Sunday, May 11, 2008

When Mom Was a Kid..

What it was like when I was a kid

On Sports and Games

Growing up, we strapped metal wheels to our shoes and fell on our knees on bumpy concrete until we learned to stop falling. Turns were tricky so you either held on, or in my brother's case, got down on your hands and knees and crawled through the turn, or you decided you knew what you were doing, tried to make the turn and fell at least 50 times before you got it.

When we played on swing sets, teeter totters and monkey bars, they were made of wood and steel and sometimes gave us splinters, particularly when we would ride with two or three at a time.

Tag and hide and seek, dodge ball and freeze tag had winners and losers. We played them often. In fact, we loved them. Even when we were mad about being picked last, it just meant we hoped next time, we’d be captains or picked first, or at least not last again.

Sports had b-teams and sometimes, you didn’t even make that one. You only got a trophy if you won, and sometimes, you got skunked. People kept score but the teams for grade school and the like, were not posted in the paper. It wasn’t important. These were kids’ games.

On School and Education…

There were three channels on television if you didn’t count the educational one, which we didn’t.

The library was a place to check out books, a week in advance of the science project that was mandatory.

The science project was a big deal, complete with a hand written four page report and five references, none from the web. Everyone had to make a poster and a project. People would know if your parents did the art work, and you wouldn’t win.

We’d get pop quizzes at school and worksheets that had been freshly run from the ditto machine, and smelled like ink. We loved those, and I think sometimes, the ink made us dizzy.

You got grades. You got grades every day. Most of the time, it was a number or a letter. The grades included C’s, D’s, F’s and the less common, C-, D+ and D-. Your parents got called if you got these grades. Every time. Forging your parent’s signature got you in bigger trouble.

If you didn’t do an assignment, you got to do it during recess while everyone else was outside playing, which stunk.

They made us memorize Kipling’s “If,” our multiplication tables and say the pledge. We often had to read aloud or do problems on the board for everyone else to watch.

They showed us videos of “The Red Balloon,” and “Chicken Soup with Rice” as treats. We saw each every year at least once.

At noon, We’d get kicked outside to play, we had recess. It was after lunch and lasted a decent amount of time. It didn’t matter if it was hot or cold, muggy or raining, we were on our own after lunch for that half hour. Recess lasted long enough to form cliques, to organize a kick ball game, to braid hair or play a no prisoners game of speed solitaire.

On Grown Ups…

People disagreed on politics, as they always have, but it wasn’t acceptable to insult someone just because they held a different political affiliation. No one was considered heartless or brainless for being a Republican or a Democrat; these were party denominations, not the solutions to every problem under the sun requiring absolute religious fealty.

Being kids, we didn’t even know what politics really were until Mom caught us one day having uprooted all the political signs and repositioned them in our front yard because we thought they were cool. These Vote for…posts seemed like some form of mushroom that had sprung up overnight. We were busy dismantling them to make swords when Mom found us.

Television had a family hour which was boring and grown-ups watched the news, which was boring to us, but then the alternative was bed.

There were uber parents out there who made their kids compete in every sport and activity, but most of the grown-ups knew that these people were wrong and encouraged all of us to pick what we loved and do that first.

Grown-ups drank things like beer and wine, ice tea, diet soda and coffee, all of which tasted terrible. They also had weird clothing rules like no shorts after Labor Day and no white in the winter. They ordered foods with dressings and sauces on them and used “Sweet and Low.” They would make us eat the crust on breads, the stumpy parts of broccoli and occasionally, liver.

For Fun…

Swimming lessons and camp took care of maybe two weeks. The rest of the time, we were on our own.

We’d troll the neighborhood to amass as many at home minors as possible. It didn’t matter who, if you were a kid and you were home, we were knocking on the door asking, “Can you come play?”

Then, we’d ride our bikes until dark, no helmets. We’d pin cards to our spokes with clothes pins to sound like motor cycles. On a dead end street, we’d hold races all afternoon until someone announced they were thirsty. There would be a run on the hose, with each person jockeying to be later in line, so as not to get the first swig of heated by the sun water that came out of the end.
Then the beep beep beep of the mosquito spraying truck would be heard and everyone would clear out to their homes as fast as possible. We didn’t know DEET was poisonous, but it sure smelled bad.

When it was too hot, we’d play monopoly in doors until someone won or was called home. We sometimes made card castles, trying to use all 52 cards before the thing fell. We loved fresh boxes of crayons and coloring books. The coloring books were almost always of animals and never had stickers.

Come fall, we’d gather pecans from every yard, filling up two trash cans. Then we’d offer to rake leaves for a dollar all over the block and try to sell the pecans.

Every Christmas, we’d have a Christmas program. They never had plots, just grade after grade, alternating between secular and religious music, with the grand finale, always, Silent Night. Then most parents would reconvene across the street at the Carnation Dairy restaurant to praise our performances and buy ice cream.

Why am I telling you this?

So my darlings, you will understand some of the why I tell you often to turn off the television and the DDS and the DVD’s and the IPods and the cell phones and the computers.

I will shrug sometimes when you are not 100% safe and even encourage you to jump off the high dive, draw until you run out of chalk and drink a soda outside while reading comics in a hammock.

I will not rush out to challenge other parents to a duel to the death because your feelings are hurt, though I will offer you a hug and say I love you.

Life is always unsafe and unfair but worth living. Sometimes, it is even unsafe and unfair in our favor.

Skinned knees and even bruised hearts heal. Memorization, pain from learning to learn is part of the process, and not what you will recall when you get to be nostalgic about childhood. Like giving birth, we don’t recall the labor pain itself, only that it hurt and then it was over, and we had this person, and everything was light and wonderful and still is.

Happy Thank You for Making me A Mother Day! And Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there who has been so blessed.

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If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!