Last week I wanted to cry. I am a 44-year-old, red-blooded American man who once killed a wild boar with an old TV Guide, and I felt like crying like a little bit……
….well let’s just say like a baby.
After 40 years my mother had decided to sell the home of my youth and move to Henderson Nevada (yeah I know, Henderson! WTF?). The movers had left and the keys were being handed over to a new family. They seemed like nice people but it pained me to imagine another family living in that house.
When I was a child, I was convinced that there was “treasure” hidden in that house. A coin collection, a gold watch, or perhaps some valuable paintings were hiding in the garage rafters, at the top of a clothes closet, or some other area beyond where my arms could reach or my eyes could see.
Childhood fantasy probably played into that notion, but I think it was more related to the fact that my parents had accumulated a lot of stuff from my grandparents over the years. Grandparents are ancient to a little kid, which means that the things they owned were ancient, and since everyone knows that anything ancient is valuable; well you get the rest of the picture.
As I grew up I slowly (and reluctantly) began to realize that there was no hidden treasure in my parent’s house. The things that were old were just that….old. Yet up until the moment that those keys were turned over, I was still searching for something that had greater value than anything I had imagined as a child, and that I knew for certain was there at one time.
At the age of seventeen I was the only one of my friends who did not have a fake ID. Some used their older brother’s expired license, some were good at forgery, and some had got theirs through the “DMV scam”.
To pull off the DMV Scam you first bought a blank baptismal certificate from a Catholic supply store. Then you mixed water and dirt in a spray bottle. After filling in the necessary info on the certificate, you sprayed it with the muddy water and popped it in the over on low for about 20 minutes, in order to “age” the document.
If you had the guts, you could take that baptismal certificate into your local DMV and come away with a perfectly legal fake ID. I didn’t have the guts so I decided to go a less risky way.
Cream was one of those music magazines that came out of the 60′s and acted like punk and new wave never happened. It was totally dedicated to covering dinosaur Rock n Roll and there was no better place to find out about the new Molly Hatchet album or what type of guitar the lead singer of .38 Special played.
In the back there were ads where you could send away for everything from Hendrix posters to certain types of “paraphernalia”. You could also send away for out of state “licenses”, the unstated but implied concept being that you could use them at a liquor store where the proprietor’s ignorance of South Dakota ID card design provided the opening you needed to pass for twenty-one.
I borrowed a tie and a button down shirt from my father’s closet, hung a white sheet on the wall, and set my mother’s 35mm camera on a tripod. My bedroom was transformed into a photo studio, and with the help of the auto timer I snapped a picture for my ID card.
But what about the name? I couldn’t use my own in case it was confiscated by some bouncer and I had to make a run for it. In a youthful “Dirk Diggler” moment, I decided to pick the name of my favorite drummer; Tony Thompson.
A week later I got the picture from the Fotomat, put it, the order form, and ten bucks in an envelope and dropped it in the mail.
I waited, and waited, and waited for that ID to come, but it never did. Somehow I managed to find enough alcohol to make it through high school without a fake ID and went on with my life, never again thinking of the cruel commie bastards who got my hopes up, and then stole my ten bucks.
My 40th birthday party was a small affair with family and friends. It’s a milestone as birthday’s go. A half way point in life and a time to look around to reflect on where you are at and the journey that brought you there.
I was at a pretty good place, the only exception being the absence of my father who had passed away when I was twenty. I wished he was there, but I had a proxy in the form of his lifelong best friend who was in attendance with his wife.
“Happy birthday buddy,” he said as he handed me a gift wrapped box.
“You are not supposed to do this. We said no gifts,” I protested.
“Just shut up and just open it…..”
When I peeled back the paper I found a bound series of poster boards shown below.
“Okay, not sure what this is,” I muttered thinking it was some attempt at humor that I just wasn’t grasping.
“Really? You don’t remember any of this, ‘Tony Thompson’….?”
He proceeded to tell me of a phone call he got in 1985 from my father. At first he thought my father was crying, but soon realized he was laughing so hard he could barely speak. He told him how for the last few weeks, every time I came how from school the first thing I said was, “did any mail come for me today?”
Then one day while going through the mail my father found an item addressed to “Mr. Tony Thompson.” Not recognizing the name he opened it up to see if there was anything inside indicating if it went to a neighbor. The ID card inside showed it was correctly sent to our house, and the photo of the goofy teenage kid, wearing his father’s shirt and tie, showed exactly who it was meant for.
My father and his friend laughed about it for days, and a plot was hatched. My father put the ID away for safekeeping and on my 40th birthday was going to “present” it to me. He of course had no way of knowing he would not live to see that day.
Long after my father passed away, his friend reminded my mother of this story. She looked and looked through the house to try and find the ID, but never could. It was odd because my father was very neat and organized, one of those people who had a place for everything. But she could never find “that place.”
I laughed out loud when I realized what the gift meant. My father had a great sense of humor and was always making me and my friends laugh, and he managed to do it once last time from beyond the grave.
In the years since that night, occasionally when I visited my mother I would “wander” around the house, trying to see if there was some place I had missed where that ID had been hidden. I wanted that it more than ever, but was never able to find it.
The family that moved into the house was very nice. A young couple with two kids who have a lifetime of memories ahead of them. As the keys were handed over to them, I gave them my phone number and told them this story, just in case someday they come across that lost piece of “treasure.”