One in five children who embarked with their families for California from 1841 to 1865 never made it. They died from accidents, illnesses, starvation, cold and, in the case of six Oatman children, from an Indian raid. ~”Pioneer Children”, Kathleen Holder~
Wow. All we had to worry about in my 1970’s childhood was getting knocked in the head with the infamous Klacker balls.
I FEEL LIKE SUCH A PANSY.
In light of the tremendous hardships faced by the folks who lived even a mere 100 years ago, I am almost (ALMOST) too embarrassed to blog about those things that we considered Unspeakably Dangerous in my own childhood.
Conversely, I’m often amused by the things we, as modern-day parents, worry about with our children. And I cogitated on the matter.
I LIKE THAT WORD. ‘COGITATE’.
So. Without further adieu, I present you with my own personal, seriously cogitated-upon list of the Top Eight Most Dangerous Things in Lisa’s Childhood.
Side note: I couldn’t conjure up ten things. You’ll have to live with eight.
My sincerest apologies, I don’t have an editor to rein me in.
#8 – LAWN JARTS
I would love to know the thought process behind the invention of Jarts. Take heavy metal spears of the deadly impaling variety, attach them to aerodynamic plastic wings and turn the kids loose. Please. Toss these at one another. Remember to aim for the yellow circle. The winner is the team where no one has sustained a punctured lung.
In retrospect, I have to admit to being a little awed that we didn’t lose a single kid at the campground. And that when the Mighty Jarts came a bit too close, rather than being mortally fearful for our lives, we laughed.
WE LAUGHED. ‘OOOH, MAN THAT WAS CLOSE!’
#7 – KLACKER BALLS
I vividly remember the glorious day my dad brought home these little beauties for my older brother and I. Dad walked in the door one evening, a lopsided grin on his face, hands hidden behind his back.
“What’s your favorite color?”
“Okay. What’s your second favorite color?”
Long story short, we ended up with green and blue. Sadly, I think I knocked some of the wind out of his
Dad, I’m sorry.
I LOVE GREEN. I DO.
And I especially loved how, when we got tired of trying (unsuccessfully) to make these stupid balls click clack over-under-over-under in the manner for which they were designed, we could use them (successfully) as weapons. Flung end-over-end, they could cause some serious noggin damage.
But I only heard about that from my friends.
I’D NEVER TRY THAT MYSELF. (SORRY, JEFF)
#6 FINDING (AND EATING) STRAY FOOD
File this tidbit under Inconsequential Things You Can’t Fathom Why You Remember, But You Do. I have always been a huge fan of sweets. I believe that … some how … some way … my father was really Willy Wonka.
When I was a small child under the age of six years old … I know this because I can’t remember my younger brother being anywhere in this memory. He would show up in my memories sometime after … like we’re talking six days after … I embarked upon my seventh year of life.
VERY CONVENIENT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION STEALER, YOU.
My mom carted my older brother and I with her back to her small hometown for the planning of their high school reunion. While the moms were doing whatever moms did to task out the purchase of paper products and balloons, I remember wandering outside near the old red brick school building. Suddenly, and without warning, the heavens moved, the planets aligned and I stumbled upon the Great Childhood Find of Lisa’s Short, Yet Sweet, Life.
AN UNOPENED HOSTESS CUPCAKE PACKAGE. FOR REAL.
And, of course. Well.
PUH-LEASE. I WAS SIX YEARS OLD (OR YOUNGER).
Although what I took from this whole experience was the mortified look on my mother’s face when she found chocolate cake crumbs between my wee little teeth. And she hadn’t given me a cupcake. Please, mom. Don’t make me spit it out.
I’M BEGGING YOU. I SWEAR IT DIDN’T TASTE LIKE IT WAS POISONED?!
#5 JUMP ROPES
We had very simple toys when I was a child. Everyone had very simple toys. One of my favorite possessions was my jump rope which could be used in a plethora of ways. Tethered to the back of a bike, it provided hours of entertainment whilst pulling one another around on rollerskates. Let me interject, however, that corners were always quite problematic.
WATCH OUT FOR …
And when you wanted to actually utilitze the toy for it’s intended purpose (i.e. jumping rope) and were lacking a third-party to twirl the contraption, why you could just tie one end of it to the fence. Instant twirler. Unfortunately, as these things sometimes go, Bad Lisa gets a smarty aleck idea that (generally) ends very, very badly.
One ‘live’ jump rope holder. One fence post.
‘LET’S PLAY HIGH WATER, LOW WATER!’
