Thursday, March 24, 2011

What makes me think so?

Did you ever build a scooter using discarded wood and old roller skates? A few things come to mind as the weather becomes warmer and the sun makes more frequent appearances. With winter going away and thoughts of ushering in springtime capture my imagination I am again reflecting on how much more I used to anticipate the changing seasons.

As an aging man who regards the best of my life behind me now I have to revisit those times a little more often to insure they never completely fade from memory. So, much of my writing not only serves as documentation of what I think was a pretty good life, I hope that it stands as a testament to that fact.

Have you ever walked through alleys looking for discarded pop bottles to carry to a store and redeem them for extra spending money as a kid?

There was a time I not only did that as a mission but during that era of my own youth I rarely left an empty pop bottle on the ground.

Even if I were busy playing with my friends or just riding my bicycle. those bottles were so precious and valuable then I would go as far as to hide one that I may have found to retrieve it later, and I am sure I probably picked up a few and carried them to the store for the two cents they were worth even if that meant interrupting something else I was doing at the time.

And speaking of simple transportation, have you ever folded a piece of cardboard and attached it to your bike so it would rub the spokes and make sounds like a motor, or placed a balloon there to make it sound like a more powerful one? Have you ever decorated bicycle spokes with bottle caps? Ever ride a bike that had streamers in the handle grips or rear view mirrors or a bell to warn others that you were coming?

Did your bicycle ever have a metal basket on the handlebars or a pair of them straddling the rear wheel? What about a chrome headlight shaped like a rocket or a horn that sounded off-key when the batteries were going bad?

Have you ever ridden a bicycle through deep snow or on an icy road without worrying about having it slip out from beneath you and breaking a bone in the process, or on dry pavement and going as fast as you can and slamming on the breaks to lay rubber?

Were you ever able to leave rubber from the rear tire on the ground by pedaling as hard as you could going forward? Ever put decals or paint your name on your bike?

Have you ever painted a bike with a brush and if you did, did it look ridiculous? Have you ever painted the word Ford or Chevrolet on a bike? Have you ever ridden a bicycle and imagined you were driving a car or a truck?

Have you ever tied a transistor radio to the handle bars? And before you learned to ride a bike did you ever ride a wagon by sitting in it on one knee while scooting your foot across the pavement of a sidewalk?

Have you ever thought you could make it further than you did while hopping on a po-go stick or while walking on stilts? Have you ever had a pair of stilts that you or your father didn't make?

Have you ever had to end a game of badminton because the birdie went into a cranky neighbor's yard and you were afraid to ask them to return it, or stopped playing whiffle ball because the ball landed in a gutter or on a roof? Ever tried to walk to school without stepping on a crack? Ever heard the phrase "step on a crack...break your mother's back?"

Have you ever worried that you would have a bad day or something horrible would happen if you walked under a ladder or stood under an umbrella when you were indoors? Did you ever wear a yellow raincoat that came with a matching hat or rubber boots with metal buckles?

Ever purposely step in water puddles knowing your shoes wouldn't get wet because you were wearing boots? Were you ever disappointed when the boot didn't do its job? Have you ever jumped into a swimming pool and the water was colder than you thought it would be even on a hot summer day?

Have you ever wondered why the area in a classroom where you hung your coat and parked your boots was called a cloak room?

Was there a time when you didn't know what the word cloak meant and never really pondered it? Did you ever think of the principal's office as a scary place? Did the inside of a school ever smell like crayons or modeling clay to you?

Have you ever felt special because the teacher asked you to erase a blackboard or did you ever get a face full of chalk by banging two erasers together? Did you ever feel like the school day was almost over the moment you smelled food cooking in a cafeteria?

Have you ever carried your lunch to school in a brown paper bag that had your name written on it in pencil? Was part of that lunch ever a sandwich wrapped in wax paper? Did your mother ever give you a nickel for milk money and tell you not to lose it?

Have you ever sat in a class room and stared a clock, especially before lunch time or near the end of the day? Or did you ever need to look at the alphabet above a blackboard because you forgot how to make a letter?

Did you ever feel silly or excited the night before Valentine’s Day because you had to print the names of all of your classmates on little greeting cards? Did you save the better ones for the kids you liked best and did it ever look odd to you or did you ever cringe when you had to write someone’s name on one that you didn’t like at all?

Ever feel like a mailman when you walked around the classroom and dropped them into little bags taped to the front of everyone’s desk?

Have you ever taken gum out of your mouth and stuck it beneath your seat or under a desk top? Have you ever written your name on a desk or the name of someone you had a crush on?

Ever draw a heart around it with an arrow going through it? Have you ever drawn a mustache or blacked out someone’s teeth on a picture in a yearbook or class picture?

Has a teacher ever caught you doodling on a piece of paper, or has one ever made you stand in a corner for some other insurrection? Did you ever feel like the entire class was staring at your back and laughing the whole time you stood there, even if you had to stand there for an hour or more?

Have you ever played games at school called kick-ball, tether-ball or four square? Have you ever taken a plastic gun to school to share with the class or to aim at your classmates while playing army or cowboys and Indians during recess?

Have you ever lied to your mother about being sick just to get out of going to school? Have you ever wished you could go to school instead of keeping a dentist appointment? Was a doctor ever someone who made regular visits to your home?

Have you ever left your mark using something as harmless as a piece of chalk on the side of someone else's property? Today vandals use spray paint to do that but in bygone years there was a sense of really getting away with something and in some cases even accomplishment to make your mark even though it could be removed with a water hose.

And speaking of water hoses...have you ever shared one with a friend on a hot day to quench a thirst? And if you did, did you worry about getting something called cooties if your mouth touched the end of the hose? Sort of like allowing a friend or a sibling to take a swig from your bottle of pop, if you did that did you wipe it off thoroughly before you took another drink? Did you ever believe that cooties was a real disease?

Maybe going as far as to using your shirt tail to scrub it clean so you wouldn’t catch it? Or maybe you asked for a drink from someone else's bottle and were offended when they did exactly what you would have done if it were the other way around?

The warmer weather has me thinking about pulling my bicycle out of the garage and taking a long ride around the neighborhood to again reflect on a time when doing that was how I got to nearly every destination I wanted to be. Not just places I needed to go but where I wanted to.

Have you ever tried to ride a bike as far as you could go on just one wheel? And if you could do "wheelies” was there more of a sense of accomplishment if there were others watching you do it?

And speaking of such exhibitionism have you ever played basketball by yourself using someone else's rim without permission to do it? Like one nailed to someone's garage behind their house?

And if you did that were you hoping someone saw you when you made a great shot? Were you a little embarrassed each time you missed, or did you hope that no one saw that one?
Regardless, did you usually win all of your games? Did you usually win by making a shot as the buzzer in your head sounded? Were some of those games ever played inside of your house using your mom's clothes hamper as a rim?

Have you ever peeked at someome's blog and read something that triggered a memory or just made you think?

Just asking.

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