Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. – Anthony G. Oettinger
On January 20, 1973, I was nine going on 10 and lived in a modest but comfortable house, along with my widowed mother and my older half-sister, in Westchester, a suburb of Miami, Florida.
50 years ago, January 20 fell on a Saturday, and it was also President Richard M. Nixon’s second Inauguration Day. Back then, of course, even though I was precocious in some ways (I liked conversing with adults, read books at a higher level than third grade, and preferred to watch documentaries – whenever PBS aired one, of course – instead of “kidvid” fare like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You), I was still a young boy and I wasn’t interested in politics. Thus, I don’t remember sitting in front of Mom’s TV set (it was in her bedroom; she did not like placing a television in the living room, and 1001 SW 102nd Avenue did not have a Florida room) to watch Nixon take the oath of office – which he had already violated during his first term, though that was only beginning to come out as a result of the burgeoning Watergate scandal – or give his second Inaugural address.
You must not pity me because my sixtieth year finds me still astonished. To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly. – Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
There are, of course, many things that I don’t remember from January of 1973. The passage of time, emotional trauma, and the absence of written recollections or letters or mementos makes it difficult for me to remember events that are now a half-century in the past with any clarity or accuracy.
I do remember that I honestly believed that I was in love with my second girlfriend, “K,” who I had met on the PE field at Tropical Elementary School a couple of days after my involuntary transfer from my neighborhood school, Coral Park Elementary, in late November of 1972. She was pretty, easygoing, and a good kisser, and she was there. I had (as I have chronicled in the Remembering Cheryl T series) lost my first girlfriend’s phone number and had no easy way to find her, so I (consciously or unconsciously) quashed any lingering feelings that I had for her and suppressed my memories of our brief (one day!) schoolyard romance, such as it was.
In January of 1973, I was also:
- Learning English at a fast clip
- Forgetting – or suppressing memories of – my days as a student in a Catholic-run private school, Colegio El Nogal, in Bogota. Sure, there are things I never forgot about, such as having to sharpen pencils with a Boston-brand pencil sharpener attached to a closet door out in a hallway, or the crush (my first of many schoolboy crushes on girls or attractive female teachers) I had on a girl named Diana. But by January of 1973, I had forgotten all of my former Colombian teachers’ names, as well as the names of the few kids I was somewhat friendly with in Bogota
- Looking forward to my 10th birthday. My mom had a knack for celebrating her two children’s birthdays, and even though she wasn’t the kind of overly indulgent parent who did “over the top” stuff even during our sojourn in Colombia, she knew how to make birthdays, especially mine, special
- Becoming a casual Miami Dolphins fan. After all, on Saturday, January 14, 1973, the Dolphins won Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Coliseum by beating the Washington Redskins 14-7, thus becoming the first (and thus far only) NFL team to win an undefeated season (17-0)
If I had to guess what I was doing at this time of day on Saturday, January 20, 1973, I was probably – depending on the weather and other variables – either playing outside at one of my neighbors’ houses on our block on SW 102nd Avenue or getting ready to go visit “K.” at her house. Otherwise, I might have just stayed in the house, reading a book or watching television. Back then, of course, we didn’t have home computers (I would not get my first one, an Apple IIe, until 1987), Internet, cable TV (it existed, but it was not yet ubiquitous), videocassette recorders (which also existed, but were primarily used in the television industry and the few consumer models available were expensive; I didn’t know they existed), or even video game consoles (those were being developed, though). Thus, books, toys, board games, and outdoor activities with my friends were how I killed time 50 years ago.