Childhood on Steroids
October 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
There are so many things about my childhood that I cringe at now that I’m a parent.The adolescent-me is so happy that I wasn’t my own parent while we lived in Africa (from age 9-13). I would be such a buzz kill! Now and then, a fond memory will materialize from my youth and out of nowhere the now-Parent-me will go “what the crap were they thinking?” It’s similar to my sentiment when my mom tells me she used to drive with my older brother sitting in her lap between her and the steering wheel. Okay, psycho lady! Did you play pat-a-cake in on-coming traffic too?
I’ll just give you a few examples of the insanity to which I refer. At the Primary School we first attended, located smack in the middle of the school, was a crocodile. I little one, though. What, that doesn’t make you feel any better? It probably wouldn’t help if I told you it was known to escape quite regularly, sending the African gardeners on a frantic search and putting the school on lock-down. What could be the problem with this, you might ask. After all, the only thing standing between its jaws of death and small children was a 4 or 5 foot wire fence. That seems perfectly reasonable. What was really cool was the giant elephant skull that was part of the playful exhibit. Now, who doesn’t love a giant skull? I, for one, sure do!
Let’s move along to my favorite recreational apparatus: the flying wheel of death. I don’t know what it was really called, but it was hellacious fun and looking back, it was an invention of pure genius if the sole aim was broken bones. It was basically a may pole that had multiple ropes streaming down from a circle at the top. Each child grabbed on to a rope by a handle attached at the end. Then everyone would run as fast they could (the little ones flying off the ground first, their shorter legs unable to keep up) until eventually all kids were soaring through the air in untainted, childhood bliss. Untainted until someone inevitably went plowing into the child in front of them cause it’s hard to make a graceful exit off the flying wheel of death.
When I was a little older, around thirteen, I was initiated into the official teen hangout: the British Sports Club. This is where my friends introduced me to the fact that we could order whatever alcohol we wanted, along with cigarettes. What could come closer to a teenage dream?- well, besides Justin Bieber. My first taste of alcohol was a lovely little drink called Powers. Who knows what it was made of, but the name was fitting. I did feel like I had powers, if looking like an ass were a superpower that is.
My brother decided to use his “power” to realize his long-held dream in Africa: a giant pit. He used his allowance to hire a man to dig him a large hole, about 10 feet deep and wide, in our backyard. Where else could you find a person willing to dig a pit on the amount a kid could afford to pay? I guess my brother needed a place to house all his teenage melodrama. But it became a giant mud pit after the first rains destroyed it, despite the tarp with which he attempted to save it. Admittedly, it was not his best idea. You live and you learn, though.
I can’t help but think that, as a parent, I might have stepped in and ruined all our fun. I could see myself off to the side yelling “get off that flying wheel of death!” and organizing a school protest against wild animal mascots. I would’ve probably been the lame mom chaperoning at the club sending back the drinks and stubbing out cigarettes.
But, I applaud my parents for letting us have such a free childhood and I’m sure I won’t be exempt from such horror when my own kids look back on their childhood.