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Advice From My Eight-Year-Old Me

Dear Ray,

You’re all grown up now, and have probably forgotten a lot of the things you used to do. But I just want to remind you of some of my favorite stuff, which I hope maybe you’ll take some time to do just because it’s fun and why not enjoy your life even if you are old?

Okay, so maybe you can’t sprint and hop places anymore, or do cartwheels, or explore in the sewer. But I’m sure you can still pick up a stick and poke things. A stick is great because it’s free and you can poke under places that you probably wouldn’t want to stick your hand, and maybe a cool bug, or even a snake will come crawling out. Or you can reach high places and poke and maybe knock down a nut or a piece of fruit to eat, or at least to throw at the next kid who comes around the corner.

And don’t always pick the food you think a grownup should eat; why not just pick what you like sometimes, like a hamburger and fries and a chocolate malt? You’re not going to live forever, and a hamburger isn’t going to be the reason you die, anyway; you’ll probably get hit by a bus or a meteor, or the Russians will attack and everyone will die, but first everyone will go hide in the basement of the school and play Monopoly and Parcheesi for a few days.

Remember that sometimes even Superman gets in trouble. No matter how good you try to be, sometimes bad things happen, or maybe it looks like the bad guys are going to win. But somehow things all work out in the end, always just in time for the Bugs Bunny Show.

Please don’t spend all day at your desk. After a few minutes, you’ll find yourself staring off in space, or drawing a picture in your math book, or worse yet, grabbing Joanie’s ponytail and giving it a yank, which only gets you into big trouble with Mrs. Grimm. So you’ve got to figure out ways to get away from that desk as often as you can. Fortunately, there’s always a pencil that needs sharpening, or the dictionary across the room to look for goofy words. And thank God for morning and afternoon recess, and lunch and gym and assemblies and library, and especially field trips. Also, don’t forget you can volunteer for things that’ll get you out of your desk, too, like running messages to the office, or passing out milk, or handing back papers, or even cleaning the blackboard. The more chances you have to get away from your desk, the better you’ll feel, and somehow the work always gets done, anyway.

One or two cookies at a time are really enough. When you see that whole plate full of cookies waiting on the table after school, you’re gonna want to eat them all, but trust me, I’ve done that and things didn’t work out so well. One or two are usually plenty, especially if you have them with a big glass of cold milk, and you can always pocket a couple for later, in case you’re worried your brothers will eat them all up while you’re at the playground.

Sometimes you think things are going to be a lot more fun than they really are. When I saw the Sullivan brothers burning big black ants with a magnifying glass until they popped it seemed like the coolest thing in the world, but when I got out Grandpa’s magnifying glass and tried to fry them myself it just seemed horrible and mean, and I usually wound up crippling the poor little ants so they hobbled around and couldn’t even carry their bread crumbs anymore. It’s much more fun to just step on them and hear them go CRUNCH.

Old toys are the best. You know how you can’t wait until it’s your birthday because you’re going to get this robot toy you’ve been wanting forever, and then you finally open up the box and it winds up taking all day for Dad to put it together, and then it doesn’t work like it did on TV and the first time you accidently drop it down the stairs the motor stops. New toys can break your heart. On the other hand, something like a bag full of marbles lasts forever and you can think of a million different ways to use them, like bombing cardhouses and killing Nazis, and pretending they’re gold and carrying them on dumptrucks from the mine, or of course just playing a game of marbles with them. But don’t play with Jack, the banker’s kid, because he only plays for keeps, and he’s got like a million marbles, so that should tell you something.

It’s fun to play the piano, even if you’ve never had lessons. I love to try to figure out songs on the piano that I hear on the radio. I can only play one note at a time, but sometimes I sing, too, and the piano helps me sing the tune in the right place. Also, if you press on the right pedal of the piano, the sound goes on forever and ever, and the more notes you play, the more sound it makes. But close the door to the music room first, or your sister might yell at you.

And always remember what Mom says, “It’s a beautiful day. Go out and play.” Mom’s right.

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