Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Childhood Games and Other Stuff

After writing about breaking the ping-pong table while playing "Lava," I began to think about all the crazy games my sisters and I made up when we were kids. I figured I'd fill you in on what they were...

"Mummy" was a really fun game... so long as you weren't the mummy. It consisted of finding every extra blanket in the house and rolling someone up in each one until they looked like a giant beached whale lying on the floor. Then the blankets were secured with belts at the top and bottom, just to make sure they wouldn't come off. Sometimes we'd amuse ourselves by trying to stand the mummy up... although most of the time we'd get done wrapping up the mummy and then leave the room, closing the door behind, pretending to abandon the helpless victim. Whoever the mummy was would proceed to bawling and screaming that they were too hot and for the other two jerks to come let them out of their hellish torture.
Once the first person's turn was over, nobody was ever dumb enough to go next. Why we continued to play this game was anybody's guess. Oddly enough, Corinne, my older sister, never had a turn at being the mummy.
"Alligator" was a very simple game. It was usually played on my parents' bed because it was the only one big enough. The game went as follows: whoever is the alligator tries to grab the people on the bed and pull them off. Sometimes we called it "Wrestlemania." This game never did last very long because my mom would usually come and tell us to get off her bed. Go figure.
Prince, Princess and Dragon
This was another game played on the bed. Each of us would take on a role of either the prince, princess or, you guessed it... the dragon. The dragon was supposed to keep the princess captive. This meant sitting on her, smothering her with a pillow... whatever it took. The prince's job was to save the princess and try to get her free from the grasp of the dragon. The princess was mainly supposed to try and get away from the dragon.
Corinne always won this game. If she was the dragon, you'd never get away and the prince and princess would both take a beating. If she was the prince, the dragon would take a beating. If she was the princess, there was no holding her. The dragon would yet again take a beating. Corinne was usually the dragon which meant both Annie and I took a beating. Had I been smart I would have been the prince, made her the princess and Annie the dragon. At least that way I could have escaped punishment.
Well that's about all the games I can remember at this point. However, it did get me thinking about Corinne. She was actually pretty good at manipulating Annie and me. She could get us to do just about anything. She used to borrow money from us and get us to let her pay it back for pennies on the dollar. My parents actually ended up forbidding us from lending her money. She'd tell us that if we'd do this or that for her that she'd give us a "surprise." A "surprise" usually meant a hug. We eventually wised up and demanded she tell us what the surprise was before we did her any favors.
I don't remember fighting with Corinne much. She was bigger and stronger than I was. I do remember a couple of occasions that I really pissed her off though. We were arguing one time in the kitchen and she tried to kick me. With my cat-like reflexes I grabbed her leg. She started hopping around and lost her balance and fell. She was MAD. I immediately knew I was in big trouble and made a beeline upstairs to my bedroom. I quickly slammed the door behind me and wedged my foot up against the door to hold it closed. She probably got me anyway, she always did.
Another time we were out stacking firewood on the patio and I decided it would be funny to scare her. I jumped up and yelled that there was a wolf spider on her. She started jumping around and screaming... much to my delight. I should have just told her the spider fell off, but instead started laughing and told her I was just kidding. Man was she pissed! She tore off across the yard chasing me as fast as she could go. I remember knowing that if I slowed down my life was going to end. I'm sure I got what was coming to me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yeah, I Remember Records

I never called them 45s, but yeah, I remember records. My parents had a whole stash of them and still do. Nothing worth any money mind you, just good old classics like John Denver and Anne Murray. I definitely had a few favorites back in my younger days, most of which were either kids records or show tunes, but they were still records.

I remember putting on "Annie" and running around our cream colored couch with big brown flowers on it while listening to "It's A Hard Knock Life." I always thought the "Fox and the Hound" record was the coolest because instead of black vinyl it had an actual picture on it. We also had "The Muppet's Rainbow Connection." There was an "Electric Company" record but I think that show was a little before my time and I had never watched it. I never listened to that record because I thought something called "The Electric Company" sounded really boring. We also had a "Raggedy Anne and Andy" record that told a story. It was kind of creepy to me back in the day. Something about the voices I think. Of course I thought that the red cheeked grouchy puppet that lived in the spinning carousel type house on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was creepy too.

I also remember when CDs first came out. My family was pretty technologically advanced for our time and I remember my dad bringing home our first CD player. I used to love to just hold a CD and look at it. They were so beautiful with all their rainbow colors compared to cassette tapes and records . For the longest time we would go to the mall every Saturday and my parents would stop into the music store and buy a couple CDs. That was back when they used to come in long skinny boxes, not just wrapped in a plastic coating like today. It's amazing how much technology has advanced in my lifetime. CDs are already becoming obsolete with IPODs and other devices now that can hold your whole music collection on something less than half the physical size of a CD. Makes you wonder what it'll be like in another 20 years.

