“Kick the Can” is a poignant episode from the original Twilight Zone television series. I’ve come to know several of the sci-fi plots retrospectively as they’re shown on New Year’s Eve, but this one I remember seeing when it first aired in the early 60’s.
The setting is a rest home where old friends, relegated to finish their lives in rocking chairs on a porch and forgotten by most, look back on what it was like to be young. One night some of them steal outside, find a can, and kick it around; we hear the voices of children coming from the dark grassy yard beyond the house. The next night one man tries to get his friend to join them, but he refuses, and most of the residents disappear. Too late the friend glimpses him as a boy, who looks up for a moment and runs off.
When I saw it all those years ago, I felt so sorry for the old man who was left behind. He missed his chance. Now that I’m closer to his age, I think: I’m still the kid I was. Nobody can make me older than I want to be. Of course, the body doesn’t cooperate as well as it used to, but I can still make a lot of choices which lead to childlike happiness.
Interacting with grandchildren, volunteering in public school and church classrooms, and playing host to fourth graders at a local history museum give me energy, There’s nothing like sharing a good laugh with a bunch of kids. That’s probably what I miss most about day to day residence in a classroom.
I enjoy observing them, listening and talking to them, and asking questions of them. I’m not ashamed to say I often revisit books I read in school. I very much like to read aloud to elementary classes — it reinforces that children’s literature is still as good, the authors are just as wise and introspective, and the illustrations as pleasing as they ever were.
I don’t wish for going back to the time when we were young. I pay bills and taxes and do what I can about about peace, poverty, and the environment. But youth and its enthusiasm are all around us. It’s not necessary to go out in the yard and kick the can to find them.
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By the way, there are several books about the series, but highly recommended on Amazon is the one below. I always felt there was a companion to watch the program with…I just didn’t realize it was on paper (TZ theme music).