In the 1963 movie Bye, Bye Birdie actor Paul Lynde sings a ditty entitled "Kids," which includes what is probably the lament of every parent of all generations:
"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way? What's the matter with kids today?"
Personally I had dreamed of having a son who would actually listen to his daddy (like I always did, right?). There is every reason to believe that my time for having such a son has come and gone. At my stage of life the best any father can hope for is that said sons will eventually get old enough to see "father knows best" after all. Then, in the name of true poetic justice, my sons will have sons who won't listen to their daddy, either.
This brings us to our youngest, Benji; "the good son."
Benji was, back in the day, the best skateboarder in Brazil. I know he was -- he told me so. Even today young skateboarders wannabes reverently whisper his name, or so I'm told.
Back in the day he accurately relayed to his parents everything about everything he did; so we know all about his exploits. We knew about his respectful behavior whenever requested by adults to move on. We know of his always getting an owner's permission before doing really dangerous jumps off some high staircase or ledge. Of course he told us "everything." And that's his story and he's sticking with it.
Truth is, I really did not want to hear about most of what he could do. What he did reveal made me queasy.
I was with him at the various hospitals when he had to be splinted or sewn back together. I was with him the one time he actually had to go to juvenile court for doing something that I dare not repeat here for fear of inciting some young impressionable. And, we went together for the famous meeting at City Hall to discuss the new Skate Park proposal. Trouble is, that meeting was some few years ago. Nothing came of it then or since. Seems the skateboarders and their parents at that meeting have gone on to bigger and better things, and interest was passed to another generation.
Thus my interest in a story this week in the Brazil Times indicating yet another attempt is to be made to establish a skate park. I hope so. Two words of warning left over from days and meetings long since past:
"To skateboarders and parents: Don't let go of the project hoping "City Fathers" will finish it -- they won't."
"To "City Fathers": If you don't include some real live skateboarders in the planning, you might as well save yourself the effort."
Some readers may remember Benji as a more-or-less average Northview student; others knew him as an anywhere-and-everywhere skateboarder (there were no skate parks back in the day). If you did encounter him when he was a "kid" you may not believe this, but it's true: In about a month Benji will begin his third year of teaching the Fourth Grade in Charlotte, North Carolina. He teaches children who come from what we once called "disadvantaged backgrounds." From all reports his students love him.
Who knows, maybe skateboarding is just a phase some kids have to go through on their way to being "like we were, perfect in every way."
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.