Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End of Our Innocence

The early morning couldn't have been any colder. The stars hid behind clouds that hammered me with icy bullets and I peddled as fast as I could. My shiny BMX bike was my partner, my chrome stallion, carrying me through storm, sun and snow. I shivered. I dripped. But the rain in my eyes and the water on my lips was beautiful, a fresh taste of innocence.

I had wrapped sixty-seven copies of The Cleveland Plain Dealer with care. I bound them with Kmart-issued rubber bands, slipped plastic covers over each one and then tossed them with squinted-eye accuracy.

No one knew how hard I worked except me.

On Fridays I'd come to collect. I'd walk through the front doors of pleasant grandmothers, carrying my ring of collection cards, dreaming of how I'd spend my profits. Mrs. Willis and a few of my favorite clients tipped me with cookies and a smile and watched as I rode off into the sunset. Some of my customers, however, were scary and smelled bad, likely pedophiles hoping I'd stay for candy and a movie.

I never stayed. I had plans. I was hungry for an Orange Crush and Doritos and I wasn't about to let a round-belly pervert, or rainy day, or snowdrift stop me from getting what I wanted.

I was a paperboy dagnabit!

The year was 1980 and I was ten-years old in a world that seemed to be glowing, bursting with dreams and thick with possibilities. The music was awesome and if you had a boombox on your shoulder and a bandanna wrapped around your ankle you were well on your way to stardom.

Looking back on those days I wonder how I made it unscathed and unmolested! Just two weeks ago a nine year-old girl was abducted from her bicycle not ten miles away from my home in broad daylight. They found her but she's traumatized as you can imagine. Unfortunately, her story is all too common today. Yet in 1980 I could go anywhere on my bike, wild, free and unafraid. All I needed was 50¢ for a pop and candy bar to satisfy my sugar addiction.

A lot has changed since then, don't you think? We grew up. We graduated from paperboy, to husband, to parent and landed in a world filled with busyness, stress, iPhones, iPads and everything except simplicity.

Have you noticed that people smile less and neighbors act like strangers?

We've shut ourselves in, less impressed with the wild world around us and more dazzled by larger than life personalities like Charlie Sheen and the winners on America Idol.

If we could only see life with the same eyes that witnessed 1980 from our BMX bikes, maybe we'd smile a little more and regain some of that innocence. My kids have it. I see it in their eyes. They spy a planet full of fun and freedom and summer dreams. And all I can do is worry that someone will invite them in for candy and a movie?

You know, I think its time I go for a bike ride through town with nothing more than a couple bucks to get a coke and a snickers and sit on the curb with a few buddies. The end of our innocence has come with a price, but I think we can recoup it for less than we think.

Life's too short to forget how sweet the taste of rain is on our lips.

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion


  1. great post Jeff! had a trip down memory lane as well while reading it and i love your last sentence. it was excellent! thanks for sharing your thoughts! c",)

  2. Wow, AO! You must be the fastest blog reader in the west! I'm not even finished yet. Thaks for stopping by and please share this. Peace.

  3. My son was a Paperbo on the Old Smith Valley route that summer, the tales I could tell! He had one customer who would invite him in for lemonade. She made him call me, to let me know where he was. He fixed her brokedown lawnmower and got his hands dirty in a new way that would become his life's work. No, he doesn't fix lawnmowers for a living, LOL! He is owner of Alliance Auto Repair, in Greenwood, and is only the Best in his field, IMHO. I bet if you asked him, he'd totally agree with you! Wait, I'll send him this link, and let him tell you himself!!!
    RT'd with pleasure, and looking forward to more, while looking back on simpler days, a time, the age of our Innocence :-)

  4. PS: typos compliments of Motorola Xoom, and the most finicky touch keypad on the face of the planet! GAh, whatever happened to the plain old typewriter, before the internets! I'll never write a book on this dagnabit contraption, LOL!

  5. Oh for the days before the internet - I'll be RTing your post with pleasure!

  6. Funny you should write about this Mr. B.
    I ride my bike a lot too, on the same streets along the beach I rode on 40+ years ago. The kid I was then seems so far removed from who I am now, but sometimes I catch emotional glimpses of of the hopes and dreams I had back in those days. Simpler days when innocence really was just that. I think somewhere inside every one of us, somewhere deep, those wide eyed kids still live. I have to believe that no matter how much the world changes or how dark it gets.
    Isn't this just like a writer like Jeff B. to articulate this and cause our hearts to stir?
    Well played sir....well played!

  7. this is a great post Jeff loved this,sometimes we have to sit down and smell the coffee and remember the innocence of our youth,and try to recapture a little

  8. Sandra,
    No worries about the typos. I do that all the time on my phone. I'm just glad you came by and that your son had the pleasure of working one of the best jobs for young boys. Thanks for sharing and RT'ing this post, and for all your support.

    The internet sure has changes things...more than any of us could've imagined in 1980! Thanks for the RT.

    Daniel, It's a good feeling when the memories come back and sometimes my old self inspires me. Thanks for the reply, it was moving as well!

    Funny you said "smell the coffee" because that's what I was doing last night in my chair when I was dreaming about and mentally arranging this post. Thanks for the comment

  9. I was a papergirl, dabnabit! :) Thanks for sharing, Jeff.

  10. Really enjoyed this, Jeff. I find myself longing for days of simplicity - I'd love to go back to a time where I didn't understand as much as I do now. I miss being naive.

  11. Brenda...my sister in newpaper delivery...thank you for reading.

    Paul, I wish I kept that bike; they don't make 'em like that anymore.

  12. Jeff - Thank you for this beautifully written piece. The world has changed. It's interesting to me that we avoid our neighbors but never hesitate to jump on Twitter. Maybe it's because our perception of Twitter - and social media in general - is that it's safe and our perception of our neighbors is that they might not be... The world has new dangers right now and that's a fact. So maybe we all need to jump on our chrome stallion and hang out with some friends. Peace, LL

  13. Love this. I try and smile as much as possible, and I say hello to all and smile to everyone. It is amazing how good you feel when you make someone's day with a hello and a smile!!!

  14. Hi Lake & Joey, Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hope it stired a few good memories.

  15. As I read this I am remember filling in for my sister delivering "The Record Courier" and I can picture the roads you were driving down too!! very nice

  16. Hi Kim.
    I used to deliver the Record Courier, The Aurora Advocate and the The Plain Dealer; all hand-me-down routes from my older brothers. I've always said, Employers should hire a paperboy, because they are the most disciplined, hard working folks. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the memories.


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