Reader Request Week 2006 #2: 10 Childhood Nuggets

For the second entry in Reader Request Week 2006, Gabe, seconded by Claire, asks about my childhood. Rather than trying to bang out a coherent structure to this one, let me do a grab bag factoid nugget approach and see if it works.

* The very first memory I know I had was of being in a swimming pool when I was two. My mother tells me that when I was two I knew how to swim, but I lost that ability somewhere along the way and had to relearn it again when I was five. My second memory was of lying in bed in an apartment and watching a ghost go by the window. I suspect it was Halloween rather than it being a real ghost.

* As I think I’ve noted before here, I have no memory of not being able to read. I started reading when I was two. I was reading adult-level books by the time I was in first grade; I remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and not quite getting what the fuss was about (I also read the parody, Jonathan Livingston Chicken, in which a chicken eventually joins the Israeli Air Force).

* I believe I also mentioned that when I was five and my sister Heather was six, our mother had a back operation and we were sent to live with our aunt Sharon for a year. It was a fun time; my aunt and her then-husband kept cattle and I remember carrying out a huge milk bottle for a calf who had lost its mom one way or another; the farm also abutted a Christmas tree farm in the back. One of my more vivid memories of that year was going with my uncle to slaughter a pig. He and another man had the pig in the back of a truck and they shot it, and I remember the thing falling to the bed of the truck and squealing while it bled out. I don’t remember thinking one way or another about it, although today I’m not entirely sure that’s how you’re supposed to kill a pig.

* I was a very precocious kid and like many precocious kids, could be more than a little annoying about it. There were some adults who would leave a room when I came in because they found me irritating. Looking back I couldn’t blame them although at the time I was puzzled.

* As many readers here discovered by way of the "Being Poor" entry, I was poor when I was a kid. However, it wasn’t constant poverty; we (like many people who are poor) alternated between periods of doing okay and then not. Mostly (but not always) this co-incided with when my mother was a single parent and when she was not. There were brief times when technically we were homeless — I say technically because at no time did we ever sleep in a car or a shelter, we just stayed at a friend’s place for a week (or three) — but by and large whatever our situation my mom kept us fed and with a roof over my head. It’s again one of those things where you don’t realize how much work that is for a single parent to do something like that until you become an adult yourself.

* My sister and I are eighteen months apart, which is close enough in age (particularly considering my being a precocious little twit as a kid) that we were basically in a constant state of warfare, except when we weren’t. Whether we were at war or not changed from minute to minute. It didn’t help that Heather was something of a troublemaker and I wasn’t, so I received apparently favorable treatment and she didn’t (this is a gross oversimplification of the situation, but it works for what I’ll tell you, the general public). This was a bone of contention between us until our adult years. We get along swimmingly now; carrying over your childhood issues into adulthood is generally silly.

* I could be inexplicably emotional. When Muhammad Ali lost to Leon Spinks in 1978, for example, I just about lost my mind and cried up a storm. Not exactly sure why, since I had no interest in boxing nor was a huge fan of Ali (or Spinks, for that matter). No one else could figure it out either. But weird things would set me off. At some point the emotional tripwire thing settled down, which I suspect is a good thing.

* Major childhood injuries: Seven stitches in the foot, from stepping on a piece of glass; five stitches above my eye, where my sister (accidentally) whacked me in the head with a golf club; three stitches in my head from when a rock dropped on me during a camping trip; and a broken leg, from being hit by a car. My sister also fed me Dran-O when I was a toddler, but in her defense, she was three or four at the time and didn’t know any better (at least, I hope).

* When I was 12 I learned that I had an older brother who my mother gave up for adoption when she was 16; shortly thereafter he located us. In one of those weird twists his mother and my mother were in the same club and had recently been discussing their troubles with their kids, his mom with him and my mom with my sister (I was the good kid, remember). They both remarked how similar their troubles were.

* This "good kid" thing is not to suggest I wasn’t (and couldn’t get in) trouble from time to time, and indeed like a lot of kids I went through my minor thievery phase when I was about 12. That stopped when, after stuffing a Whatchamacallit candy bar down my underwear and then sneaking out of the local Ralph’s, a huge baldheaded man walking toward the Ralph’s came up to me and told me that God watches everything I do. Yeah, I got the message.

That’s enough childhood nuggetry for one post.

(Have a question for Reader Request Week? Submit it here)

12 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2006 #2: 10 Childhood Nuggets”

  1. I had the childhood stealing thing too but it happened when I was five. I stole a little trinket from a toy store because it didn’t have a price tag on it. My mother marched me back into the toy store and forced me, sobbing and wailing like a banshee, to make a full apology to the fifteen year old clerk.

    Looking back now as a parent I can only feel sorry for the poor clerk.

  2. […] in which a chicken eventually joins the Israeli Air Force

    Great – thanks for spoiling it! *sigh* Guess I will have to go read Doon instead.

  3. Geez, Brady. There’s a statute of limitations on spoilers. I think it’s five years. Which allows me to say; Hey, you know that hot chick in The Crying Game? She’s totally a dude.

  4. that Ali lost to Leon Spink was really a disaster. I personally believe that Ali, if he had won the fight that night, it would have been his last fight, and he would have then retired in style. Instead of continuing past his heyday. I blame the lost on Dundee his trainer, for coaxing Ali to fight for points after it was obvious by the late rounds, that Ali was trailing Spinks on the judges’ scorecard, check it out yourself….very few championship fights conclude ‘without’ a knockout or technical. And here’s probably one of the “greatest” chasing after points instead of landing the homerun bomb, it then follows in the final round, if you remember, Ali didn’t have enough left, to finish off Spinks who would have fallen over had a butterfly stung him, no bee.

  5. Funny…reading this made me think of the things that I remember from your childhood. No mention of Heather lighting the pomeranian on fire?

  6. Well, that’s not on point to my childhood, since I wasn’t the prime actor there. And anyway, the Pomeranian wasn’t on fire for long. Ironically, however, that dog’s name was “Sparky.”

  7. I think you’re supposed to kill a pig by hanging it by its hind legs and cutting its throat. At least, that’s how Abby Freemantle in The Stand does it. “Stand back, boys, she’s gonna go a gusher”…

    (Addendum: I thought the only dogs called Sparky were the ones with no hind legs and steel balls. :)

  8. When I was 12 I learned that I had an older brother who my mother …

    Then what happened? Did you meet? Do you keep in touch now?

    It would seem to be the most natural thing to be curious about and I am surprised that no one has asked the question till now. I don’t hesitate in asking the possibly personal question because, after reading you for years together, I get the sense that you don’t hesitate in saying no.

  9. Well, then I met him. And then I had a brother. And yes, we do keep in touch; he reads the Whatever, for one thing.

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