What’s crazy about childhood is that you only get the one. It’s a completely unique time in your life that you don’t get to redo or repeat or categorize ever. Today we can have seconds of practically everything, from a second go-around at marriage to even a second wave of adulthood.
As “grown ups” we get to have our different groups of friends where we get to play our various roles. Different personality traits pop out depending on our mood or surroundings. We even so much as to label parts of our life in “phases.” “Oh, yeah, that was when I was going through my Led Zepplin phase, bro.” “Oh, that’s when I was going through my going green phase.”
But not childhood, nah-uh. You get the one. You don’t get a “childhood phase” or mood or group of friends. Age six to fourteen, you got the one mood, the one phase, the one groups of friends, and that’s it.
I am happy to say I am still friends with a lot of my buddies that I have had since childhood, though I will go on to say that we’ve all since gone through growing pains, parted ways, and soon passed on to becoming adult friends, or “old friends” as grandfathers who sit on fishing boats may say. It’s the best of both worlds really. We get to talk about the job interviews and drink beers together now, but we also get to reflect on the times of way back when.
Besides the friends you’ve kept along the way, though, our childhood sits crookedly in our junk drawer mind. It can’t be cleaned out or sold. The only thing that happens to your childhood is it’s ideas fade or stories get hyperbolized.
I never really realized how much I had forgotten or misremembered from my childhood until last week when I was hashing out the tiny details of it with my best “old” friend, John. We laughed about the one we had had and were thankful it was one we shared. When an experience is shared, it validates that it happened. And the actions of the story almost become moot by then. Instead, it’s about the feelings you had when it happened, because, let’s face it, a child is nothing more than a super confused tiny person. Nostalgia is a very tactile sensation.
John and I talked about our one childhood, our one dress/ superman tie we wore to Homecoming freshmen year, our one group of crushes we had and the kisses we slipped in with so and so’s boyfriend/girlfriend who later kissed so and so and on to so and so. (We were so incestual back then it was disgusting.) Those one nicknames we gave to those few people we never saw again (Gerbil, Buffalo, Hotdog) and the lame explanations with why we called them that in the first place (he was short, she was fat, she once ate a Hotdog). Probably the funnest part of the hash out was realizing a dominant figure we both had in our childhood, and yet someone we were never close with nor knew what happened to.
Everyone has a Fabian Lovato from growing up. The town legend. The bad kid in class. That kid with blaringly obvious physical features that would make drawing a characature of him an easy beginners assignment for any amateur sketch artist. Fabian Lovato managed to be a side character in many tiny playground stories, though I couldn’t honestly tell you anything about him beyond the elementary school walls.
I don’t know what Fabian Lovato’s home life was like, but I remembered he had a long stringy rat tail that trickled down the back of his neck. I don’t know what kind of grades he got in school, but I remember his short and scrawny stature and his voice that was resonant of a young Cheech or a tired Speedy Gonzolas. I’m not sure he even knew my name or anything about my life, but I knew, and I still know, that he mattered being in it. Because I only got the one childhood, and Fabian Lovato was one of the few kids who got to join me.
I wouldn’t say I grew up in a small town, but I will say it was like any community that was not Chicago, LA, big city-esque. My elementary classes topped out at about twenty kids per class, and our neighborhood was one where families rarely moved. So essentially you got to know your lot of about sixty kids pretty well. The fact that I have over seven hundred friends on facebook (who I can scan through and readily explain how I know them) it is only natural that spending nearly five to twelve straight years with a mere sixty children would lead to many common occurrences in flashback stories.
The best names come from these stories. Dustin Ransdale, with his high pitched voice that matched his high pants. Heather Kyle, the pretty country bumpkin who had a southern accent even though we lived in Colorado. Marcus Cole, who told everyone he had a brain tumor and that they used locus to suck out the blood when in the end none of it was true. Chase Steinberg, the first kid with glasses that turned into sunglasses when he went outside. Aaron Casey, that fucking asshole who smacked me in the face when I told him to “shhhh.” There’s quite a cast of them, like the funny townspeople from Gilmore Girls who occasionally popped by in similar settings but not enough to where you had the urge to see what happened to them outside of the two lines they were given.
Fabian reigns king of these characters. I remember his mouth full of silver cavities and his evil cackle when he was up to no good. I remember him knocking shit off desks like a bully, only he was too small in his JNCO jeans to even be considered a bully. He was your classic class clown and problem child. I remember him smoothly going in and out of my life like a beloved frenemy. Sometimes his appearance was welcomed and worth a laugh, other times I just hated the prick.
Fabian, like most childhood memory leeches, had a sidekick, Tyson Lopez. He was opposite stature than the little rat tail boy. Tyson was a big dude with a big buzz cut head and pudgy arms. He walked like a tank, or like a memorable Pixar child. Unlike Fabian, I remember Tyson always being an asshole, never a kid who made his way safely on my good radar. In fact, Tyson Lopez was the first time I doubted Santa Clause due to the fact that when Tyson got back from winter break he was bragging about all the shit he got for Christmas. I remember thinking that if shitty Tyson Lopez got gifts then there was no way Santa existed, or at the very least, he was incredibly lenient on the so called “naughty list.”
