Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rites of Passage

I got an email the other day from a girl I hadn’t heard from in years (I think Facebook is replacing high school reunions rather nicely. Thank goodness – I have nothing to wear). I’m afraid she probably won’t remember, but what I recall the most about her was that it was she and I and several other neighbourhood miscreants that had coerced a new kid on the block to eat handfuls of dirt.

I wasn’t a terribly vindictive child or anything – just curious really. And this new kid, whose name thankfully escapes me, was really quite dim when I think about it. He would do anything we asked of him. Anything. So being of creative spirit, we got him to eat a handful of sand, then a handful of dirt, and then we arranged for him to pull his hair out.

We were intrigued that a kid would want to fit in and be liked so much that he would scalp himself with his own hands. He would grab a handful of hair and rrrrrriip it out like you would a handful of grass from your lawn. It was horrifyingly disgustingly great to witness! This kid was unreal.

Through tears of shock and laughter we would goad him on to new feats of derring-do, until his mother came along and wisely ended the proceedings, much to our dismay. Her poor son’s head was beginning to look like Friar Tuck’s of Robin Hood fame, albeit with more bleeding around the edges.

The vividness of this memory is quite disturbing to me to this day. I wonder if he grew up with any hair at all, and how much counseling he needed to overcome his psychological trauma.

When it comes to disgusting childhood talents I had a few of my own, of course. For a small fee I was able to belch most of the alphabet. I also still have an intriguing mole between my toes which is available for viewing Saturdays between 1 and 3pm.

My friend Darren would steal baby bottles from his sister’s dolls and use them in the bath tub to inflate his foreskin with water to enormous, balloon-like proportions. Now that’s entertainment! I can recall howling with laughter at witnessing such feats. Thankfully, these were the days before YouTube and cell phone cameras.

It was my neighbour Sheldon Mancher who enjoyed what can only be called idolization in our area. Sheldon had the unique talent of being able to make the fart sound with not only his armpits and knees, but his EARS! Imagine that! My kids are just learning to do the armpit and knee versions (surprisingly it wasn’t me that taught them either), but an ear? This was truly amazing. We were in awe.

It wasn’t until grade six, when I ‘cleaned’ Darryl Bossert playing sixes at crystals ** that I came remotely close to enjoying such fan adoration. There I was, the school bell having rung, the disputed final shot replayed, the last crystal plopping into the marble pot like it had been putted by Tiger Woods.

My heart soared as, with wet pockets bulging, I swaggered into the school. I was a lousy marble player for the most part, and here I had cleaned out the best player in the school. I think it was the first (and last) time I was almost cool.

These things are important to kids obviously. I could still point out the location of the snowy marble pot at Pine Grove School where my triumph took place. I could still dig a decent marble pot too for that matter.

I guess maybe that is why parenting is such a challenge. We grown-ups are fondly remembering our seemingly innocent times and triumphs, while our children are sweetly blowing the heads off of computer characters.

I think I’ll teach my kids the finer points of marble-pot making this weekend.

** We used to play pee-wees, marbles (or cats-eyes), boulders and jumbos. Crystals were clear boulders. We also had steelies, pretties, and round, rolled-up balls of clay we called mudders. Nobody played much with those. I think we should have a marble tournament for old-times sake.

David Crawford lives in Kelowna. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Sheldon Mancher should contact this newspaper immediately.

No comments: