Monday, November 06, 2006

Rub some dirt on it!

How did we survive it? How did our parents dress us in toughskin pants with matching jackets and send their precious children off into the world expecting us to return home in one piece? How did most of us not end up six feet under or at best hairless and scarred drooling through chipped teeth and blinking yes or no answers to our personal attendants with our one weeping cloudy eye?

Childhood is not for sissies, people. At least not the kind of childhood I had. And when I stop to think about it I'm stunned that me and my crew didn't end up being the subject matter for an after-school special on the dangers of playing with your fathers power tools in the pool. If Stone Phillips was around in the 70's when the hooligans on my street were in full-force we'd have been a weekly segment warning parents about things like the evils of empty boxes that do not make decent boats in rain storms to sail down slick iceplant-covered slopes with prickle bushes at the bottom.

I can't believe that only a few of us took trips to the emergency room to get patched up after doing something brilliant like trying to race down a giant kid-eating hill. It's a wonder there weren't more summers spent keeping a cast dry by wrapping it in plastic sheeting sealed with electrical tape.

I am pathologically accident-prone. Seriously, I should be studied. But I'm not talking about the clumsy mishaps and daily discomforts I suffer because the universe laughs at my pain. I'm talking about the death-defying risks kids take because their brains are made of cheese and the stupidest most unbelievable things seem like the greatest idea you've ever had when you're 11 and your parents are out somewhere and left you alone with your best friend who saw this cool thing on TV and he's sure if you get a sheet big enough it'll act like a parachute when you jump off the fucking roof.

By the way, 200 thread count flowered bed linens tied to a pair of your father's suspenders do not poof out with a billowy pop and sustain the air thereby gently floating a chubby child onto the ground. They in fact do nothing but land on top of you then you get in trouble for fucking up your mom's good sheets after you get home from the emergency room getting your broken arm reset and wrapped in plaster. (No, I was never stupid enough to jump off the roof with a sheet tied to my ass, give me some credit. That was my friend.)

I have a feeling things are different nowadays. I never see any kids in my neighborhood playing outside or by themselves very often and riding your bike to the store to get candy on a Saturday afternoon? Forget it. Mom will drive you. And I understand that. There are too many crazies and too many people and like I said in my previous post, I'd be such a nervous nelly if I had kids they'd be tethered to the couch swathed in bubblewrap and wouldn't be allowed to make a move without checking with me first.

But when we were kids it was a free-for-all of danger. We did handstands on skateboards and put together go-carts made from rusty nails and old shingles then sailed them down our driveways and across the street without even checking to see if cars were coming. We had rubberband fights and kick wars and let's tease the dobermans then run up onto the swingset before they eat our faces races. (Alright, that one was me.)

We played red-rover red-rover, which I still bear a scar from, and smear the queer and some twisted game called statue maker where one kid would grab you by the arm and swing you around as fast and hard as they could, sending you sailing across the lawn where you'd tumble and sputter eating a mouthful of sod until you finally stopped catapulting across the yard and you'd have to freeze in whatever broken heap you'd landed in becoming a hilarious "statue" with a broken collar bone.

We tried to jump ravines with our Huffy's and dared each other to eat stuff out of our mother's medicine cabinets. (Don't get hyper, it was only laxative gum.) We set up a zip-line tied between 2 trees running across the creek and was a good 6 feet off the ground which held all summer long. Until I took a ride where I swiftly went crashing to the ground knocking myself completely unconscious while all the retarded kids I was with just stared at me. (They were so fucking useless!)

We had lawn darts and cars without seatbelts and spent all summer in the pool trying to see how high we could bounce off the diving board. We rode in the back of pick-up trucks, (My brother actually made me lay in the bed of his truck, covered me with a tarp and tied me in on a 1000 mile trip from Colorado to California when I was 15. Can you imagine?), and spent every moment we could traipsing through our rattlesnake-inhabited hills climbing enormous rocks and constructing forts in the bushes to hide stolen Playboys from our parents and smoke hallow twigs like cigarettes. (That was, unfortunately, also me.)

We got hurt all the time and were persuaded by our friends not to tell anyone since it was their idea to play fight with pool cues and bare hands which resulted in a hearty thwap on tender knuckles. We would brain each other with pillows and snap wet towels right at your eye. We folded each other in half to see who could kiss their own butt, sometimes without permission from the butt kisser.

It seemed like our folks never knew where we were. We might have said we were going across the street to so-and-so's house but who knows where we ended up. Our mothers called no one and we were hardly supervised. Until someone started screaming or crying or there was an explosion. Then we'd hear footsteps thundering down a hallway where the door would crash open with a parent poking their head in the room and shouting "what are you damn kids up to?!?"

I carry the marks and memories of my youth, and my back never was the same after that zip-line debacle, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, maybe I'd skip the time I thought it would be fun to lean 8 inches over a strip of roll caps and smash them with a hammer. I don't think my eyesight has ever been the same.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Caroline said...

I haven't laughed so hard in, well, ever. You are so right. Kids today are all too busy going to travel soccer and supervised playdates to have any damn fun. Long live the 70s!

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