July 10th, A Saturday In 1976

I shall write of this day through and until its fiftieth anniversary in 2026.

At the beginning of the summer of 1976, I was a gangly, awkward, pipsqueak-voiced, bookworm and nerd.  I had been often verbally (and, sometimes, physically) bullied from sixth through tenth grades for being "different"; this bullying tapered off during my Junior year of high school, and vanished during the subsequent senior year.  During my senior year and through June of 1976, I had spent nearly the entire academic year as teaching assistant to the Chairman of the English Department of the high school; had graduated in the top ten percent of my class; had voted in a state-wide primary election; and had attained the newly revised age of legal consent on my birthday in June.

Still, I was too often recognized as "Fairy Jerry" (the appellation by which I was most often addressed some of my more uncouth classmates); and I was still, in both my opinion and my parents', still overshadowed by my parents' identity and authority---the identity and authority of Lloyd and Betty.

The time I had spent with BlueShift had shown me a lifestyle and a world that my parents' not only refused to acknowledge, but outrightly condemned.  The increase in the time I spent with him caused them to attempt to restrict me, and this attempt came to a radical and loud eruption on Wednesday night, July 7th, 1976.  Upon waking on Thursday morning, I found, during breakfast before work, that one of the "big box" stores was offering a sale on c.b. radios beginning on Friday, July 9th.  BlueShift very much wanted one, but could not afford it.  I had plenty of money saved---gifts from my several aunts and uncles, and cousins, for graduation.  I announced to my parents that I would concede to their desire to go to college, and complete at least my freshman year at the college they had chosen for me seven years before, if . . . and only if . . . they did not interfere with the purchase, installation, or operation of a mobile c.b. unit in my car.  With obvious contempt, they agreed to this condition.

On Friday evening, July 9th, 1976, BlueShift and I selected and purchased a Midland C.B. Radio, and later that evening it was installed in the front passenger's side of my Ford Pinto (1975), and made fully functional.  We drove around our local vicinity for some time, and I was amazed to listen to BlueShift's command of the c.b.'s verbal style.  But I could not think of a handle of my own; those I came up with were, to be candid, insipid---the way I felt that my life had been and was continuing to be.  In the wee hours of Saturday the 10th's morning, BlueShift and I agreed to meet again Saturday, just at dusk, and go to the drive-in theater.

I spent the morning and afternoon of Saturday morning, the tenth, unable to think of a viable handle.  At dusk, I walked out to the driveway in front of my parents' house and watched as the dawn light began to sink below the western horizon, and the stars began to emerge just over the eastern horizon.  In a few moments. BlueShift began to walk from the home of his guardians (his sister and brother-in-law), down the slope of our dead-end street, to my parents' home.  He asked me, as he approached, what I was doing.  I replied that I was watching the stars come out; and that I guessed I was a Starwatcher.  We looked at each other for a silent moment---that moment when one feels like a thousand symphonies have just played a beautifully transcendent chord, and, at the edge of the cosmos, a thousand nascent stars have emerged from nebulous clouds to ignite and constellate according to the verbal beauties of Poetry.  I looked at him and said, "That's it, isn't it?  That's the handle, Starwatcher."  He agreed that it seemed so to him.

But in that moment of discovery, also, I felt the upheaval of a two burdens being lifted from my shoulders, to speak metaphorically.  The identity of "Fairy Jerry" was pulverized and collapsed into nothingness, by Starwatcher, that very moment.  Also, Starwatcher had never, and would never, stand in the shadow of Lloyd and Betty, my parents.  The removal of these burdens was almost palpable and tangible.  I breathed a sigh of relief that had been waiting for years to escape.  Starwatcher, as a handle and an identity, would remain with me on September 9th, when my parents transported me almost an hour's drive northeast to the small private college they had selected for me; it saw me through the radical transition of matriculation; it would read, with me, the great novel, Doctor Zhivago (my first conscientious exposure, however obliquely, to the presence of the Orthodox Church in Russia),  which I read during my last collegiate, and long, weekend of the freshman year's first term, Saturday, November 20th through Tuesday, the 23rd; and it returned with me to my small hometown on the 23rd where I learned it had been protected by my friends on channel 22.  It continued to sustain me through the long Christmas break---perhaps the finest and most fitting conclusion to the year 1976, the year in which I was freed of my burdens.  Starwatcher became part of the fabric of my life; in the seventies most vocally (until morphing into Starward here at PostPoems); although in the eighties and nineties, it submerged for a while and I feared it lost.  

During those first weeks with our c.b., we began to realize that our radio carried a defect from the factory---that it broadcast a signal more powerful than the 5 watts the FCC then allowed.  It also distorted my pipsqueak voice by removing the pipsqueak aspect, so that when speaking on the c.b., I sounded like a low baritone rather than a high-pitched high tenor.  During the subsequent summer, several of new friends that we met in person were shocked that I was "Starwatcher," and they looked to BlueShift for verification of who I actually was.


View j-c4113d's Full Portfolio
cynosure's picture

Thank you for sharing

Your celebratory journey of self-discovery and transformation is an amazing read. It is also unfortunately, at times, much too relatable reading of those difficulties and struggles you faced. However, hearing how you were able to shed those old, socially enforced identities and embrace a new one that truly resonated with you, is powerful. The way you describe finding your handle, Starwatcher, is so beautifully. It is so important to see and learn how you found the strength and freedom through this process. The bond you formed with BlueShift and the adventures you shared with your c.b. radio sound like truly transformative, magical memories that shaped your path. Thank you for sharing this moment of growth and liberation with us.

Alliswend bin ich nicht, doch vie list mir bewußt.

J-C4113d's picture

Thank you for that very

Thank you for that very encouraging comment.  There is still more to come, as Starward morphs into J-Called..  Although I do not fully understand the path upon which God has placed me, nor fully understand the terrain that surrounds my path, my Faith tells me to continue because there are great promises and joys at the conclusion of that path.

I very much appreciate your kind words, and the time you invested in reading my essay.