He is eighty-one pounds of pure energy, a spring wound tight and apt to blow at any point into any direction,
and he has lived across the street from me for the entirety of his nine years on this planet. His name isn’t near as important as the nickname he’s been given.
We call him Bam-Bam.
Pure boy, Bam-Bam. Blond haired and thick-chested, he has the eyes of one both enthralled with the world and eager to conquer it. I’m not sure how far he’ll get in that regard, but he’s done a fair job subjugating the neighborhood. Every house on our block is his domain, every bit of dirt his playpen. You’ll see him zipping down the street on his bike (complete with one of those electronic gizmos on the right handlebar he turns to make a motorcycle sound), or his scooter, or his Big Wheel. Very often he’ll be half-dressed. Bam-Bam doesn’t hold to shirts or shoes, preferring the feel of the wind at his stomach and the good earth between his toes.
His momma tries to dress him, I promise you. It doesn’t take. The other day I watched Bam-Bam come out the front door decked out in so many layers you would have thought he was embarking on an arctic expedition. Two minutes later I looked again, and all he had on was his jeans. I never knew what he did with those clothes until the mail lady came the next day and dug out a sweater, a scarf, and a heavy coat from the mailbox before putting in the mail. From what I heard, Bam-Bam had to answer for that one.
He is impervious. Cold doesn’t bother him, or snow.
Bam-Bam has a penchant for running around in the yard during thunderstorms and soaks up the heat like a lizard. Think of a mini-Jason Bourne.
Not that everyone on our street is always thrilled when he’s around. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to tell Bam-Bam not to shoot at our birds (not that he listens, and not that the birds are in any danger; Bam-Bam loves to hunt, but you can’t kill much with a Nerf gun) and to please-for-the-love-of-God don’t run out in the road when Harold Thompson races by in his souped-up Camaro. He’s loud: the only thing more ear piercing than Bam-Bam’s laugh (which is near constant) is his crying (which is just as often). And you have to be careful what you let him do. Bam-Bam is more than willing to help you with just about everything, so long as you realize what you’re trying to fix will likely end up more broken if he’s involved.
You have to love him, because he’s that way. But that won’t stop you from taking a peek out the window to make sure he’s not around before you step outside to do something. Bam-Bam’s daddy summed it up nicely last summer when he told me, “My boy’s a blessin’, no doubt. And he also must be punishment for some past sin I cannot reckon. Either way, I expect that boy’s gone drive me to drink.”
I could only agree.
And yet I will sit on our porch in the evenings after school and watch him try to shoot down a cloud or sneak up on a deer or spin himself in circles until he either yarks up his lunch or falls down giggling, and I can feel nothing but envy for my neighbor Bam-Bam.
Because I was once like him, once upon’a. I was that boy through and through, and so was my son (truth be told, my son still sometimes is). There was a time I treated life a gift to unwrap every day, and I looked upon it all with an unquenchable joy.
There are times I wonder where that boy I was went.
Maybe he’s gone, died away so the man I was bound to be could come. And maybe he’s still inside me somewhere, wanting out.
It’s funny how so much of our youth is spent wanting to be grown up, only to spend so much of our grown-up years wanting to be kids again.