When I was a scrawny kid standing barely four feet tall and weighing no more than forty pounds, my mother viewed me as a condensed package of pure trouble. She never wanted me near anything mechanical. She was taking no chances to give me any opportunity to break anything. She was certain that if I held my father’s “electric eye” movie camera I would drop it, the mix master was for someone else to use as I watched, and I should just forget about ever making a milkshake in the blender on my own. When I would enter a room when guests were visiting I was subject to “the look”, a fiercely watchful eye that screamed:
Mom: Don’t touch anything!
My dad would allow me to blow off steam and let loose my inner maniac. I would sit in the driver’s seat of his car where I would go crazy playing at the steering wheel. The engine was always off so there was no chance I could floor the accelerator I couldn’t reach and drive through a wall.
Fast forward to this year, early October. I’m walking down Hudson Street en route to my bank when I see a sight so incongruous, I almost throw out my neck: a mint condition Beatles lunchbox circa 1965 hanging off the handlebar of a stroller. It’s being pushed by a nanny tending three small fry. That happened to be the exact lunchbox I wanted when I was in first grade, but it cost more, so my mother bought me a compromise solution lunchbox featuring the Flintstones. The nanny’s charges were a tot of about two, a toddler girl around four and their big brother, a boy, I guessed was six and probably in first grade.
Me: Excuse me; I remember that lunchbox in my youth. May I photograph it?
Nanny: Of course! His father loves the Beatles. Everything with his daddy is the Beatles.
So this lunchbox belonged to the little schoolboy. I thanked her for her time and moved on imagining that Daddy was at least my age, obscenely wealthy, and Mommy was a trophy twenty-five years his junior. Later I researched what a Beatles lunchbox in mint condition is worth: about a thousand dollars. There’s one on eBay priced at $6,500. I wondered what that kid’s lunchbox would look like at the end of the school year. Dented, scratched and battered? Who in their right mind would allow a six-year-old to carry his PB&J sandwiches in a collector’s item that will only increase in value over time? This isn’t yeah, yeah, yeah, but no, no, no! I ordered myself to calm down. Who am I to dictate what people do with their collector’s items? Let it go, or how about, let it be?
At month’s end, I spent a weekend on the West Coast with my siblings, Dovima and Axel. My sister lamented about how she wished she still had the Beatle fan book that she bought in 1964.
Me: It’s in Dad’s house.
Dovima didn’t believe me, but I assured her it was indeed there. It took us two days to dig through the entirety of our family archives, but finally, I unearthed it buried deep in a file box tucked high on a shelf that had not been opened in well over thirty years. My sister was elated. Hero-me gloated.
As we looked through it for the first time in decades, Dovima, in her excitement turned to the third page, but I insisted:
Me: Turn back; let’s look at it from page one.
On the lower right corner of page two we saw this.
I have no recollection of when or why I wrote my name on it, but possibly it was for a school show and tell or maybe it was in frustration when my mother refused to let me set my own alarm clock or sharpen a pencil or ring the doorbell. Obviously, Mom did not keep me away from pens. I hope that that schoolboy with the Beatles lunchbox doesn’t follow my lead and do something stupid like give them all goatees. As for Dovima, when we saw that the autographed centerfold was still intact and unscathed, she breathed a sigh of relief. At least I managed to control my impulse to be the fifth Beatle, and I refrained from being the ultimate imbecile by signing my name with those of the lads from Liverpool.