(Two things: this is a special edition Tuesday Update, and I promise this will be the last childhood-reminiscing type post in a while.)
As a kid, things tend to get blown out of proportion. The fact they aren't all that important in the scheme of life doesn't make them less traumatizing at the time. True horror--death, torture, dismemberment, rape, war, disease, extreme poverty, etc--unfortunately visits itself upon children just as commonly as it does adults, but that's not what I'm talking about here. For this post I'm talking He-Man's head falling off and Misfits of Science being prematurely cancelled.
Here is a list of the top-ten most traumatizing experiences of my childhood. While I have had my share of adult-grade horror, I left those items out. With the exception of the top three.
10: Getting glasses in the second grade.
"You'll never get a girlfriend while you wear those."
I will never forget Joel telling me that the day I came back from the eye doctor. I was in the second grade, and that sort of thing hadn't even yet reached my radar. Until then. The second he said it, I just knew he was right. Even my wrist started hurting.
I hated them. I hated everything about them. I hated the way they felt, I hated that ground-rushing-up-to-hit-you-in-the-face feeling when walking, I hated how my ears itched, I hated how my nose sweated. I also hated that smug-ass look Mrs. Greenlee gave me when I went back to school the next day wearing them.
"I just knew you were squinting at the board."
Suck it, Mrs. Greenlee.
My dad was in the military, and we pretty much packed up and went somewhere else every year or so. The most exotic place we ever moved was Toronto, so I didn't even have the brag factor working for me.
I never had problems making friends, but I never made any really great friends, either. New schools, new neighborhoods, new bullies over and over. It takes a lot of work to establish yourself into an neighborhood ecosystem, and I got pretty weary with moving. I felt like Sisyphus, pushing that rock up the hill only to have it roll back down again.
8: Mowing the lawn on the hill.
I've always hated mowing the lawn. My father had a push mower he made my brothers and I use, and it would take forever. It was rusty, too, and it made this fingernails-across-a-chalkboard sound when it really got going. People would come out and stare at you like you were a circus freak when you used it.
Then one day Pop bought this orange electric lawn mower that you had to plug in. Other than the fact you had to constantly wrestle with the enormous power cord and keep from running it over--lest you electrocute yourself--it was a vast improvement.
However, in Ft. Devens Massachusetts, we had this really steep hill in front of our house that I had to mow with that thing. The hill had trees and tree stumps on it, and I was constantly holding on for dear life while I navigated around them. One day I accidentally went right over an old, hollow tree stump.
It sounded like a grenade had gone off when I hit the stump, and I let go of the lawnmower. It tumbled down the hill, and the power cord swept my legs out from underneath me. I'm not sure if the hornet nest was actually in the tree stump or if it had fallen off a tree and I just happened to run over it at the same time or what.
Either way, they were pissed off. They took it out on me.
7: The stairs
My brother Mark will tell you this never happened. He's a lying bitch.
I think I was in the third grade. We lived in a two-storey house with a finished basement. We had a pair of long toy boxes that were also benches. On each of the benches was a green cushion that was about my height.
One day, while I was asleep, my brother took these two cushions and attacked me with them. He sandwiched me between them and tied me in them using our Tae Kwon Do belts. Then he put a St. Louis Cardinals football helmet on my head, dragged me to the staircase, and he pushed me down. Before I could get up, he dragged me to the stairs that led to the basement and did it again.
The cushions didn't really help much. The helmet did.
I probably deserved that one.
6: Having my dad explain the birds and the bees
I think this may have been more traumatic for him than for me.
My dad is a military man. About as subtle as napalm. By the time my mom finally made him give me The Talk, I had probably known all the ins and outs for a couple years. I knew a kid who had a stack of Penthouse Letters taller than his knees.
Still, I was so taken aback, I didn't have time to escape once I realized where the talk was going. Here's the conversation as best as I can recall:
"So, um... Have you ever peed and it felt really, really good?"
"Well, uh... that's what it's like."
"That's what what's like?"
"Being with a woman. How babies are made. It's an orgasm you see... I'm talking about sex."
"You pee on women?"
"No! You... you cuddle with them. You know you go inside of them. Then it feels good. That's sex. Uh, it might have happened in your sleep, too. The pee part. But you didn't pee. You had an orgasm and it's sticky. You're making babies."
"Um, dad? What are you talking about?"
"Sex! I'm talking about sex!"
When it's my turn for The Talk, I'm just going put the kids in the living room and make them watch MTV all day. That should do it.
5: The marshmallow
Speaking of napalm, never, ever light marshmallows on fire and fling them at your friends. I have a nickel-sized scar on my right leg from this. The burn was so bad it very likely required immediate medical attention.
Since I was camping with my fellow Cub Scouts and didn't want to go home, I said nothing. It was a bad night.
4: The nunnery
When I was in the seventh and eighth grade, I went to a private Catholic school. Attached to the school was an old, maze-like convent that housed some Jurassic Nuns. Sometimes we were used as free labor in the building, and I would get lost every time.
It's not the nunnery itself that caused all the trauma. It was the nightmares. For a year straight, I had this recurring dream where I was trapped in the convent. I would run and run, turning corners, opening doors to the small rooms. In all of the rooms the nuns would be in there in their beds, and they would reach up for me with their skeletal claws.
Nuns are worse than clowns. They really are.
3: Accidentally seeing my grandmother naked
I don't want to talk about it. Lets just say I mistook her nipples for kneecaps and leave it at that.
2: The fat kid incident
I'm pretty certain the most dangerous toy ever invented was the Big Wheel.
Kindergarten, I think. In the area behind my house we had a great play area where all the neighborhood kids would come and run around. I was a member of a Big Wheel gang, and we ruled that playground. We would race our Big Wheels all over the place, especially down this one hill.
One day I fell off, and a really fat kid ran over my arm. It broke. I can still feel the bone breaking in my arm.
It hurt. It hurt bad.
My parents took me to the hospital on base. I waited in the waiting room, got my X-rays, and got sent back. A bit later the doctor came out.
"His arm is fine. It's just a bruise. The X-ray looks fine."
I could feel the broken bone in my arm. It wiggled around when I moved it. It hurt to move my fingers. They didn't believe me, and we went home.
I cried all night. "Quit whining! It's just a bruise!"
The next morning, my mom woke me up.
"The hospital called. They had looked at the wrong x-ray."
I got everybody to sign the cast. All of them except the fat kid.
(Obviously I learned nothing from this.)
1: Accidentally Seeing my mother naked
*Shudder* Yes, this is worse than #3. Much, much worse. I stopped thinking about women for a month straight.