Back in Fourth or Fifth grade, I knew a kid named Billy who made the statement that the first time he saw The Wizard of Oz… I don’t quite recall, either he was rooting for the tornado to blow Dorthoy away or he was hoping she would never find her way back to Kansas again. Something horrible, at any rate.
It is an attitude that surely would have saddened the grade school teacher, likely ascribing this with some deep meaning with Saturday Morning cartoons and Summer blockbusters and video grains draining away flights of whimsy. Dig slightly ashunder a few years prior, and if I may say how indifferent I was with any number of childhood fare — regularly shown videos at school, and I think it might be shocking if people were forced to recall the percentage of a grade schools’ school year a teacher shows their classroom. Some of it I’d grant with some cultural or educational importance, but some of it not. They crammed The Nutcracker Suite down our throats. Or maybe better to say my throat. I think I took a nice nap during the proceedings, until my reguarly scheduled speech therapy session brought me out of class. The speech therapist asked what we were watching; I answered “Nutcracker Suite”; she nodded approvingly, saying “That’s a good one”. This wasn’t a generation gap but it was something of a culture clash meted with the personality type that goes into working with children — this case: she has culture; I shun culture.
I have every reason to believe my fourth grade teacher loved the book Roller Skates, as well I believe she was probably disappointed by the class’s almost violent revulsion. The one thing I will say about the book is I turned in an art project tied to it, one which a few years later my brother insisted I keep, but one which did not garner as much appreciation from my teacher and garnered comments just short of “Come see me after class” — I seemed to have channeled a crude hybrid of Gary Panter and Basil Wolverton. I was getting snotty at that age. Maybe the class could not appreciate and just did not want to place oursleves into the quaint depression-era child protaganists. Maybe, by all rights, we should have — we would have been better people for doing so. Years later — sometime during high school, in my presence — I happened to be there– a friend of my mother’s expressed her rememberance and love of Roller Skates in my presence. I told her that we read it in fourth grade, and I didn’t much care for it. Her response went along the line of “Yeah, it’s more of a girl’s book” — I opted not to mention that the most violent revulsion came from the girls in the class, moreso than the boys, thinking that might break her heart.
Other examples of both childhood classics and items deigned befitting a child’s imagination which fell short of either my or my peers’ imaginations come to my mind. Part of it is a fronting, a “Too cool for school”, but even this becomes ingrained to the cultural ethos to hold sway. What strikes me is that if I were to watch The Nutcracker Suite or read Roller Skates, or certainly view or read The Wizard of Oz today, I have no doubt I would appreciate them — even if it’s possible I might not enjoy particular items. What’s more, the view of childhood intrinsic in some of these things, and the longings they tap into, might also make more sense to me and have better viscareal appeal…
… Now that I am no longer a child. And because I am no longer a child. Figure that logic out.