Computers have also come a long way since I was a kid. I don't ever remember not having one at home. We used to have all our games on the big 5" floppy disks and we'd type a run code into DOS to get it to start. Occasionally we'd forget what the special code was and have to call mom up at work to get it. When it came to computers mom always had the answer.

Around that same time in my life was when Nintendo came out. That was the coolest thing in the world. Three buttons was all you needed and as far as I'm concerned it's still superior to all the new complicated gaming systems out there. What other gaming system can you fix by blowing on it? We had probably 40+ games within just a couple years. I wish I still had it. Believe it or not, the Nintendo caused the breakup with my first boyfriend when I was about eight or nine years old. He never let me play. To this day many men still favor gaming systems to women. Some things never change.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Ping Pong Table

Breaking my grandparents' ping pong table is the worst thing I've ever done. At least that's what I say whenever anyone asks. I've done worse things by far on a moral level, but if I were to confess those in a random, lighthearted conversation, it would definitely kill the party.

It was a dumb thing to do really, breaking the ping pong table. My two sisters and I were always making up different games when we were kids. One of our favorites was called "Lava." In our imaginary world the floor had turned to lava and could no longer be touched, unless you wanted to be burned alive that is. So, to get around you had to climb on furniture or throw things on the ground to step on.

On this particular occasion we were staying over at my grandparents' house while my parents were out of town. Annie, my younger sister, and I climbed from the top of the couch to some books on the floor and then onto the ping pong table. We were both crawling across the table when suddenly it collapsed. We all looked at each other stunned. It had made a very loud crashing sound and the first thought that popped into my mind was that somebody must have heard it and we were going to be in big trouble. I quickly told the others to hide and Annie and I ran into the dark storage room to find a good spot. I squeezed in beside the old refrigerator and Annie ran over towards my grandpa's workshop. Corinne, my older sister, was smart enough to stay and face the music and kept her place next to the flattened ping pong table.

The next thing I heard was my Aunt Susan coming down the stairs. Realizing 2/3 of the responsible party was missing, she yelled for me and Annie to come out of hiding. My little seven or eight year old brain figured if I stayed put they'd never find me. Annie of course came out and they quickly spotted me. I don't remember even getting so much as a scolding except from Susan who told us that hiding was a bad idea.

We didn't really need to be punished though. I think we pretty much punished ourselves. We immediately climbed into the big bed in the basement and decided to go to sleep without dinner. It couldn't have been later than 6pm. I remember my sweet grandma coming down and asking us if we wanted to come eat dinner and take a bath. We tearfully said "no" insisting that we should go to bed. Then we asked her if she was going to tell our parents... to our surprise she said she'd let us choose whether we wanted to tell them or not. We never did. Neither did she.

My grandparents had always thrown a tablecloth over the ping pong table and used it for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant that they had to get the table fixed and did so on their own dime. Every Thanksgiving after that I was sure the table was going to collapse under the weight of all that food. It was torturous. I imagined the table crashing down and all the food being ruined and everyone pointing at us yelling, "YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING!"

It wasn't until about ten years later that to my surprise, my grandparents bought a new ping pong table. It was the best day of my life. I still don't think my parents know about that even 20 years later... but I'll let one of my sisters tell them.... I'm going to go hide over here by this refrigerator.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My First Memory

Laying beside the bed with my little blanket and pillow, I heard the door to the room quietly open. I quickly closed my eyes and pretended to be sleeping while I waited for the door to close again. Nezi, the middle-aged woman my mom had chosen as my babysitter, made me take naps. Up until my teenage years, I HATED taking naps. Maybe this was why this moment stuck in my mind as my first memory. I was probably three years old at the time, but old enough to know that if I pretended to be sleeping, nap time would end sooner.

I don't know how my mom knew Nezi, but my mind decided to remember her. I didn't see her at all after we moved out of our Taylorsville home just before I turned four, but when she came to my sister's wedding fifteen years later, I picked her out instantly from afar. I found it ironic that she snuck up behind me during that wedding and asked, "Do you want to go take a nap?" For a moment it seemed I was on the old television show "This is Your Life" and she was standing behind a curtain waiting for me to guess it was her.

The only other thing I really remember about living in our white house in Taylorsville was my dad chasing my older sister, Corinne, and me around the backyard, squirting us with the hose. Being as young as we were we couldn't run very fast... that coupled with our bare feet on the prickly weed/grass mixture of our yard, it was impossible to get away from the cold water that drenched us. Even in the heat of the summer the water out of the hose was cold enough to take your breath away. A couple of degrees cooler and our fun would have quickly become something more reminiscent of torture.

For some reason my dad loved squirting us with cold water. He'd cover us with kids' bath foam when we were in the bathtub and then hose us off using cold water. We never thought to turn on the warm water, somehow the cold shower was what we'd come to expect. My dad continued with this cold water torture as we got older by turning off the water heater while we were in the shower. By this time we had wised up a bit and got him back by turning the dishwasher on while he was in the shower. Paybacks are a bitch.