Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Sunday Morning and I'm Still Not Dead Yet...But That's Not Because My Parents Weren't Trying!

I've mentioned that I'm a little amazed that my generation exists. The fact that we survived childhood is nothing short of miraculous. Playgrounds were built of stuff designed to choke you and break bones. The jungle gym was situated on packed earth if not concrete, clearly an admonition to fall on a hard surface from a height of 9' or more and suck it up you little pansy. The swings were an invitation to swing as high as you could and then see who could parachute-jump the furthest from the top of the arc...once again to the hardest surface available. The merry-go-round was a challenge to hang on as long as you could while your friends turned the thing as fast as possible. Of course, you could hang on while it was spinning at moderate speeds; you didn't lose your grip until centrifuge velocities were achieved...and you went flying. It was considered the ultimate in good form if you took out a couple of other little kids during flight. Another fun game was to slide off of your side of the see-saw when your friend on the opposite side was as high as you could get him...causing him to learn interesting things about the existence of the coccyx...once you stopped giggling about the word itself.

Helmets? Knee-pads? Elbow-pads? Gloves? Even if they had existed, you'd have never gotten us to wear that stuff. In hindsight, this stuff all seems more-or-less benign ignorance. My mom used to tell how she and her sisters used to take their little brother in his baby carriage to the top of a hill in Scranton, PA and let it roll to the bottom of the street all on its own...with him in it. Compared to that, we were leading utterly sheltered lives.

But that doesn't explain some of the toys they bought us. Each of us received our own set of Clackers. This toy had any number of problems. Used correctly, they tended to send acrylic chips flying and even if the chips didn't actually get your eye, damn they smarted. If you weren't terribly coordinated, (a word that just perfectly describes childhood), you'd usually end up smashing an arm or finger between the two little balls once you got them really going. And forget the fact that children are notorious for inventing alternate games for toys they've grown bored with...such as, hey, these look like bolos...let's throw them at each other!

We also got a set of Lawn Darts. These were awesome! When we first got them, we were (briefly) satisfied with trying to hit the little target that came with the darts...but that didn't last. We decided it would be more fun to use balloons as targets. A hit yielded a most satisfying "pop"...when the dart didn't just bounce off and fly in a completely unpredictable direction. We decided that bounce might be dangerous, so we solved the problem by going to a neighbor's fathers workshop. The electric grinder had those darts needle-sharp in no time flat. Yup. Much safer that way.


Anonymous said...

I can remember as a child, jumping up and down in the back seat of my parents Impala, while barreling down the highway.

Those were the good old days, and I think our generation is much tougher because of it.

Anonymous said...

I can remember as a child, jumping up and down in the back seat of my parents Impala, while barreling down the highway.

Those were the good old days, and I think our generation is much tougher because of it.

Random Michelle K said...

You had store bought toys?!

My most memorable childhood toy was a refrigerator box. We spent months playing with that thing until finally it ended its life as a slide.

BTW, in 5th or 6th grade one of my classmates got his front teeth kicked out by a kid on a swing. (Actually Cisco was swinging and Aaron lost the teeth.)

Nathan said...

Hey Leanright,

I'll give you points for the un-tethered bouncing at 75 mph, but were you also drinking cokes out of the little glass bottles?

Yeah, that was living!


We made forts by digging holes in the ground out in the woods. Which was a pretty neat trick considering you'd usually hit water at about 3' deep. Ah the fun of extricating yourself from a collapsing mud-hole.

Jeff Hentosz said...

I'm looking forward to buying this book this week. It's about the work of two visionary men, who were determined to spread childhood happiness across the land no matter how many kids they had to kill.

That's my spin, of course, not the author's. ;-P

I've seen the book and read the first couple chapters. This section is simply breathtaking.

(Michelle: I have a scar on the corner of my lips from getting a mouthful of swing when I was four. As for cardboard, I just two days ago very regretfully threw away the box a fireplace door came in, which I kept thinking would be phenomenal for sledding down a long, grassy hill.)

kimby said...

