Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mosquitos and Roach Clips

Young Rocky country cruising in one of his many very cool vehicles
When I was a kid, the star of my family was my little brother Rocky, a fearless and funny kid, with an unerring eye for the absurd. In spite of the difference in our ages, I was seven years older, we got along famously. When our adult cousin Maryanne told her toddler son Wayne to pull up his sagging pants, Wayne tugged at his pants, muttering “I are. I are,” while Rocky and I rolled on the floor laughing hysterically.
Rocky today
     Back in those days, the big kids in the family cared for the little kids while the parents worked. For many summers I was Rocky’s babysitter.  Which meant that Rocky did what I did, age appropriate or not. We lived on a lake, and spent just about every day at the dock in front of our house, swimming with neighborhood kids. One day Rocky and I decided to swim across the lake. Rocky was almost five years old. The lake was not wide, and Rocky was a great swimmer. I thought it was very cool that Rocky and I could swim across the lake and back. Wow! That night at the dinner table I proudly told my parents what Rocky and I had done that day. My mother dropped her fork. As it clattered into her plate she said “You did what with your 5-year-old brother?” I said it again, unsure this time, suddenly sensing the scene turning dark. “Rocky and I swam across the lake. And back!”  Suddenly I was in deep trouble, a sadly familiar place for Rocky and me in those days.
    One fall, in honor of football season, a gas station handed out plastic football helmets to the kids of parents who filled up their tanks with gas. Rocky got a helmet, of course, and immediately set out to test its strength. He donned his helmet, then ran, as hard and fast as he could, head down, into the side of the house. My mother heard the crash and ran outside to find Rocky, spread eagle, knocked out cold, in the autumn leaves. That helmet wasn’t so great, he said, when he regained consciousness. And I was thankful that the crash had occurred on Mom’s watch, and not mine.
Michael, Rocky and me in Nova Scotia one bright summer day
    I had a friend back then, who also lived on the lake. Janet would ask “what is Rocky up to? He’s such a funny little guy.” And I would entertain her with stories of Rocky’s latest antics. We were in a contest to see whose little brother could do the craziest thing.
   Janet’s own little brother once jumped into the washing machine, while it was going, and broke his leg. While he recovered, Janet’s mother would have us come to their house after school to play with him, as much as that was possible—it was like trying to get a kitten to stay put—as he languished for weeks on the couch in a massive cast. Rocky’s casts, and he had plenty through the years, never rendered him immobile. Even a broken leg and cast did not keep him from riding his motor bike around the yard or from hiking into the woods, on his trusty crutches.
    Today’s parents keep a much better eye on their kids. Kids don’t play outdoors, unsupervised, for hours on end, and they learn to read before they learn to swim.  They are far worldlier than we were, and suffer way fewer broken bones. But they are still funny.
    One early summer evening, my baby grandson watched as his father tilled the garden patch.
John and Will catch a fish
    “Will,” his father said, “do you remember last summer when we had a garden here and we grew cucumbers and tomatoes?”
    Yes, he did, Will said.
    “And do you remember all the other good food we raised here in our garden?”   
    Again, Will remembered.
John and Will
    “Will, what would you like to grow in our garden this year?” his father asked.
    “Cake,” Will answered.
    The same kid, now 8, went to chess camp this summer. He came home, sat down with his father to a game, and beat him in three moves. Later that night, at the dinner table, Will’s little brother John, 5, announced that when he grows up he plans to be a fireman. His parents nodded their approval and then asked Will what he wanted to be when he grows up.
    “A professional football player,” Will said. “What would you want your son to be? A big star who brings home the bacon, or a guy who gets cats out of trees?”
John & Will with their amused parents
    John, 5 now, and, like his brother Will about as smart as a little kid can be, started a new school this week. On day two of his school career John ran into trouble for talking at a time when he was supposed to be being quiet, and for not taking a rest at nap time. When his mother asked him about his misdeeds, John reasoned them away. As for talking on line—he was “only telling a couple of knock-knock jokes.” And at naptime, “the teacher wouldn’t even let me get a book.”
    My friend Stephanie, who lives up the Keys, told me this about her little boy.
    “The mosquito truck is coming by,” Stephanie said.
    “Oh Mom,” he said, with a heavy sigh, “don’t we have enough mosquitos yet?”
    A little Key West kid, around 5, whose parents shall remain unnamed, had to have stitches. The doctor patiently explained each step of the procedure, and the kid did well. A week later, he was returned to the doctor’s office for the removal of the stitches. Just like before, the doctor patiently explained to the little guy what would happen next.
    “This is what I'm going to use this to remove those stitches,” the doctor said, holding up a shiny, silver hemostat.
    “A roach clip?” the kid gasped.

 A new funny kid story: Grandson John, 5, is a genius at remembering maps, states and capitals. You have to know that to understand why Michael and I were howling with laughter when this arrived from Michael's daughter Meredith. 

Meredith:  John, WHAT is that on the couch?

John:  I don't know.

Meredith: You are the only one in here. What is that on the couch?

John:  Idaho.

1 comment:

  1. As Art Linkletter said, "Kids say the darndest things!" Thanks, June. Very funny.