Thursday, January 31, 2013

essentials of life

er quickly outfitted me with the essentials of life: a speedo-like swimsuit and an encyclopedia the within a week of my birth, and a tricycle as soon as my feet could reach the peddles. my father was an avid swimmer. everyone in his family read. wheels were part of being american in the post-war country that would redesign itself with the internet highway system. (of course the u.s. marriage to the automobile had been consumated before the war. one of the most remarkable things about steinbeck's the grapes of wrath is that the jobes, unlike most refugees at all times in all places, drove to the refugee camp.)

i have no actual memory of wearing my first swimsuit, but i have seen photos. to thisay i don't understand why anyone would choose to swim with ten pounds of soggy cloth encumbering one'd kick. the speedos i have now are nearly fifteen years d and about ready for replacement. they do double duty as underwear. i'm always ready for a swim.

the encyclopedia, a set of american educator covered in blue leatherette with gold embossing, was indeed central to my early education. i suspect i read the whole thing. the maps i tore out to use as charts in the war-surplus jeep that  my first submarine. the books themselves would be eclipsed and replaced by funk and wagnells and brittanica, and eventually by wikipedia and google, but the love of books and the expectation that curiosity be satisfied has remained.

of the tricycle i have very vivid memories, perhaps my earliest. the late forties were still a time when childhood was considered safe, and i was allowed to wander on three or two or four wheels or by foot as far as i wished. occasionally that was farther than convenient. i remember one tricycle trip that ended with my straddling the frame very uncomfortably and waddling home with my britches full. (and occasionally i would in the sixties get my mother's car mired in mud.)

of these essentials my father thought should be provided, the most harrowing and exciting experiences probably center around wheels. but none of theme involved any cle with more innate classiness than that red american flyer.

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