I am the proud owner of a 4 inch gash/scar on my leg compliments of the old metal bike racks we used to have in our school yard. We used to take turns running across it in the winter, to see if we could make it all the way across without falling. Normally, I made it, but there was the ONE time i didn't. Impaled myself on the metal spikes that joined the racks together. Those were the days of toboganning and skiing off the garage roof, jumping from the hay lofts in the barn, and either riding my bike to the next town, or hitch-hiking. Lawn darts, metal horse shoes and other unsafe games are ones that fill my childhood memories....yep lucky to be alive....

Anonymous said...

We had lawn darts too! And we used to ride in the cabover bunk of the mini-motorhome, lying down, while we traveled - a great view of the road AND convenient napping. I'm sure it would have been super dangerous in an accident.

Anonymous said...

Oh - and my left wrist is still a little weak and prone to carpal-tunnel type symptoms. I broke my ulna near the growth plate pretty badly in a nasty skateboarding fall - entirely without wrist pads, knee pads, helmet, or any other protective gear. That bone is about 1/2" shorter than the other one and has a sizeable lump on it from where it healed.

Ah, childhood memories.

Nathan said...

I never broke anything until I was 31. I had moved to L.A. and in a bid to meet people, I joined a parks dept. softball league. The first day practicing, I'm standing there in center field and a high pop comes my of those you don't need to move an inch for. So, I stuck up my glove and waited for it.

When the ball got there, my glove magically de-materialized and the ball hit me sqaure on the nose. When I reached up, I realized that my nose was now sideways on my face, so I grabbed it and straightened it to where it was supposed to be. I didn't realize until after I'd done it that I'd just broken my nose and reset it.

I just kinda spat some blood, picked up the ball and threw it in to the pitcher. Yeah, us New Yorkers are some tough bastards.

Random Michelle K said...

Jeff, I've got a scar on the corner of my lower lip, only it was from jumping on the bed when I was eight or nine.

True story: My friend and I are wandering about the parking lot tailgates before a Tom Petty concert when meet a really messed up guy.

First, he sees a white speck in my black jeans and asks if it's cocaine (um, NO. Cigarette ash.)

Then he looks closely at me, gets all indignant, and asks, "who's been beatin' on you?!"

"WHAT?!" my friend and I gasp, "No one!"

At which points he points at the tiny scar on my lip and asked how I got THAT then.

He really didn't seem to want to believe me when I told him it was from jumping on the bed as a kid.

My friend then told me she'd never even noticed the scar.

Anonymous said...

There were plenty of glass cola bottles. Not to mention the aroma of Benson & Hedges in the air. Being rambunctious in the car with the wonderful scent of North Carolina tobacco, burning, and killing us all. Now I know why I'm 6'4", 250 lbs. The cigarette smoke stunted my growth.

Don't tell anyone, but I rode my skateboard without a helmet.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Wham-o had dueling swords? Now that's something I would have loved to play with when I was younger (I loves me some Basil Rathbone fencing and have since I was a preteen).

I've got a small scar on my chin from when I fell off the top of a very high slide (to me) when I was six or so and hit the side of the slide with my jaw on the way down. The ground, thankfully, was dirt and not cement, else I probably would have fractured my skull.

Nathan, that's what you get for actually trying to meet people in L.A. Silly man.

Steve Buchheit said...

Way to many scars to catalog, including various niched veins and arteries. But yeah, swinging across a creek on a rusty cable, building sand forts in S. Jersey, no helmets owned until the AF and then no personally purchased helmets until riding a motorcycle at 35, plus an exceedingly healthy immune response (until I reached old age). Kids these days just don't know these character building exercises.

Tania said...

I have a fridge magnet that says it best:

Scars are tattoos with better stories

We were pretty much unsupervised barbarians with access to tools, heavy equipment, and weapons. Getting scarred was called a learning experience, as in

"Are you going to be that stupid again?"
"Good. And if you are, be smart enough to not get caught."

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my uncles?