Man, I really hate this. So now I’m going to have the same problem. I want to write about my third year here, but I’m on Chapter 4. Aesthetically speaking, it would be better, infinitely better, if this were Chapter 3, right? I suppose it would be confusing to also call this one Chapter 3.
“Hey, did you see that part about being attacked by an iguana in Chapter 3?”
“Which Chapter 3? The first Chapter 3 or the second Chapter 3?”
Yeah, that could get old fast.
Speaking of which, I actually am getting old fast, and if I don’t finish this tome ASAP, I might never get to do so, given Global Warming hazards or the possibility of spontaneous combustion, either of which might wipe me off the face of the Earth in a parsec.
So here we go. You see I really am getting older fast. In just a few pages, first I was two, in Chapter 3, and now I’m three in Chapter 4.
Three was a momentous year for me on three counts. Whoa. What a coincidence.
First, I was moved out of my parents’ room, and into the room for the baby, which also happened to be the room for my sister, older by three years. I guess this was so they could get more sleep, and, I guess, so my sister could get less. But as I say, I was not a noisy baby. Thankfully, therefore, I never woke up suffocated with a pillow closely applied by my sister.
Event number two. In the last quarter of that tender age, I was shipped off to school, preschool that is, where I would meet people I’d grow up with all the way through 12th-Grade. Many of us are still friends. Amazing, right? You meet at age three or four, and you’re still hanging out at age 66. And after all the drugs and alcohol. Wow. That’s a pretty high tolerance level for the drugs and alcohol, not for each other.
So the school I went to was smaaall. Run by the College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, this was a highly desirable school because it was an experimental public one. We were expected to be both guinea pigs for new curriculum development that might be implemented in other public schools, and we were guinea pigs for student teachers who would suffer because of us and then stagger out prepared masterfully by us students to teach in the aforementioned public schools.
The school was small, as I say, and being a much sought after place for child educating, the way to get in, as you might guess given its esteemed reputation, was to stand in line when admissions were opened up for the following school year. My mom did this both for me and for my sister, expressing her enthusiasm for sticking us in there by queuing up at the crack of dawn, or perhaps even earlier, to assure us places in what was the grade everyone else on the planet called Preschool, but was here dubbed Four-Year-Old-Group.
How, you may ask, did a three-year-old get into Four-Year-Old-Group? I turned four in November, so I began the school year when I was three. There was none of this keeping us out until the next year because we “late born” theory stuff there. No, the University Four-Year-Old-Group class of 1958 was a healthy mix of people born from January through December.
One of the things I remember best about that year was snack time. My favorite snack was pineapple cubes served ice-cold in little pleated white paper cups. The pineapple was dusted with a pinch or two of chopped mint leaves, and we daintily picked at the fruit with toothpicks, the wooded ones with sharp points on both ends.
Why they allowed us to eat with such dangerous utensils puzzles me as I look back upon it. Luckily, I never stabbed myself in the tongue, cheek, or gums, neither did I accidentally swallow one or put my eye out. Perhaps this was part of the experimental curriculum. If so, all my classmates passed the no self-stabbing, bleeding or choking test.
Mrs. Crooker, the teacher of my half of the group, became very good friends with my parents. An aunt and uncle of mine had surprised my parents with the gift of a Weimaraner puppy brought in, I believe, from Australia. Not only was this not a particularly pleasant surprise for my folks, but we had to visit Dusty, the name we’d given him, out at the quarantine station in Hālawa every weekend for what seemed like years.
At any rate, Mrs. Crooker had her own Weimaraner, a female, whose name I never knew, and when she found out that we had this strapping young male, she asked if he might be loaned out to sire a litter. My folks agreed, and the deed was done. Mrs. Crooker ended up with her gang of pups, and she and my parents became fast friends, at least during that year of insemination experimentation.
Now the pineapple cubes and the toothpicks and the dog sex are not what I meant by momentous events. No, the third momentous event took place out in the Four-Year-Old-Group playground where we had our daily, healthful recess.
One of the grossest parts of recess occurred when you stepped cautiously, very, into the sand box. You could smell the problem as you neared this beach away from the ocean, but this never ever deterred you. You were the intrepid three/four-year-old, really a bit dim-witted for not having learned anything from your past mistaken encounters.
Once in the sand you sat down. Praying this time was not your time. You would tentatively run your hands through the sand, searching, and then, if you were unlucky once again, the real problem arose.
