Perhaps in every life there is a time when we all want to be a “somebody”. You know, that special person whose presence is instantly recognized or acknowledged when they walk into a room. When their name is spoken, a hush of expectation falls across the room. You know of whom I speak….that kind of a “somebody”.
For most of us this urge to become such a “somebody” usually nourishes our fantasies when we are younger. Uh….much, much younger than the age I have currently attained.
But there was a day, there was a time, many years ago when I did in fact become a “somebody”. Although it may have only been for a brief period in my life, I wallowed in the envy bestowed upon my presence and gathered in the moment as if it were to be my last. I had finally, even if only briefly, attained stature comparable to that of the ”Jones’ family“.
It all began on a Christmas morning in 1951. As I woke that morning in anticipation of gifts under a tree I could have never have imagined what was awaiting me two rooms away next to the Christmas tree. As I rounded the corner and saw my prize I was certain I was only dreaming and had not actually wakened yet. But….there it was in all its glory. The ultimate in bicycles! The prescribed Rolls Royce of all those kids my age! It was the king of kings! It was…..”The Black Phantom”!
As I rolled my beauty out onto the neighborhood sidewalks my lowly existence in this world was over. My status had been transformed in a mere instant to that of the envy of all who would ever see or know me from this moment forward….for all time! Moments before a “nobody” – now a “somebody”. I was aboard the beauty of a lifetime flouting all its glory to any who dare glance my way; the headlight; the horn; the tail light; chrome fenders; on please, will it never end!!
But alas, as I am certain my readers may have already foreseen before even reaching the end of this declaration of becoming a “somebody”, that there would ultimately be a reckoning in some form, in some manner. That reckoning would come some two years later. My status as being a “someone” would tragically end on a cold and cloudy Saturday morning.
It was on that day that I had been banished by parental authorities to the backyard to perform the chore of raking and burning leaves. Not something a twelve-year-old normally had on their “To-Do List”.
Now in those days most folks burned their own trash and yard refuse in their backyards. Most used a large 55 gallon metal barrel to accomplish this chore. We had a small, separate garage at the end of our driveway and kept the trash burner behind the garage. So….on this particular morning I was raking the leaves and piling them up behind the garage so they would be right by the trash burner. At some point after I had begun burning the leaves that I had raked into a pile, my mom yelled out to me that we were going over to my cousin’s house for a little while.
Well, I loved visiting my two cousins who were both boys around my age. I dropped the tools of my assigned chore as if scalded by hot water and ran to the car. As I crawled into the car mom suggested I go put another load of leaves in the trash burner before we left. So I quickly ran to the backyard around to the back of the garage, grabbed a huge armful of leaves, gave them a toss toward the trash burner and scurried back to the car. Then we were off!
Some two, two and a half hours later as we returned and mom turned into the driveway all was seemingly quiet and looked quite normal. But then it hit us both almost at the same moment as we were pulling down the driveway. There was something terribly amiss. The garage was gone and in its place were a few charred pieces of wood seemingly sticking up out of the black ground. Other than the trash burner itself, the only thing left that was reasonably recognizable was what appeared to be the charred remains of the infamous Schwinn Black Phantom whose place of residence when not in use was in the garage.
At that moment my mind could not comprehend all that I was seeing but it was quite apparent to me at the time that I was obviously no longer a “somebody”. My reign was over. As quick as it had begun, it had ended. In fact, given the smoldering ruins I was now staring down, perhaps my life itself was over if I somehow became suspect in this terrible tragedy.
In the end it was presumed that when I ran to throw more leaves in the trash burner, in my rush I overfilled the trash burner, burning leaves fell out and into the pile behind the garage, thus igniting the garage, etc, etc. And in the end I was allowed to live since my mom actually took most of the blame for sending me back to put more leaves in the trash burner and then us leaving, thereby leaving the burner unattended. Oh, I should mention in case you are curious that the fire department had come and put out the blaze but by the time we came home everyone had left the scene, otherwise we may have had some measure of warning as we drove up to the impending disaster.
So, there you have it. My days as a “somebody” came at a very young age and there are those quiet moments when I can still relish my time in the sunshine. Those days, however, are fortunately gone when we sometimes found ourselves consumed by the desire to become “somebody”. For me now in these days as I wait for that visit from Joe Black, it seems some measure of wisdom may have finally overtaken those days of whimsical fantasy!
By the way, below is an article I ran across on the Internet several months ago that would seem to confirm the fact that I was briefly a “somebody”, should any of you have lingering doubts.