I have always hated started anything with "when I was a kid," or any variance of that phrase.
However, there have been plenty of moments from my childhood that resonate in my adulthood, if you want to call it that. Face it, when you've never been married, nor have had any kids, you tend to do a lot of things some people would also see as puerile - even once you've reached middle-age.
I watched my oldest niece Morgan graduate live on my phone from 30,000 feet heading back from my great-aunt's funeral a few week's back, something good taken from an awful circumstance. Morgan heads off to college at South Carolina State University in a couple of months.
However, her 10-year-old sister, Langston, is left to leave everyone laughing. Laney is considered the younger version of yours truly (Is that a compliment or not?), but she's much smarter than I ever was - which should lead to an even brighter future if she plays her cards right. At least, it should be that be that way, right?
Then why am I so freaking terrified? I'm more fearful for her than her mother, or her grandparents, of her future - especially in these turbulent times.
When was Langston's age (here we go with this noise), I was sick in bed watching the Space Shuttle Challenger launch. It was a huge event, not only because a schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe, was going to space, but because a man from our county, Dr. Ronald McNair, was also joining them.
You have no idea how mad I was that I couldn't join my friends at school for a free day off watching the launch. I remember my stunned expression as the Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight. I didn't need the "talk" from my parents about death. Even at 10, I had a pretty good idea of what I had just seen.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote "when you have a child, the world has a hostage." At the same age, Laney is living in a completely different reality. COVID-19, protests nationwide over police brutality, racial disharmony and the prospects of being homeschooled for a very long time is a lot for a precocious little goofball to handle.
Like her uncle, however, she uses a sense of humor to cope with the world around her. This is the same girl who took her school photo with a baby python while the other kids chose baby kangaroos and hedgehogs.
Through 44-year-old eyes, the world has become a cynical place for me. One has to live life with a sense of humor to get through every day without losing one's mind earlier than he should.
Through 10-year-old eyes, however, it can still be a wonderful place, despite the chaos surrounding them. Though she doesn't need the "talk" about the events around her, Langston still sees the world like a child should - with hope tomorrow will be better than the day before.
Maybe the world will be a better place once she becomes an adult. Maybe the world will be a more tolerant one when she grows up. Maybe the world will be a safer one in which she will not be a hostage.
Maybe Hemingway will finally be proven wrong.