Scattered across the Interwebs you’ll see a profusion of lame nostalgia from folks who maintain that their childhoods were the most idyllic and utterly perfect because of our borderline neglectful parents, helmetless Big Wheel obstacle courses, afternoons binging on ’60s TV sitcom reruns, hours of Atari and gallons of fully sugared Kool-Aid.
I decline to wax rhapsodic about days past because nostalgia gets us absolutely nowhere as human beings. Nothing was ever as good as you remember it, and the examples people so enthusiastically offer up as “better times” are just the highlights they remember fondly. Mixed in with those amazing examples of freedom and adventure were those days where we said, “I’m bored” one too many times and our moms just locked us out of the house.
But one thing I do dwell on as the parent of two (really great) kids, is that there’s a lot of stuff I do as a dad that my own father would have done much differently, for better or worse. I don’t smoke, I don’t watch hours of football on Sunday at the exclusion of anything else, and I don’t spank. That said, I’m a little to quick to let my kids argue a point on which I won’t budge, a little too trusting, and I do occasionally wield a singing thump on the ear in an effort to carry that sense of menace those ’70s dads managed to maintain to keep household order.
But few of us can claim childhoods as messed up as the Godfather of Soul. Still, great art has a way of emerging from what would otherwise be considered trauma. So let Mr. Brown remind you that even though your dad might not have been Ward Cleaver (and whose ever is, really?), he probably still taught you some important stuff.