Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What follows is a fond childhood memory...

So if you're not a friend or relative, it may seem fairly boring or sickeningly sappy to you:

Back in the 70s, when I was an over-the-top perfect kid, my Aunt Laura and Uncle Ronnie worked for Warner Brothers Pictures in Hollywood. Since there weren't many 9-year-olds who got to wander around that famous lot and see the sets where movies are made, it was awesome to hang out with them. And, that made it ultra-sweet when my Mom asked if I'd like to live with Laura and Ronnie. (she was doing some over-the-road driving, and that's no life for a kid)

They lived in a condo in the Hollywood hills, and were textbook Californians... vegetarians, drove a little fuel efficient Honda Civic, loved Rod McKuen... they lived the lifestyle. Aunt Laura was an office worker and an occasional extra for movies, Uncle Ronnie was the studly actor type.

And I was an experiment for them. They were fairly sure they wanted children, but it was a tough decision because Uncle Ronnie had quite a career going. Well, it turned out my presence cemented their resolve... and once they had decided, it was near-constant "doing the dirty." I remember some Saturdays they would lock themselves in the bedroom for hours on end, so I would walk to the park and play with friends. It was alright with me - I had fun, they had fun! I was almost 10 at the time, so I was hip to the "ins and outs" of life.

Being a vegetarian wasn't easy to adjust to. Aunt Laura would send lunch to school with me every day, consisting of half a peanut butter sandwich, half a head of lettuce, some carrots, an apple and juice. I spent a big part of the first two weeks in the bathroom - I hadn't seen that much roughage since I mistakenly ingested a half-dozen railroad ties while sleepwalking at age 6 when we lived in Vallejo.

School was a weird thing in Hollywood... I walked nearly a mile each way, and we'd start the day by gathering in the breezeway, lining up and singing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." It was 1974 - heck, Johnny was already home. I never understood that.

Living with Laura and Ronnie, the walk to school, the hills, the sun, their attention... I miss it. It was truly a high point in my life. And I remember the day it - quite literally - all came crashing down.

I woke up the morning of March 14, 1974 to the sound of my Aunt crying in the living room. I went in to see what was wrong, and through violent sobs she told me of the news report she had just seen on television.

For about a week, Uncle Ronnie had been on a shoot for an ABC television series called "Primal Man." They had flown up into the White Mountains for the location shooting, and were flying home late on the night of March 13. Just after take-off, the plane crashed into the mountain side, killing all 36 aboard. She had learned of the crash on the morning news. The police arrived at our house a couple of hours later... my Uncle Ronnie was gone. I could only imagine how she felt, they were inseparable. I had never seen a couple more in love... and all I could do was sit and hold Aunt Laura and pat her shoulder.

Ronnie and Laura were such a positive force in my life. I'll never forget the time we shared and how they made me feel important and needed. They wanted a child so much... and it turned out I would be the only child they would ever have. Shame, they would have made amazing parents. They were instrumental in making me realize my own potential - and through them I found a self-confidence I never knew I had.

I will always be grateful to them.

And really glad the whole vegetarian thing didn't stick.


Kerouaced said...

I really liked that entry. That wasn't sappy at all and was in fact a very interesting and well narrated story.

Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

I echo. I thought it was very nice.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

A great story, Dave. Thanks.