The dire consequence for your slight stupidity took the form of two possible outcomes. One, you would snag, with your fingers, cat droppings left there overnight, or two, you would actually sit on one of these little Almond Roca-like turds, if you can picture it, resembling that brown candy covered with the chopped nuts, the latter part played by the clinging grains of sand.
An immediate trip the restroom ensued, followed by vigorous hand-washing, very effective, or vigorous pants butt-washing, not so effective but better than not attempting to remove the stuff at all.
It occurs to me that there were actually three possible dire outcomes. The third, of course, would be both hitting the little landmines with your fingers and sitting on one of them on the same occasion. This was the dreaded double whammy. The pitiful perfecta. I suffered that fate more than a few times.
All this is a lead-in to that third momentous event. Our little playground held many possible amusements besides the big kitty litter box. One was something I have never seen anywhere else, and believe me, in this litigious age, you would never see anything like it on any playground nowadays.
At the time, however, I’m sure whoever built it thought it would be a perfect kind of entertainment for a three/four-year-old. I certainly loved it. I played in it all the time.
Here’s a question. I feel like Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels in Speed. You have a barrel of oil. You use up that oil. What, then, do you do with that 50-gallon barrel? What do you do? Why of course you remove both ends, paint it up real pretty, and mount it in a very shallow cradle sitting three feet off the ground. Voilà. You have a little tunnel-like sructure where a child can escape for a time from the humdrum world and relax in the hollow shade, contemplating his three/four-year-old thoughts.
Now the playground imagineer who cobbled this minor masterpiece together forgot to consider just one very, very important thing. If you mount the barrel on the three-foot high stand, might it not be a good idea to somehow fasten the two together, the better to avoid the possibility that they might at some point somehow be separated from one another by accident?
Well, to answer that question, I present exhibit A. Sitting quietly in this metal tube one day, I was completely unaware that some hijinks related to me was being plotted by two of my classmates. The plan they hatched involved them pushing, one at each end, I say pushing the can off the stand so that it would fall the three feet to the ground with me inside. Hilarious, yes?
I mean I screamed. The pain in my chest and shoulder area was immediate and very sharp. Kind of like if I’d jammed one of those toothpicks into my lips, my tongue, my gums, and my eye all at the same instant.
Mrs. Crooker, rightly alarmed, and the student teacher assistant, alarmed maybe even more than the veteran educator Mrs. C, carefully dragged me out of the metal tube I’d used to go over Niagra, and hustled me off to the nurse’s office.
The nurse, Mrs. Rouleau, could find no apparent injury, although as she poked and squeezed and prodded me, although I could definitely feel that something was amiss, as my crying out incessantly indicated.
Nap time always followed recess. They suggested I lie down, fearing that possibly Mrs. Rouleau might be in over her head on this case, and my parents were called.
They did not come swiftly, my parents, perhaps assuming that I’d experienced merely some kind of minor mishap. Accordingly, it was suggested I go lie down and wait.
My whole upper body throbbing, I gripped my stuffed collie like death and tried as best I might to go 180 to the plastic pad, but every time I lowered myself, trying to get down onto my back, the pain would shoot electric-like all over my chest and shoulders, and my screams made sure that not one of us would have a quiet nap until my parents had hustled me off.
If Mrs. Crooker were a praying kind, I do not know, but I have a feeling she might have been praying, one, that my folks would show up pronto, and two, that I would not die on her watch.
When my dad finally appeared, I was a teary, screaming mess of a little man. He whisked me off to the Queen’s Hospital emergency room where it was determined I had fractured my collar bone. Did I say I fractured it? Well, you be the judge. I learned that this fracture could not be set, that it must be allowed to heal by itself, but I was wrapped up in a series of rubber straps that held my arm against my chest. For six long weeks.
I don’t know if I was given any pain medication. I don’t think they do that for three/four-year-olds, but just thinking about the severity of that excruciating pain, right now at this moment, makes me wish I had one of my friend George’s hydrocodone pills.
The moral of the story is this, dear reader. Accidents do happen, but sometimes they actually aren’t accidents. I still know one of the pranksters, and just a few years back he apologized, once again, for having caused that accident. We are still friends, and of course I accepted his thoughtful, heartfelt, and very kind apology graciously. Hey, after all, kids will be kids, and shit does happen too.
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Happy #WriterThursday. Today’s #WritingPrompt is
Write a piece inspired by it, and then post that piece somewhere I can read it. I would love to see what you come up with : )