Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Age of Innocence

The Boro Drive-in Theater
Coming of age in the 1960's and early 70's, my siblings and I were entertained by the simple things: dinner at the A&W drive-in restaurant, or taking in a double-feature at the Boro Drive-in Theater. One night on a whim, my parents decided to answer our questions about those stationary flashing red lights we saw to the south every night. We drove through the unlit back-roads of Rehoboth and Seekonk. It took a while, but we eventually pulled into a gravel parking lot at the base of the radio towers. We were so excited to find the source of those flashing red lights that we saw every night.

On another occasion, we drove to nearby Attleboro to find the source of the festive searchlights, traversing the night sky. It turned out to be the grand opening of Mars Bargainland. Long gone now. I remember that we walked through the store, but left unimpressed. Back then we were freer to explore our world without fear of imminent danger. At the age of ten -- my son's current age -- I would ride my bike two or three towns away, just to explore and maybe stop at Bliss Brothers Diary for an ice cream in a waffle cone.

Maybe some form of innocence comes along with country life and living in a small town. There's a scene early in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," where Longfellow Deeds is in a law office, being informed about his substantial inheritance. He hears firetruck sirens from the street below and runs to the window. The suits in the room get a chuckle, as if Longfellow had never heard sirens before. When you're from a small town though, a siren usually means that someone you know is hurt or in trouble -- neighbors are actually neighborly (sometimes.) -- but the hardened cynical city folk thought innocence was humorous.

"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"
Innocence is nothing to be scoffed at. Innocence is sight without looking through discriminating and judgmental filters. Innocence and naivete are precious, because they are so ephemeral. When innocence fades away, it is often replaced by cynicism, as this aging curmudgeon can testify to. Now my task is to try and maintain my son's innocence for as long as possible, or at least until he is better prepared to see some of the sights and human behaviors that cannot be unseen, or unfelt. Justin is wonderfully empathetic and caring, and always perceptive of others' feelings. I just want to make sure that his own precious nature is protected along the beginning of his journey.

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