The Classics

Here are two words that mean something different to everyone, and can pertain to so many topics.  The Classics

If you graduated from college with a degree in The Classics, you probably graduated quite a while ago, first of all.  Nowdays, you would most likely have a degree in just plain old English or Literature, with no mention in the degree title of The Classics.  We tend toward more generic degree categories currently. 

But, if you did get your degree in The Classics, perhaps you can still recite poetry from memory, and talk a blue streak about the books that made up the Canon back when you were in college and were dreading your next paper on “the theme” of a piece of literature of your professor’s choosing – not your own. 

I believe The Canon should be continually updated, with books that are at least more recently classic.  This appears to be happening more and more since the late 20th century.  Each nationality, university, famous library, and even many religions, recognize different literary choices as part of their Canon.  In this example relating to literature, The Classics, is something about which only a handful of people can talk intelligently, or at all.  So, I’ll shut up on this one.

But, there are classics that relate to so many other parts of our lives.  We have classic cars, classic lines from movies, classic snafus, classic features, classic friendships, classic conversations, classic memories, and more.  Tonight, I’m thinking of classic memories from when Nat and Owen were little.  There are so many, and it took me pulling out old (classic) pictures this afternoon, to recall some of them.  I’ll share just one, because really, it is probably only precious to those of us who watched the boys grow up.

It was a classic lie, told by both Nat and Owen (different versions, of course, brothers and all), because it went on for years and became a classic joke, and a classic memory.  We were living on limited funds at the time, and Nat was about 11 and Owen 7.  We looked hard for things to do together that didn’t cost money, but were fun.  (Even harder today.)  Often, this was just too much work, and we would plan a day to splurge instead, knowing that it would mean, there would be a period of extreme cost-consciousness following.  But, being that they were young, and not in charge of the finances, they were always up for the splurging activity. 

On this one fine afternoon in Petaluma, we took a walk downtown, as we lived on the West Side, and only a few blocks from the cool stores in this old section of town.  The Comic Book Box was there, Read Moore Used Books, Saks Thrift Avenue, and only one main coffeehouse on Western Avenue.  I can’t recall the name of the coffeehouse, but we often stopped there for coffees, hot chocolate, or milk, and a pastry.  This was such a treat. 

As we wandered around downtown, stopping at our favorite haunts, and looking for the special thing we were each going to buy, we wandered into a very nice gift shop –  one of those places, where I had to vocalize the often-repeated admonishment, “you can look, but don’t touch.”  I found my special purchase for the day.  Two handrolled beeswax candles, light pink.  These were the most expensive candles I had ever bought, and I protected that bag carefully, through the rest of our outing.  We went into the magic/gag/costume shop on Kentucky Street, and the boys found nothing that qualified as a have-to.  We continued on our walk, and ended up, as usual, at the comic book store, where both of them spent their money on, what? comic books.  I believe Nat still has some of his old ones, and there’s a stack on Owen’s bookshelf upstairs.  These are probably replacements, as comic books were heavily traded commodities at that stage of their lives, and I don’t know how many of them survived our moves from house to house, town to town. 

When we arrived home, I put my candles in my favorite Depression Glass candle holders on the dining room table, and knew I would wait for a very special occasion to light them.  I dimmed the ceiling light, and the candles took on a soft glow, due, I imagine to their honeycomb architecture.

The boys spent their evening with their comic books, and talked about superheroes, and which comics turned out to be “the coolest” and which ones were a waste of their money.  They each wandered out of their bedroom eventually, and looked for late night snacks, and a cure for boredom.  I believe that’s just about when I went to bed.  When I heard them crawl into bed themselves, I fell asleep. 

The next morning, being that I worked mostly evenings at a restaurant, and they went to school in a town far away, we were up early, and having our usual none-of-us-are-morning-people difficulties.  I breezed through the dining room on my way to the kitchen, without looking at the candles, my memory of them and our outing erased by a need for coffee and toast, and preparing their breakfast of (probably) frozen waffles with peanut butter.

After I got home from taking the boys to school, I noticed the candles.  I didn’t just notice, I dove into a fit of outrage and feelings of parental failure.  My candles, although still in the holders, had been squished into bent and disfigured portrayals of what? boredom at work.  I know what it’s like to want to play with textures, and touch.  I seem to remember a nanosecond of sweetness on my part, knowing this contamination of my candles had filled that void brought on by impulsiveness and childhood boredom.

I lay in wait, though.  I was going to get to the bottom of the candle-squishing incident, and whose hands were the actual culprits.  When I picked the boys up from their respective schools, I asked.  Just that, asked how they had spent their time after I went to bed.  Not a word about the candles.  We drove home, my seething motherliness at work on the windy roads from Occidental to Petaluma.  Safe, but pissed.

I asked both boys to come into the dining room, and asked if they noticed anything unusual.  No, why should they?  Candles held nothing over comic books, yet I had not torn pages from their valuable texts, so I pursued my line of questioning.  What I got, and what I got over these many years, was this:  “He did it.”  “Huh-uh, he did it.”  Laughter, and brotherly secrets at work.  I still don’t know, and I chose to cure the problem, by lighting the candles a few days later.  I let them stand for those few days though, as an illustration of my sadness, and an illustration of truth-telling, if one was so inclined.  Two were not so inclined, and to this day, I don’t know.

Over the years, Nat, Owen, Dave, and I had many opportunities to discuss the handrolled, beeswax, pink candles, and their early demise.  It became one our classic stories, and lost the whodunnit aspects after a very short time.

Last word on classics for this post.  Nat and Owen had many common favorite movies.  Some were not my taste, or not my generation, and so escaped me in their “classic” stature.  One, however, will always be on the list.  I was not a big Blues Brothers fan, but this was the early days of Saturday Night Live and both Nat and Owen were not only allowed to watch, but became early fans.  Dan and Jim in the following video, truly depict the brotherly love I saw in Nat and Owen.  The goofiness, the teasing, the flirtation with living on the edge.  And, they were not blood brothers. Nat and Owen were, and their bond was something to behold – arguments, and all.

Song for the night:


~ by Linda on September 20, 2007.

2 Responses to “The Classics”

  1. It was Markey’s Cafe. I was not the one that did the deed regarding the candles, nor do I know which of the little ones did.

    Fire from candles or a fireplace have provided warmth in our homes for years. The light created bounced off the walls and brought a golden glow to the room. That light helped to calm our
    home many times when all the family was present.

    Linda and I spent many years in the restaurant industry and know how to create ambience.

    My classic memory takes me back to pesto. Homemade pesto, in a blender, under the low cabinets. Using a spatula to stir in the ingredients while the blender is running. Then dropping the spatula in the blender. OOPS. Green everywhere. Little chunks of green rubber, also.

    The second batch was much better.

    Good night Owen.
    Good night Nat.

    Love Dad

  2. Do you mean to tell me….We are never gonna find out what happened to those pretty candles?!
    Aw geez! I read the whole thing in suspense , waiting for somebody to tell me you guys got a butler (who dunnit) when I wasn’t looking (on your waitress income, that is).
    I like the part about the outing. I like the part about waffles and peanut butter.
    I like the classic memories too. I have some of my own with the boys when they were little and after they got too tall to play with dinosaurs…

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