The premise of this game is to gradually raise the rope a few inches each turn in order for the other participant, such as one’s brother, to jump over with (pre-determined) incremental increases to the height. A real skill-building exercise I suppose if you’re going to be an …. I don’t know … when you grow up.
These type of situations tended to bring out the Ornery Lisa. ‘Low water.’ HOP. ‘Low water.’ HOP A LITTLE HIGHER. ‘Low water.’ I MEAN HIGH WATER. And gosh, if Ornery Lisa didn’t yank that rope straight horizontal.
KNEECAPS HITTING THE CEMENT PAVEMENT IS A RATHER DISTURBING SOUND. (SORRY, JEFF)
#4 ERRANT BASEBALLS
Lest you think I was the only Really Rotten Child of the 70’s, I also appeared to have some friends who were of the same disposition. My junior high friend, Christine, was a baseball pitcher. So. Jeff, Christine, and I took the opportunity one sunny spring afternoon to head over to the schoolyard to putz around. Since I am not, nor ever have been, coordinated in any even remote fashion, I sat on the school porch and watched this particular event unfold. I am proud to tell y’all that this is probably one of the few times in my childhood I was not directly involved in torturing my poor brother.
Sad. But he really doesn’t.
Anyhoo. Christine got a few good pitches in and then It Happened. Jeff’s looking down, chucking at the dirt with the tip of the bat. Christine dislodges the ball from her paw with alarming speed. And there is dead silence.
ONE MISSISSIPPI. TWO MISSISSIPPI. THREE MISSISSIPPI.
Then. THEN. Chris yells, ‘HEADS UP’.
Which Jeff does. Bad timing. REALLY BAD TIMING.
My first thought was, ‘Boy, that’s a heckova lot of blood coming out of his nose?!’
My second thought was, ‘I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.’
A disclaimer to my Dearest Mother. If you are reading this blog, please know I think you and dad did a smashing job raising me. And, that even with all the Right Information and Parental Threatening, I sometimes did things I knew I shouldn’t do. And, ya know, the important thing is that ultimately I grew up to be a very responsible, hard-working, tax-paying, honest, charming, loveable mother and wife.
Every once in awhile the Teenage Lisa got a Bad Idea stuck her head and started coloring outside of the lines. One day, Two Friends Who Shall Historically Remain Nameless, and I got on the bus heading towards school like we did every other day. However, with the most gentlest of persuasion, the origin of which I (honestly) don’t remember, on that particular day we ended up at the mall. Then Pizza Hut. Then more mall.
I suppose school went on without us. I also suppose that we were good enough kids overall that my parents never received the phone call that we’d skipped town. Or at least English class. Well. And math. Maybe a little American Government. Phys Ed. Band.
It happened exactly once. It wasn’t nearly as entertaining as we envisioned it to be.
PARANOIA IS THE ULTIMATE BUZZ KILL
#2 PRE-SEATBELT LAWS
Anyway you slice it, three children in the backseat of a cramped 1970’s car, on a vacation that consists of 3,000 miles from Ohio to California in four days presents unique issues. Limited space. No air conditioning. Hours and hours of sameness.
I think the hump was technically known as the T-R-A-N-S-M-I-S-S-I-O-N. However, to us kids, it was simply considered The Place Where You Did Not Want to Be Stuck. And as fate would have it, by the time you sped into Nevada the little brother who has been straddling the Floor Hump for a few days, wants to take a nap.
DO NOT LAY YOUR SWEATY LITTLE TODDLER HEAD ON MY LAP.
Gawd love the 70’s. Because it was only during that narrow window of time, in a seemingly lawless (clueless) United States, would one ever have the opportunity to allow their child to stretch out in the back window of your car. To nap. Seatbelt-less.
IN THE BACK WINDOW. AT 55 MILES AN HOUR.
Stranger than fiction, I tell ya. I wish I’d have thought to take a picture.
#1 COOKIE DOUGH
And. The #1 most dangerous problem (in my mind) from my childhood? According to the government, consuming raw eggs is cause for grave concern as they may (or, let’s be fair here, may not) carry salmonella. And that can make you sick.
VERY, VERY SICK. SOMETIMES AS IN DEAD SICK.
Cookie dough nearly always has raw eggs. I am here to tell you that I’ve eaten raw cookie dough from the time I walked into kindergarten to, well, last weekend. Sometimes, in the realm of Things Deemed Dangerous, you have to live a little on the edge.
BUT JARTS? YEAH. STILL A REALLY BAD IDEA.