Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boys and Fireworks…and Regrets

PLACE: admin
DATE: March 4, 2010
DETAILS: Like any other boy, I loved shooting off fireworks when I was a kid. But it was illegal to buy, sell, or own fireworks in the small Iowa town where I grew up. But they weren't illegal in Missouri. I can remember that about a week before the Fourth of July, people would load up in cars and make road trips south to buy fireworks.

I remember one year in particular. I was probably nine or ten years old and my older sister worked at the local grocery store. One of her co-worker, a boy of about her age, was going to Missouri on a fireworks run. I don't remember his name, which is probably just as well. That way I can't incriminate him.

What I can say is that my sister came home from work one day and told us he was going to Missouri. He'd offered to pick up fireworks for my brother and me if we had the money. We jumped at the opportunity. We pooled our funds and sent our money with her to give to her friend.

A few days later my sister told us he was back and arrangements were made for us to go pick up the goods. My brother and I were both too young to drive, and we lived outside of town. So we went with mom on a day when she was grocery shopping.

Being young at the time, not to mention naive, I didn't know how much it resembled a drug deal. We met in the parking lot of the store to make the exchange. We'd already given him the money so all he had to do was to give us the fireworks.

We followed him to his car where he opened up the trunk. We saw two paper bags filled with packages of fireworks wrapped with thin, colored tissue paper. Both bags were ours. I don't know about my brother, but I was thrilled to see how far our money had gone.

"Now, you're not going to be shooting these off in town, are you?" my sister's friend asked. Considering that fireworks were illegal in Iowa and that he could get in a lot trouble if we got caught, it was a legitimate question. If we were caught with fireworks, then he could get into trouble.

"Yeah, we're going to shoot them off right in front of the cop-shop," I replied in the typical smart-aleck fashion of a nine or ten year old.

I don't remember him saying anything more. Maybe he told us to be careful with them. Maybe my brother, who was three years older, jumped in to say we were going to shoot them off out in the country. What I do remember, to this day, are the words I said to him; Yeah, we're going to shoot them off right in front of the cop-shop.

Those words have haunted me since I can remember.

It wasn't like he knew me and he was doing me a favor. He only knew my sister. He was just doing it for me because of her. And I repaid his favor by being a jerk to him.

Looking back on my life, if there was ever just one thing I could do over, I would take back those words. It may seem inconsequential, just a smart-aleck response from a smart-aleck snot-nosed kid, but for some reason, those words have really bothered me.

If I could find him and ask, he probably wouldn't even remember it. I've asked my brother. He doesn't remember. It might be that I'm the only one in the world who remembers what I said to him. But it still matters to me.

Yes, there were worse things that I've done since then. We don't need to go into the gory details now. I'll leave that for later episodes. Let's just say I wasn't a perfect kid. I wasn't that bad, but I wasn't perfect.

So why would I choose this one, seemingly inconsequential to take back if I only had one thing in my life I could change? That's easy.

The rest of the things I did all add up to make me who I am today. When I get up in the morning, I look into the mirror. And I have to admit that I like the person looking back. If I were to go back and fix one of those things, one of those worse things, I might not be the same person I am today. I'm not willing to risk that. I consider them life lessons that I needed to learn to become the person I am.

I know that this incident also helped to shape who I am, especially considering the amount of time I've spent thinking about it. So maybe I don't want a do over on this either. After all, it was an important lesson I learned. Maybe it's okay to just say I regret what happened. And if you happen to be reading this and you're the man who used to work with my sister, and you remember a snot-nosed kid being a smart-aleck to you when you were just doing his sister a favor, then I would like to say, "I'm sorry."


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