What’s weird about Tyson is I am fairly certain he grew up okay, thinned out and got married. In other words, I know what happened to him, which makes his character less interesting in the end. Fabian, on the other hand, and like most town legends, seemed to disappear from existence entirely. I don’t remember him past age 14. And it wasn’t because his family moved away either, (as explained before, nobody did that). One day, Fabian was gone.
Here are my Fabian Lovato stories. Check out what a chameleon he was.
- Second Grade. Fabian was escorted off the music show stage for refusing to stand close to a girl he really didn’t like, (that no one liked) and instead proceeded to dance around obnoxiously in the front of the stage, milking it all for the laughs, instead of falling back and singing Waltzing Matilda just like the rest of us.
- Third Grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Flynn, was so infuriated with our class that she forced us to sit in silence for three minutes and Fabian Lovato just couldn’t…fucking…do…it. He spent the whole time choking in a laugh and making trumpet sounds. Eventually, like two minutes and thirty seconds in, he finally blurted out an incoherent and desperate sentence, with our class laughing hysterically. Mrs. Flynn gives. It was that fucking funny.
- One summer. I went to a wedding with my mom and Fabian, outside of school context, was there at the reception. I remember sitting there in shock as Fabian proceeded to pop every single balloon on the dance floor and practically ruin the joy of the reception. His mom, I remember, didn’t do anything and was wearing overalls and an orange shirt.
- Third Grade. After I storm inside crying at the shock of being smacked in the face by that douche bag Aaron Casey, Fabian comes over, checks out my red cheek, looks at Aaron and says “You don’t hit a girl, dude. That’s messed up.” I remember smiling a little at the validation this class clown gave me. You’re right, Fabian, that was messed up.
- Fifth grade. Our teacher let us plan the Valentine’s Day party and I had the brilliant idea to couple everyone in the room off to dance together. (Why, Mrs. Peck, did you let me be the party planning leader??) I was suppose to go with Fabian, and I remember hoping he would help me break the ice by dancing funny with me in front of everyone. Like a real legit comedy duo. But he just sat therre, like the rest of the class, arms folded, embarrassed, as I shamefully erased the couple filled chalk board.
See? Legend. And I know these stories may be flawed in what actually happened. Even as I scratch my brain for these, they seemed to be under a silk screen or at the very least fuzzy around the edges. Remembering Fabian sure makes me feel old.
But my lack of clarity doesn’t change the fact that the kid pops up everywhere for not just me, but others from that time. Jumping on the nostalgia train with old friends, I got these quotable gems.
“I just remember Fabian had a laugh that showed off his silver molars.”
“One time we were looking at a penguin picture book and this one had crazy hair and I said, ‘Wow, talk about a bad hair day.’ The class burst into laughter. We turned the page to show a penguin with greenish skin. Jealous, Fabian had to outshine me and say, ‘talk about a bad skin day.’ But no one laughed. I remember feeling so pumped that I was funnier than Fabian.”
“ He had the longest rat tail ever. And he would tuck it in the back of his shirt like a badass.”
And I know what the adult in you is probably saying. Where was his mother? Obviously he was ADD. He probably failed out of school with that behavior. Insert semi-racist thought here.
But we were fucking kids, dammit. Fabian was a completely color blind, gender blind, disorder blind, intellect blind legend to us. We knew him, liked him, disliked him, but most of all, we let him under our skin, without any question of who he was or what was his purpose. We let him affect us. We let him creep into our memories, and I think in the end, he molded us a little bit. I miss those kind of characters in life. You only get them the one time: the one time you’re a kid.
Fabian Lovato was that epic kid that only exists in stories like Maniac Magee or The Sandlot. He was that kid that if you came across him in an old yearbook, you’d point him out to your wife or husband or spouse and say, “Oh my God, this kid. This kid.”
I sometimes wonder if he recognized his power back then. If he knew so many would remember his molars and rat tail. And while I wonder about whatever happened to him, I am more thankful that I don’t know. The worst feeling in the world would be to learn that the class clown who barged out of Mrs. Rossman’s sixth grade classroom when she told us, “if we don’t like it we can get out!” turned ill, or got into drugs, or wasted away. Or, what’s worse, if he grew up and turned out normal like the rest of us.
I think what was so fun about Fabian Lovato nostalgia is that he heightened the one childhood I had. Knowing that he slid in and out of my youth (the last memory I have of him is in high school I was driving in a car with him and Cameron Lyle for some reason. Like I got a ride to go to a friends or something. I remember thinking, “this is weird.” I don’t know, so fuzzy…) reminded me that I had a pretty damn good one. With each quip, I remember how I felt instead of thought, be it giddy, or embarrassed, or validated, or frustrated, it’s good to know that I experienced childhood with the wide array of confused emotions I was suppose to have.
Because now I am in post-college young adult life going through a “cardigan phase” with my groups of comedy friends, Colorado friends, and LA buddies, and with an ever changing job, interests, philosophy (pretty much a full atheist now, my brother would be proud) and with a second stab at a new city.
Whereas Fabian Lovato is propped up nicely on my memory shelf, in the one childhood I got to have.
– One L
“Was it weird? Did I act weird?” “Well, Alison, you did hug the girl for no reason.” “Oh. Woops.”