As I sit here at the end of my bed typing this, I’m being bitten on my legs by a mosquito which I can swear is giving off the faint sounds of insect laughter while buzzing nonchalantly around my room, as if it is checking it out to see if it (or me) is worth renting for the night. My minor itching and feelings of helplessness makes me long to experience just a bit of the carefree existence of my youth, or at least the temporary moments of childhood enthusiasm I used to have for the kind of things that would barely register with me as an adult.
Remember the feeling you would get when you saw your report card in the mail, well the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and the American Family Publishers envelopes gave me the exact opposite feeling and was the closest thing to a “Ralphie” from “A Christmas Story” moment that I would enjoy. I’ve actually in my 30’s recently rediscovered the chocolate malt-goodness of rich, creamy Ovaltine and have incorporated it into my nighttime pre-sleep routine. Usually after I have given up trying to kick the dog off the bed and am finished with watching late night sit-coms, sports highlights and porn(in no particular order).
I can see Ed McMahon now looking up at me from the thick manila envelope, as I bring it into my home’s all white living room to get down to business. Now, my house was the house that every kid hung out at in the neighborhood and my den was where we played, ate, watched TV, caused mild mischief, the occasional ruckus and basically lived in after school. Right next to it was the room with white carpeting and a white couch, which was my parents way of designing a room that would not only show couch stains but footprints as well, which is why we rarely went in there. It was hardly a lived-in room, not much fun to be in and since my mom basically let us turn the den into the neighborhood playground, we obliged her request to avoid the white room(although I don’t remember her spending much time there either).
After tearing open the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes envelope, I would carefully go through it and look at all the possible prizes I would be winning. I’m not sure what I thought I would be doing at eleven years old with a 30 ft. yacht in the New Jersey suburbs, but I was pretty sure I would probably be taking it out to the Caribbean with either Heather Locklear or Heather Thomas(1) during my winter break. I remember there were different prize choices and the envelopes contained these golden seals that I would carefully place on the prize packages I wanted while plotting what I would do with my inevitable winnings. It definitely gave off a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” golden ticket vibe. Only, I didn’t grow up in a hovel with both sets of bedridden grandparents(God, Charlie really did deserve that chocolate factory for all the bed pans he must have removed), I grew up in a spacious suburban home on the nicest block in the nicest small town in Bergen County, NJ.
As I closed the mailbox and walked back into the house, I knew it was just a matter of time before I saw Ed McMahon or whoever gets sent to hand me my oversized poster board check and inform me of the fabulous prizes and vacation get-aways that I have won. It just seemed logical that I would be winning some prizes since I did everything in the instructions and mailed back the envelope in a timely manner. Of course I would share it with my mom and dad, who even though divorced had managed to keep me living the good life in the house I grew up in (not that I realized what a gift that was at the time). I’d get my kid sister a new ET doll. Apparently, someone ripped the stuffing out of the old one and told her that it “went home”. My older bother would get a new humidifier to keep his room from smelling like an eight grade gym locker room. Most of the money and prizes would be for me to enjoy and to share with my friends, so they would know how cool and generous I truly was.
Unfortunately, I never did hear back from the people at the Publisher’s Clearing House, which probably was a good thing, because too much of a good thing at a young age can be a bad thing (I think Yogi Berra might have said that once.). Although, what made filling out those sweepstakes forms so fun was in believing that I was definitely going to win if I followed the proper steps, which is somewhat of a model for adult life. I might be sitting in a tiny apartment talking to my dog while rubbing calamine lotion on my legs, but if I keep on writing and doing what I do best, I’ll one day be sitting in a large house, smiling at my wife while begging her to rub calamine lotion on my legs.
1. In case you are reading this and are under the age of thirty-five, you may not remember that almost every twelve year old boy in the early 80’s had swimsuit posters on their wall of either Heather Locklear, Heather Thomas or Christie Brinkley. Christie Brinkley jumping into the pool in the film “Vacation” will forever be embedded in my mind. Now, Heather Locklear and Heather Thomas were the two blondes that simultaneously starred on TV shows at the same time. Heather Thomas was on “The Fall Guy” with Lee Majors, formerly the Six-Million Dollar Man, and had amazing blonde wavy 80’s hair and a body like the woman in the “Hot for Teacher” video. Heather Locklear was on T.J. Hooker with William Shatner, of Capt. Kirk fame, and had blonde wavy 80’s hair and a smile that made you think she was the sweetest woman in the world (this is pre-Tommy Lee). The Heathers' posters made the walls of many a 13 year old boy much cooler to be in. I had no posters on my wall which led me to being a late bloomer until I started getting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue at 14.