Wonderful Years

 Today, I was at the Wonder Years
in-store acoustic show at FYE on Broad Street. It was a 1:00 show and I had a
hellish morning helping my mom move. I got there about 1:20, and the line was
filing in. My little brother had been waiting probably 35 minutes.

 The crowd was large – about 300
people of various ages, which, from my slowly-aging Old Head perspective was
sort of cool. There were the high school kids who were as effusive as ever, the
young college kids who’d swear they’ve aged out of outwardly exploding, the My
Age crowd taking it all in. You’d have seen yourself as you grew up if you
looked close enough. 

That’s exactly what I did through
the short set. I thought back to all the places I saw the band and, maybe more
interestingly, how I saw them. I was in a sparse room of ~40 at the Gibson House in
Marlton, NJ, asking, “Who?”; squeezed in the upstairs at the Khyber on 2nd
street in Philly with less than that, wondering if the owners knew they even had an upstairs;
pressed into Hot Topic with easily 100 others in the Cherry Hill mall for The Upsides, wearing a
t-shirt with a man punching a bear and hating college. I was angry in a church of at least 400 in Chalfont for a record release, and sneaking to the sides of the sold out TLA on South
Street, and stepped tranquilly up the stairs to the second floor of Union
Transfer, holding nearly 2000 others on Spring Garden. At every stop, I was in the midst of adding to who I
was. Today, the new lyrics and music hit me the same as they always do – like a
tackle that puts you on the ground only so you can look up.

 There was a signing upstairs after
the set. The staff haphazardly funneled everyone up to a table where the band
sat, genuinely and happily signing an item for everyone as they came through
despite needing to truck down 95 to Baltimore for another show. I’ve come to
pass on wading in the heart of a crowd and so had calmly stepped to the side of
the stage to watch, which pushed me to the back of the line for the autographs.
I saw nearly everyone come down the steps after they got their item signed.

 But what was really cool was the look on every young kid’s face as they came down. It was identical for each of them: a quiet but pronounced smile of
near disbelief at seeing the band in such an environment. They all had very
clearly and simply let the moment happen and the happiness announced itself before
there was even a chance to quiet it down. What made it so enjoyable to see was
exactly that. I’m at an age where I’ve had that very thing happen before, and
now it’s not nearly as big a deal.

 When it came time for me to get my
autograph, I pulled out a poster from The Upsides record release show in Chalfont on January 29th, 2010. There were five release shows; each had 30 screenprints of a different poster. I’ve had mine since that night and consider it a small piece of my heart. I can
look at it and know exactly where I was in my life and exactly where I’ve gone.
The band was almost caught off guard seeing it, but they signed it as anything
else and I moved on.

 Then, when I went down the steps with my item, I realized the very same smile had come to my face as I saw out of so many kids while waiting my turn . It’s
always unexpected, but never sent away.  

 Thanks, Wonder Years. I can always be a kid with you. 

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