My very earliest memory is of climbing up on a chair that was sitting next to an ironing board in our apartment in Falls Church, Virginia. The iron itself, all mirror-pretty and shiny, was sitting up on its side like a begging dog. Naturally, I reached out to rub the smooth surface, and cried when my fingers got burned. Mom rushed over and, seeing what had happened, immediately found the butter dish, cut off a pat, and rubbed it on my sore fingers. “This will take the pain away and make it all better”, she said soothingly. Well, no, it didn’t, on either count, and I hated the greasy feel on top of the pain.
1) Keep the chairs away from the ironing board
2) Moms lie
I was playing in the sandbox with a friend, and for some reason we were naked. Dad got out the Brownie Hawkeye camera, and took a shot of us standing in the sandbox looking at the camera and smiling, our boyhoods proudly waving in the breeze. Naturally, every chance they got, the folks would pull that photo out and embarass me in front of guests.
1) Parents are cruel
2) Nowadays, that photo would get Dad jail-time
3) Sand will find its way into everything, everywhere
We were living in Oklahoma City while my Dad attended classes at the FAA Training Center. I was 5. One Saturday morning, I was watching cartoons with a friend while Dad and my friend’s father got ready to go fishing. They were readying the tackle box on a table next to the TV, and on the screen was a cartoon bird pulling a reluctant cartoon worm out of a hole in a cartoon tree. Seeing what I was watching, and conveniently having a plastic worm in his hand, Dad hid the worm in his fist, and reached over to the TV screen. He then pretended to pull the worm out of the TV screen and held it up, shaking his hand to make the lure appear alive. “How did you do that, Dad?”, I asked. “Magic, son”, and he and his friend laughed. Though I was suspicious about the laughter, I believed Dad had pulled that worm out of the cartoon for the rest of that summer, and remember trying at least once to repeat the act and slapping the screen in frustration.
Lessons learned –
1) Dads know magic and
2) they will take advantage of a son’s trust for their own amusement
3) You can’t de-rail a train by putting a cardboard box on the track, But that is a different Oklahoma City Story
After six months in temporary housing, we got permanent housing in Oceanview, an FAA enclave on the northwest coast of Guam, where we lived for two years in the early sixties. Shortly after the move, we got a dog, whom I named Patty. Patty was splotched brown and white, and very much a mutt. Our last dog had been part Collie, like Lassie, and I wanted Patty’s heritage to be at least as well-defined. To assuage my curiousity, Dad told me that Patty was part Marianas Beagle(Guam is the largest of the Marianas Islands), and part Guamanian Hound. Dads are so smart, I thought, and I was glad that Patty was not just a mongrel. She had two breeds in her. I told kids at school what dad had told me, I wrote about it in class, I shared the knowledge with Lonnie, my best friend.
An indeterminate number of months later, we had company for dinner. Some woman, the wife of a co-worker of dad’s, complimented me on my pretty dog. “She’s part Marianas Beagle, and part Guamaniam Hound”, I declared proudly. The woman’s puzzled glance at my father, and his shrug of the shoulders in return, made me realize I had been conned. I never listened uncritically to anything Dad said after that.
Lesson learned –
1) Parents will say anything to get a kid to stop asking questions
2) Mixed-breeds are the best dogs ever
Still on Guam, one evening we were watching TV in the living room. I was on the floor, my attention divided between Hennesey and a catalog of novelty toys. One item, a box of magnets caught my eye. One hundred 1/4″ X 1/4″ square magnets. The picture showed a delighted kid stacking them up, but the perspective was skewed, making the stack look almost as tall as the boy himself. “Wow, Mom!” These magnets would be neat to have. Can I get them for my birthday?” Mom reached into her purse, and pulled out a box, which she handed to me. It was the same magnets featured in the ad. I was speechless. Parents really can do magic. “How d__ how..?”I sputtered, looking from one the other. Before I could look in the catalog for more instantaneous gratification, Mom explained that she had bought these for me for Xmas, but was disappointed by their tiny size, and never wrapped them. They sat in her purse until providence intervened with a chance to get a quick laugh from my shock. I did not mind the diminuitiveness of the magnets, and played with them all summer.
1) Parents have no idea what kids will enjoy playing with, but
2) They do their best