six more years.” Six years will be here with a snap of the fingers when you think about it. My wife and I have been married for six years. It doesn’t seem like it. But as I’ve chewed on it all day before writing this piece, I don’t dread it. I kind of look at it as leveling up.
That’s one of the characteristics of Gen Xers. We don’t see ourselves as growing old—maybe seasoned or wiser for our experiences, but not old. After all, think about it, we never got to see two of the biggest stars of the 90s grow old or even burn out, Kurt Cobain or Tupac Shakur, both died in their prime. We were kids raised by MTV. The real MTV, not 16 and pregnant MTV. Computers and the internet were in their infancy, and the sound of dial-up was exciting. Y2K was the dawning of our adulthood as we entered our 20’s and 30’s. And September the 11th was our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our call to fight.
I find it crazy that I don’t see myself as old. When my Mom and Dad were my age, they looked old to me. I don’t see my peers as old either. I believe that is because Gen Xers have found that balance between work and life. Where our baby boomer parents threw themselves into work and never did anything else seemingly, my peers and I maintained a healthy lifestyle and stayed active well into our 30’s.
As I stair down 50, I look forward to that decade of my life. As a matter of fact, I’ve already started planning for it. We’ll see if these plans pan out, but if they don’t, I’ll still be good. My message to all Gen Xers is to look at turning 50 as leveling up. Look at it as going from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White. Xers don’t grow old because our Icons died young. We have too much life ahead of us to be worried about our age.
This evening after work, I came home, and the movie Wargames was on TV. I had to give it a watch because I hadn’t seen it in forever— like since I was a kid. You might remember the movie? Matthew Broderick played the main character. A kid that hacked the computer system at NORAD and started it simulating a nuclear war with Russia. Bringing the world to the brink of nuclear destruction. At the end of the movie, the computer program figures out nuclear war has no clear winner and is not worth engaging in, everybody breathes a big sigh of relief, and everyone is happy. Then the movie goes off. If you haven’t seen it, give it a look. It’s a pretty good movie.
The thing about this movie is this. Nuclear war was the cause of so much anxiety for me as a child. I knew the Russians were coming. I saw Rambo: First Blood Part II. I also saw Red Dawn. The original, with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. I worried so much as a child about nuclear war. It was crazy. I just knew that I was never losing my virginity, graduating high school, or ever having an adult life. You couldn’t fathom the amount of relief I felt when at 14, there was a coup d’é·tat that toppled the Soviet regime and effectively, in my mind, significantly lowered the chance for nuclear war. Then life went on.
As you may have realized already, as a child, I had an overactive imagination. The crazy thing is that I wouldn’t change it for anything. I look at life now and back at those preposterous thoughts and appreciate those worries more than the ones of my adult life. I also appreciate the killer movies that entertained me as a child, just a nostalgic thought for the evening
I remember as a kid how my friends and I would go out exploring different areas in the town we lived. We’d run across these spots that we found interesting. We’d hang out in them for a while and continuously go back until the new wore off. We perceived them as these little secret gardens no one knew of, but in all actuality, they were property that was just unused. In a wooded area behind a shopping center, you could follow a path into the trees. There was a stream back there that flowed over the ledge of this deep hole. We would walk down to the bottom of the whole and play down there. One place we referred to as Vietnam; we’d go there to play war. There was another spot we found right in the middle of town, by the main street. It was wooded, and there was about a 10 ft drop into the creek. It was secluded but right beside the main highway. I think that was the appeal to us.
As children, we thought we were adventuring— striking out. It seemed like we were a long way from home like we were discovering something no one had seen before. Now, as an adult, I realize we were still right in our backyards. As we’ve matured, it seems many of us have lost that sense of adventure to explore our backyard. We think the only way to have a real adventure is to strike out to some exotic place, maybe climb to the top of a volcano or dive to the bottom of the ocean. But the reality is that most of us don’t have the time or money to do that. So, our life becomes that of a boring adult.
This morning I left the house to get some photos of an area I’ve been scouting out and planning for all week. Well, when I got there, I was unable to get the pictures and wound-up riding around taking photos of flowers and things on the side of the road. That’s what got me thinking of the adventures of my childhood. With the coming spring, I’m going to venture out into my backyard more. To see what kind of fascinating things I can photograph. Maybe, I’ll find one of those perceived secret gardens. Hopefully, I don’t get in any trouble trespassing. We’ll see. Keep an eye out for future posts regarding my backyard adventures.