I like Bill Bryson. He's a born and bred midwesterner who, for some inexplicable reason decided to settle in England. I won't hold it against him. Perhaps it's because he fell in love with an Englishwoman. But still, he's gotta miss the cornfields.
In the past two weeks I've polished off not one, but two, count 'em, two Bill Bryson books. The first is called "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - a Memoir".
Unlike "Dandelion Wine" which are stories loosely based on Ray Bradbury's childhood, Bryson's book is an all-out remembrance of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. The title refers to his ability to ZAP unsuspecting people with his imaginary thunderbolt.
He speaks of his family with loving clarity. The foibles and follies are dished up in equal parts, making his family delightfully human. He let's us know that it's OK to say our families and our lives were not perfect. They weren't!!!
Anyone who grew up in the midwest (or anywhere for that matter) in the 1950's and '60's will remember the scenes played out in his Iowa hometown. Even if you didn't grow up in that time period, you'll still enjoy reading about it.
The beautiful old movie theaters (more than one), the magazine and candy shop, the odd neighbors, teacher and classmates are all familiar.
He jogged my memory of things long forgotten... my brother's electric football game. He'd spend an hour or so arranging all the players just so and then he'd plug in the game and turn it on. The entire board buzzed and vibrated, sending all the players skittering and falling in every direction. Another hour would be spent rearranging the set-up and it would all start again.
He made me laugh and wonder how we ever got through our childhood's without a helmet! He also reminded me of being pushed outside first thing in the morning with the admonition, "Don't come back until dark". We spent entire days, weeks and lifetimes out of doors in the fresh air having adventures of our own invention. I rarely, if EVER, see a kid playing outside anymore.
He made me remember a time when kids were not assured every waking moment of their lives that they were "special". We weren't really special. We were just kids in the American midwest, growing up the best way we knew how.
Bill - Thanks for the memories!
The second Bryson book I finished deserves it's own post, so check back tomorrow when we'll all get sunburned with Bill.
OOOOPS!!!! I forgot to mention Bryson's memory of the A-bomb drills we were all subjected to in school. It went like this:
Drop to the floor.
Tuck yourself into a ball underneath your desk.
Put your hands over your head.
I might have been only 8 years old but even I had enough common sense to find this laughable. Maybe it made everyone (parents and teachers) feel secure that they had a "plan" in the event of attack. No need to worry about giving us nightmares about the possibility of attack because at that point in time. I was more worried about aliens attacking from outer space.
My real fear came later when I was a young adult. The Russians still had thousands of missiles pointed in our direction but the most immediate danger was from my fellow citizens who were busy burning our own country down. What a special time that was.....not.