Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When I was a Kid

I am going through some early childhood photos.

Except for stepping on an occasional rusted nail and the threat of trench mouth, life seemed safer back when I was kid.

Even though we rode bikes without helmets and Dad drove the car while drinking Hamm's and none of us ever wore seatbelts.

Our parents thought nothing of us playing outside until dark. We'd leave the house in the morning to play and our parents only worried if we didn't come home in time for dinner.

When you're a kid, you knew how to have fun. I could easily sit in a sandbox with Tonka toys or gallop around the backyard using the plastic tops off of my mother's Aqua Net Hair Spray for horse hoofs. Hoppity Hop, Hula Hoops and Pogo Sticks kept me entertained for hours during the day and Mister Bubbles kept me in the tub long after my fingers got shriveled and wrinkled.

My huge dream was to have my own typewriter and type as fast as Ted Bessell's character, Donald, who played Ann Marie's boyfriend on the TV Show, "That Girl". So one year for Christmas I got my wish. But it only had a plastic type-wheel. I would spin the dial around to locate the letter I wanted and then press down on a single key to type. And, no, I didn't learn to type that year. Or even the year after that. But I kept the dream.

I didn't get a weekly allowance. So I would sometimes knock on doors and sing and play my ukulele to any neighbor that would listen. The night my parents discovered my early entrepreneurial skills, they were in the kitchen counting and recounting their money to make sure they had enough to take us to see The Out-Of-Towners at the local Drive-In Theater. Being kids, we would always wear our pajamas to the drive-in and when I pulled my pants down over my shoes to undress, the coins jangled out of my pockets from my musical afternoon. My parents were not happy when I told them about my clever money-making ways.

I didn't see "The Out-Of-Towners" that night. They dropped me off, instead, at old Mrs. Wilson's house. Her house smelled of mothballs. She had a dish full of hard candy that was stuck together and covered in cobwebs. I grabbed one, anyway, and the entire plate lifted up with it. The next day I returned the money to my neighbors. I hung up my music career and took down my baby doll from the shelf and tied her around my waist with a belt and rode her around on my stingray bike.

Every child knows oreos taste best if you separate the cookie from the filling before eating them and sandwiches taste better when its cut in half diagonally. And no matter how long you bake your brownies under that Easy-Bake Oven light bulb, they will still stay gooey in the center. And licking the frost from the tether ball pole isn't a very good idea.

There were somber moments of childhood. The day you learned your best friend in class was moving out of town. Discovering your green rabbit's foot you carried around in your pocket was an actual foot of a dead rabbit. Ice cream falling off its cone and not having enough money to buy another one. Holding a funeral for a dead snail. Losing a tooth and discovering the Tooth Fairy forgot about it and it was still under your pillow when you woke up the following morning.

I remember skating on my adjustable rollerskates which fastened to the soles of my shoes with hard metal wheels. And yet, no matter how tight I fastened the leather strap around my ankle, it would still get loose and send me into a head dive down the sidewalk scraping and grinding tiny pebbles and sand into my arms and legs. I wouldn't cry until I ran all the way home to show my mom. She would kiss it and pour Mercurochrome on it and I'd scream even louder. I never broke a bone, but who didn't envy the kids who broke their arms and wore a cast filled with tattoos and autographs.

I used to pretend I had a sprained arm by wrapping it up in an ace bandage and then safety-pinning my brother's diaper together as a sling to rest it in. Sometimes I'd even wear it to school and show it off in Show & Tell. A few years later, while scouring the back of an Archies comic book, I found I could order a FAKE cast! And so I did! I waited for the mailman every day for an entire summer to deliver that cast. By the time it arrived, I was sitting at a table, too busy to notice. I was typing on a used typewriter my mom gave me .... my fingers flying across the keys.

I realized I grew up a little bit that summer. Outgrowing the fake cast and growing into a really fast typist. I really did learn to type as fast as I dreamed I could.

Donald and Ann Marie would have been so pleased.


danny said...

That is the most amazing account of what is was like to grow up in the 60's and 70's.
Your poignant tales are a never ending series of joy and rememberance, for those of us who lived those times.

loo said...

I love this post, Shawn. The part about you singing and playing your ukulele for some cash is just killing me. Thank you for sharing those memories. May your sandwiches always be cut in half diagonally.

petunia said...

Wow!!! that post was so awesome. Reading that takes me back to such a fun and innocent time. I love the part about the candy and how the whole plate lifted up. ha! What a visual. I think my grandmother had that same ribbon candy. We used to get an ice pick to pry it appart.

Monica said...

That story is so wonderful, no matter what time you grew up in. I think the memories are the same for each of us...playful times, serious time, and learning and growing times. It was so fun to read, thanks for sharing!

Janet said...

You took me back! We too always wore our pajamas to the drive-in,and we never bought the food there...we had a cooler full of drinks and snacks in the back.

ValGalArt said...

wow are we the same person? I can still smell the Mr. Bubble! very, very nice walk into our past!!!

Mark Martin said...

Hey. I was directed here by Janet at pencilmein.com. You said leave a note, so here is a note.

I can't believe your parents made you give that money back! Oh well. I'm a parent. Parents do stupid things, but they mean well. But STILL - wow. You shoulda been praised for taking the initiative to earn your own money, and doing it honestly and creatively.

What an ambition - to type like Donald! If you are going to be that honest, I'll be honest too and tell you I wanted buck teeth like Ernie on My Three Sons! I actually thought they looked cool! One time my older brother noticed me holding my teeth over my lip that way and said "What the heck are you doing?" Even then, I suddenly immediately realized I was doing something incredibly dorky, and then I immediately realized "What a stupid thing to want!" So I just told my brother "What? I'm not 'DOING' anything!" and I never held teeth that way again.

jim said...

great story!