Once upon a time, I lived for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I was ten years old and my family had just moved to back to Oklahoma from Norway. It was a culture shock to say the least. I had trouble fitting in with the kids at my new school and I seemed to be out of the loop on what was “cool”.
When we moved back to the states, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were just starting to make waves in Europe and were my new favorite toy of choice (sorry Rock Lords). However, while the Turtles were new in Norway, they were already OLD NEWS in the States.
My initial conversations with new classmates went something like this (condensed for effect):
“Hey guys! Do you like Ninja Turtles?”
“No. Go play with Zach. He’s a dork like you.”
Zach was my only friend in fourth grade. He had severe ADHD. However, back then, it was just called “being hyperactive”. The only thing we had in common was we liked the Ninja Turtles. That was enough for me to want to hang out with him (for a little while anyway). When we played Turtles at his house, he generally wound up eating too many fruity pebbles which turned him into an uncontrollable flailing lunatic. I think I saw his eyes roll into the back of his head a few times. This would prompt his mom to come in and give him a good dose of Kick In The Ribs. This would bring him down long enough to have April O’Neil’s action figure make out with Shredder, only to lose his sanity again to the fruity pebbles.
Needless to say I couldn’t bear the thought of staying friends with Zach even though we shared this love of the Turtles.
So, I became a lone wolf. I was that kid sitting in the middle of the playground playing a game I called “Throwing Tiny Pebbles At Other Tiny Pebbles” to pass the time. In retrospect, as silly as this may sound, the Turtles were perhaps the “friends” I needed to push through that transitional time.
Donatello was my favorite. I think because a makeshift bo staff was more readily available than twin katanas or nunchucks. We lived on a 300 acre farm so I could find a long stick, journey into the woods around my house, pretend I was Donatello and imagine countless scenarios where trees were foot soldiers and I was kicking the shit out of them.
I loved being a Turtle. It was my escape from the trials of being a kid transitioning into a new country, a new life and new asshole kids who wouldn’t accept me because I liked something they didn’t.
This story reminds me of why I LOVE what I do. It’s the memories associated with T-shirts that make me reminiscent and melancholy. Sometimes the memories are good and sometimes they aren’t so good. But they are mine and hold a special place in my DNA makeup. They’ve made me who I am today.
Which is why I love this vintage Donatello T-shirt:
It reminds me of a different time. A time before my hot wife and beautiful daughter, when I wasn’t sure what would become of me. Would I be okay? Would I ever make friends? Would I make it through recess without breaking into tears? Life is a journey and in some roundabout way, T-shirts remind me of that.
Which brings me to one more point: Don’t let your kids be little assholes. Little assholes grow up to be big assholes. I remind my daughter all the time to be nice to everyone. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remind her to be kind. You never know what effect your words and actions have on other people. Thankfully, through strong faith and an undying desire to do good, I moved past the negativity in small part to the Ninja Turtles. The funny thing about life is, you never know what’s gonna pull you through.
I love being a Turtle.