It was always comforting to know that in the years of my youth, when I happened upon those moments that found me straying from the good advice of adults, there was usually some kind-hearted soul who would utter the four words that every mischief-plagued child loves to hear.
He’s just a kid.
Those words eased the feeling of guilt a bit, and they provided hope that the punishment that was to follow would be to a lesser degree, or better yet, dropped altogether.
I remember the days when I would come home, shivering and soaked to the bone from my sledding adventures at the Glenwood water tanks. I could only cross my fingers in hopes that my mom was in a forgiving mood. After all, I was just a kid.
“You dumb kid,” is how she often greeted me with a smile before stripping off my wet garments and tossing me in a warm tub to soak away the winter chill.
There were the Friday nights that I would attend the spook movies at the downtown Glen Theatre and come racing home in the dark, running as fast as possible, not knowing when Dracula or the Wolfman might jump out of an alley and try to take me away. Panting furiously, I would rush into the safety of my house, having avoided certain death once again.
My mom and dad often wondered why I went to the spook movies every Friday because they knew I got scared silly, and would proceed to sleep under my bed that night so various flesh eating monsters could not find me.
I was only a kid.
Oh those fun Saturdays in the fall of a far away time when we would gather on the front lawn at Glenwood Elementary, all of us clad in the uniforms of our favorite NFL team and play tackle football until the inevitable injury came. It was usually in the form of a scraped knee or elbow, but it was the signal that the end of play had come, with the vow to get together again the following weekend for another rough and tumble battle.
Always, before heading home, we would walk across the street to Mrs. Brockway’s house and have some cookies. Without fail, she would greet us with a smile and a plate of her famous chocolate chippers. Mrs. Brock would listen to our tall tales of how well we played football, patch up a few scrapes, and revel in our company.
She loved us kids.
I won’t ever forget the summer bike rides that seemed to be an endless journey, with no real destination in mind. It was all about the adventures along the way. The marvelous days spent at the Sayre Park baseball field, practicing and playing, eating pixie sticks, and being with friends that I was sure would be with me forever. How great it would be to relive the camping trips with my family, fishing, going to Disneyland, my dog Missy, life in Glenwood. Nothing would ever change and we would always be together.
We would always be kids.
Having some fun sledding with my kindergarten students on a recent mid-January afternoon, doing my best to stay dry, as my mom would have wished, I grew increasingly agitated with one of my little ruffians who refused to follow the rules of the day. I gave him a stern look, took away his sled, and banished him to the side of the hill.
A few minutes passed until I noticed the forlorn gaze on my little buddy’s face as he was forced to stand aside and watch as his classmates frolicked in the snow. Surely this must be the same look my mom and dad had endured from me, so many times, so many years ago.
Handing him back the sled, I asked that he do two things for his teacher: Be more careful, and have the time of his life. His smile lit up the day.
I couldn’t keep him away from the hill that was calling to him. His name is youth.
He’s just a kid.
I hope he always will be.
Mike Vidakovich won this year’s GSPI football picks feature by a landslide, but he’s taken the humble route and won’t write a column to brag about it. He obviously doesn’t share any chromosomes with Richard Sherman. He’s a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs, and his column appears monthly in the Post Independent.