When I was a child, the ultimate punishment was to be sent to my room and not be allowed to play outdoors. An intermediate stage was being restricted to the yard, being able to watch friends roam free in the neighborhood and beyond. The worst I recall was two weeks “incarceration”; the crime, I think, was falling into the swamp and coming home soaked, but only when it became dark.
That form of punishment would not have worked with my children, because each preferred to be in his or her room. The worst for them would have been to send them outdoors to play. We couldn’t have grown up under more different circumstances. I never saw a tree I did not want to climb; my children never climbed a tree.
I couldn’t live without nature; nature was something my children might notice, if glancing out a window. Dirt and water, in the form of streams, ponds, puddles, or swamps, were my preferred elements. Of course, my mother needed to wash a bunch of clothes, but I did not care. Soiled clothes was a badge of honor in my neighborhood.
I noticed a piece about the tooth fairy, with the headline claiming that the days are gone of a quarter under the pillow. Supposedly, US tooth fairies leave an average $3.70 per tooth. I seem to recall receiving a nickel or a dime. The article went on to say “Six percent of tooth fairy representatives—otherwise known as parents—shell out $20 per tooth, while two percent leave an outrageous $50 or more.”
I fall into the outrageous category. At the time of my first child’s first loss of a tooth, I was working for an advertising agency. One of my clients was Royal Canadian Mint, whose only product was the Gold Maple Leaf coin. So, my children found a 1/4 ounce gold coin under the pillow, after placing a tooth underneath. Gold was much cheaper in those days, but the price was still above today’s average for a lost tooth. Those coins now rest in a bank deposit box, forgotten by my children. They are certainly worth more than on the days they were discovered under the pillow, when they had no idea what they were or what they were worth. This is one more example of parents’ wasted effort...
Nature and small children are spared the idiocy that fills our days...
Sadly, flowers die and children grow up to quickly.
How absurd are distressed jeans for kids? (I believe that's the proper term. The pair below is for a mere 18-month member of the human race, purchased new. I needed months to get my clothe
My mother would have been angry at me for ruining my jeans (called dungarees in those days) and embarrassed to have her child loose on the streets in such a condition...which have become high fashion. (Not unlike the case of plastic sandal, which I first saw on dirty feet of women picking through trash at a city dump in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, and are now worn by the Beautiful People at such garden spots as St. Tropez, France). Of course, such garments were not permitted in schools, but even afternoon play required a certain level of decorum. I recall patches being ironed over the normal wear and tear in my pants’ knees caused by an active child. Only poor kids wore clothes with holes or fraying.
In my childhood, there were two brands of blue jeans (Lee and Levi) for two kinds of people (farmers, ie. Eastern US, and cowboys, ie. west of the Mississippi). Sales territories did not overlap (which I only learned later in life, when brands came to mean something). I do not recall children in the suburbs wearing blue jeans. My mother smuggled in a pair into Massachusetts for my brother and for me from Denver. Airport controls were less rigid. I cannot recall wearing them, but must have. Once they reached a distressed condition, such as in the above photo, I’m certain that my mother spirited them away to prevent me embarrassing her more than I usually did. She would be aghast at what her great grandchild wears in broad daylight and to kindergarten.
I’m not a fashion critic nor a fashion historian. My issue is with the production process. Slave labor in Third World countries is destroying the environment with stone washing and dying denim, so that infants can look like older people. There used to be distinct differences by age group. Now, everyone looks the same...or tries to. And, that costs money.
The following headlinefrom today’s Guardian:
Guns for kids: critics eye marketing practices after Kentucky shooting
Keystone Sporting Arms walks back its Crickett model, which critics say is geared to children, after two-year-old girl is killed
And, this excerpt:
Keystone is in retreat because one of the guns it makes for children, a lightweight, single-shot, .22-calibre rifle called the Crickett, was used Tuesday by a five-year-old boy in Kentucky to shoot and kill his two-year-old sister. The boy had been given the gun – full name Davey Crickett, a pun on the legendary American frontiersman – as a birthday gift. The siblings' mother was home but wasn't watching.
One more small (size of the tragic figures) tragedy, in a never-ending series, from a misguided nation. Who’s to blame: society, the government, manufacturers, or the parents, who gave a 5 year-old a real gun (toys are bad enough) with real bullets ?
Such stories will not stop (most are not reported), because humans are stupid. The more I read about gun violence, gun control politics, the NRA, politicians, etc., I am beginning to think that Americans are particularly stupid. Or?
If anyone were to ask my wife about what she considers the greatest sin that I could commit, I’m sure her response would be: climbing a ladder. For some reason, she does not want me to set foot on even the first rung. The moment I take one (I have several) from the garage, she rushes out of the house and demands to know my plan.
She has no idea how I survived my youth...nor do I. I do know that I spent a lot of time climbing trees, ladders, and onto roofs—higher and steeper the better. No height was too risky; there was no tree that could not be conquered; and no roof was too steep to prevent me from perching on its peek. Level ground was boring; I liked to have a wider view. I recall sitting in my college dorm room, staring at the distant Green Mountains, and wondering what the view would be like from a tree. So, I stopped studying, took my map to find the exact spot at which I stared, drove there, and climbed a tree to get a good view. Unfortunately, it was not worth the trip: I couldn’t even spot my dormitory from that distance. Still, I had a nice climb.
My father was unable to climb a ladder; even a attempting few rungs caused his muscles to freeze. The reason never interested me, nor did I mind having to take over any task above ground. Because wooden houses needed regular painting every few years, the task fell to my brother and me. Although this might bring forth visions of child labor in Dickensian England, I did mind. Upper reaches of our three-story house were more challenging than ground level surfaces, which my father handled.
Nowadays, I must sneak a trip up a ladder, when no one is looking. Fortunately, I no longer have to paint the house...
Certain tastes evoke childhood memories.
Yesterday, I found wonderful spinach at the farmers' market. My wife thought it looked dirty (duh, spinach is dirty) and did not want to buy it. I employed a rare veto and took it anyway. Good decision. Even she liked it, after I had cleaned it twice and she had steamed it.
My preferred manner of eating spinach is with a touch of white wine vinegar. I learned this from my father as child. There is no better way to enjoy spinach. My children like frozen spinach with cream sauce: I refuse to eat such abominations. Give me the old-fashioned taste of my childhood. Even in a foreign country, it is possible to relive old memories through the sense of taste. But, I'm sure the white wine vinegar from Italy is better than what I got as a kid.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.