There’s a postcard on my desk with a picture of two goofy-looking old men above the words “Meeting yourself: It doesn’t have to be weird.”
With handy tips for a time-travel self-reunion (“Remember, those pants were cool then”), it still makes me chuckle like it did when I first picked it up at the Time Travel Mart. That tiny shop funds tutoring and a creative writing program by putting on a straight face to pull off the joke that folks need someplace to stock up for time machine holidays.
But the joke turned into an interesting question when I thought of the postcard in the middle of a story Paul McCartney told at his concert in St. Louis last weekend . How awkward, that story got me thinking, would a reunion with my childhood self be?
McCartney sparked the question with his introduction to “In Spite of All the Danger,” a song he said his pre-Beatles band the Quarrymen paid 5 pounds to record when he was 16.
You’ll never know for sure what’s in another man’s heart, but I’d bet a fair sum that if that Liverpool teenager had been hurled 58 years forward and 4,000 miles west for a time-travel self-reunion, he’d have been pretty satisfied with what Sir Paul was making of his life on that stage.
But what about little Ricky Espinoza? To raise the stakes, I went further than age 16 and wondered what the 8-year-old me would have to say if he showed up at my door.
At that age, most of us had a whole lot of potential but not much else. I’m always telling my 8-year-old and his big brother that they can be anything they want — professional soccer players, chemists, maybe even co-emperors of the United States if our national politics really tank and they’re clever enough.
Me, though, I’m 46 and I’ve turned most of little Ricky’s potential into memories and a pretty narrow path leading out beyond middle age.
Was it a good trade?
Well, not if you stack it against what McCartney did with his sack of potential, but I think the boy I was would look at the life I’ve ended up with and he wouldn’t feel rooked.
I was lucky enough to see that concert, for one thing, and I drove to it with a witty, pretty wife riding shotgun and fun friends in the back seat. Seeing those companions in my future would have eased the mind of that quiet boy as he grew up with the most popular kid in the neighborhood for a brother.
Of course, first I’d have to pull little Ricky’s attention away from the car entertainment set-up. A 1970s kid who read as much science fiction, disassembled as many gadgets and tried to puzzle out as many magic tricks as I did wouldn’t notice much else once he saw that our phones not only were wire-free and voice-activated, but that they’d instantly pump any song we wanted through the car speakers.
On the other hand, I’m sure the 8-year-old me would appreciate the cultural anchors of McCartney still touring, a Star Wars trailer stirring excitement and “Pete’s Dragon” up on movie theater marquees.
I’d have a lot of explaining to do about why we were so painfully far from the ocean without even one ragtop sports car in the driveway, and a little about why I work in a quiet office instead of some sort of lab popping with exciting discoveries.
But I think little Ricky would be mostly cool with what I’ve done with his once-endless potential. Even as young as 8, I think that kid would see the pleasures of playing with words for a living and coming home to lively family and friends.
And I know that 8-year-old would get a kick out of knowing that once he’d turned so many of his coulds into didn’ts, he’d still be able to get into the game again in a small way by raising a couple of new little boys.
Yeah, I’ve lost my shots at World Cups and lab discoveries, but maybe the boys will build my wife and me a little cottage out behind the twin imperial palaces.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.