I was reminiscing on the innocence of youth, on the blissful ignorance blessed children possess, a state in which the few cares of one’s day were wiped clean with a good night’s sleep. I think early childhood pleasure is like the proverbial Garden of Eden, where the knowledge of the world’s evil is hidden behind a velvet curtain by vigilant parents. Yet too many children today are forcefully ejected from or lured out from that safe place far too soon. Worse yet, many will never be able to write anything remotely resembling these words, having known only the rage of the high seas and not the stillness of the harbor.
Child’s Mind at Play
The sap from the towering pine trees of my elementary school playground fascinated me. As a child, I couldn’t imagine how a hard, brittle tree could produce such a sweet scented, sticky substance. Nearby, I remember how the circular floor of the merry-go-round had metallic dimples which could form quick impressions into your knees and cause some discomfort.
My recess companions and I invented C4’s imaginary cousin. We had digital watches, mostly by Casio. Our devices were black, with cheap plastic bands and a metal tongue. As soon as the recess bell rang, we’d rush out the door to claim our demolition site. The target site was always a monument to youth: a three-tiered, metallic-grey, jungle gym. Careful to fasten our imaginary explosive devices with the utmost care, we set our timers for 1:00 and gingerly scrambled down before the whole structure blew up.I don’t know how often we played this, but it must have been enough times to imprint on my mind the smell of pine chips covering the chocolate-milk-colored dirt floor and the sharp, metallic tangy scent of my hands after gripping the smooth metal bars of the gym. Predisposed to avoiding injury, I was more careful to allow my high-top shoes had plenty of grip on the bars as I dismounted for fear of slipping and forcefully straddling an unyielding bar at an inopportune moment.
During our classroom hours, we furtively rescued spent computer punch cards from the trash and traced the tiny rectangles onto notebook paper, using them as mini-code cards for our secret meetings (no girls allowed, except Melody). We had ostentatious code names like King Cobra and Lightning Falcon- a fruit salad of sinister-sounding sobriquets formed from a jumble of G.I. Joe and Transformers re-runs.
One of my earliest memories is just a glimmer of a fragment of memory. Outside our house, weeds poked up through the cracks in a sidewalk. Trotting to the left of my parent’s first rental, I ran along to an older gentleman’s house, where I was given hard candy- lollipops of various flavors, round suckers which invite one to make a game out of keeping it in one’s mouth without the combination of drool and flavored goop would slowly slide down the short length of the sucker’s paper stick. I don’t recall whether I ever said, “Thank you” to him, but I have vivid visions of sand dollars, doilies, and paper cut into snowflakes whenever I think of that half-blurred house shaded by oak trees.
I had lollipops until the day the moving trucks pulled up to our house, and the strong men came and carted up all of our belongings (including my Hot Wheels) into that mighty, cavernous space and I paid a child’s mental tribute to the kind old man with the lollipops in the shaded house.