Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Books and Trees

When I was a kid there was no place I wanted to be more than curled up with a book in the big squishy chair in the living room. That was fine with my the winter, she was always urging me to go outside and play when the weather was nice.  She would bug me, until she got me outside.  The thing soon as she was busy doing something I would sneak back into the house, grab my book and then go back outside.

If I "had" to be outside, I wanted to be up the crab apple tree in our front, I perfected the art of climbing a tree with a paperback book in my teeth.  It solved my problem and hers quite well. I was still reading, and I was outside.  In all those years I only fell out of the crab apple tree once! ;) 

The Bushes

We lived in a condo, so there wasn't really a yard to play in, but there was a schoolyard across the street and a park in the back of the complex that butted up against the freeway. Of course I played in the schoolyard every day, but most of my playtime memories involve the park. Since it was right next to the freeway, it was bordered by a 10 foot high chain link fence that was covered in oleander bushes. They would get pinkish red blooms in the summertime that didn't smell at all. But the bushes themselves were more interesting than the flowers. They were higher than the fence, and it was easy for us kids to play inside them. The branches formed "rooms" and we would spend lots of time playing "house" in the bushes, making mud pies and having our friends over to pretend we were having tea, and the like.
Sometimes my mom would let me go to the park without an adult when I got a little older, as long as I had another kid with me. Usually this was my cousin Shelly, whose mom was my uncle Jerry's third or fourth wife and who wasn't actually related to me at all except through marriage. Shelly was a couple of years older than me- she was 12 and I was 10- and she always bossed me around, treated me like a baby and generally behaved as though she was far superior to me. I couldn't stand her, but I tolerated her because she was the only one I had to play with, since my brother was only 2 years old.
Once, we went to the park and were playing house in the bushes and I realized I had to pee. I was going to run to my Mema (grandmother) and Papa (grandfather)'s house, which was right by the park, to use their restroom, but Shelly said, "This is our house. Why don't you use the bathroom here in the bushes?"
"I don't want to. I'm going to Mema and Papa's."
"No," she whined, "I'm not allowed to play out here alone, and I don't want to go with you. Just go in the bushes. No one will see."
I had to pee so bad, and I knew that Shelly would argue with me until I peed my pants, so I actually did it- I found a closely wooded spot, did my business, and then went back to playing.
Later than evening we went back home and Shelly walked right up to my mom and said, "Gina peed in the bushes at the park," then she smiled and went upstairs to her apartment and left me there alone.
"WHAT?" my mom shouted. "Gina LOUISE, you do NOT use the bushes to pee! There are perverts everywhere! Something terrible could have happened!!"
"Shelly told me to," I said meekly, realizing that it was a feeble excuse but having no other defense.
"I don't care," my mom said. "I raised you to know better than that. You have to think for yourself. You're grounded. You can't go to the park for a week, and you're not allowed to play with Shelly anymore unless Mema or Papa or some other adult is around. Now, go to your room."
I wasn't happy to be grounded, or to have the park off limits, but I have to say, I wasn't terribly broken up about not being allowed to play with Shelly anymore. She was always much nicer to me when parents were around. And I still think that it was a really shitty thing she did, to coax me into peeing in the bushes and then tell my mom about it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Playing Spa

One time, when I was a kid, two of my friends (two sisters) and I dug a gigantic hole in their backyard. We were thinking we would create some sort of mud bath to make our skin softer. This was a lot of work. The hole was as big and deep as an old bathtub. Then we filled it with water. That took the better part of an afternoon (I don't think it really held water well). We rolled up our pants and soaked our legs in the mud for a while, but soon decided that we needed the mud to cover our bodies. We put on our bathing suits and soaked in the freezing mud. We all pretended to like it. We lay out in the shade (there was no sun in their backyard) until the mud was all dry and caked onto our bodies. Once we looked like we had a mud mask over our entire bodies, we took turns rinsing each other off with the freezing hose water. Again, we dried ourselves in the shade.

Then we ran our fingers over each other's legs and said (with some bizarre upper class accent),

"Feel how luxuriantly soft your skin is!"

This was called, "Playing Spa." I can't decide if this was really sophisticated play or just plain torturing ourselves for no apparent reason. I've never been to a real spa, so I have no comparisons to make. Maybe going to a real spa is exactly like this experience. It has always stuck out in my mind as a weird memory, sitting in that mud hole together with the two other girls, whom I actually didn't know very well because they were Catholic and always had to go to Catechism whenever I wanted to play. Until I was about twenty, I generally thought that all Catholics spent all of their time either going to Catechism or digging gigantic holes in the ground.

We had another game that also used the hose. It was called, "Snake," and it involved running around an invisible obstacle course and avoiding getting bitten by the "snake", which was really just a hose. Then we would watch their dog eat snails off of the wood fence, which was also incredibly entertaining. I don't think these girls had any actual toys, but they were still lots of fun and most of the time I really wished they weren't Catholic and didn't always have to go to Catechism.

Eventually, their mom made us fill in the spa hole with dirt again. I thought she was pretty cool for letting us dig it in the first place.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gnomes Away

Several years ago, in a school district not very far away, we had a gnome. The gnome got planted in different places around the school. The rule was that if you found a gnome in your room you needed to plant that gnome in someone else's classroom undetected.

This prank was started anonymously. Just a gnome and a printed note.

It was slow going at first, but within a few weeks the gnome ended up in some very creative places: in the trophy case, standing in the window above the door to the English class, and my favorite: inside a bass drum looking out.

After weeks of suspicion around the staff, the usual subjects (the guys) had been questioned and no one could figure out the rampant prankster.

No one expects the little Spanish teacher!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Changing Places Between Oakland, California and Fort Collins, Colorado

When I was twelve, my aunt, my dad and I drove from Oakland, California to Fort Collins, Colorado. (They did most of the driving.) Between the two places are a whole lot of deserted diners. We stopped at one of these places, the only customers, and in spite of the lack of business, there was a sign instructing us to wait to be seated. A nice lady placed us in a brown booth at one end. Let's call it "The South End" of the restaurant.

We looked over the menu. She took our orders. Then we looked around.

Aunt Lou: "It looks nicer over there. Why did she seat us over here?"

Dad: "It does look a lot nicer over there."

Twelve Year Old Me: "Yeah."

Aunt Lou got a familiar gleam in her eye. "Should we switch?"

Me: "Yeah!"

Dad: "Yeah!"

So, feeling like we were being a little naughty, we moved to the sunnier, happier North End of the restaurant- far from our assigned seats. The waitress came in with our tray of food and looked momentarily confused, then plastered on a false smile and commented on our switching places.

To twelve year old me, this was all so crazy! We made a waitress slightly annoyed! Holy cow!

But, the best part was, at the next deserted diner, we did it again! And then at the next one! We were just switching seats for no particular reason! Doing whatever we wanted! It was anarchy! You should have seen the looks on those waitresses' faces! They were all a little bit annoyed!

Once we got back to places where we weren't the only ones in the restaurant, though, the game was over.

I mentioned this once to my dad and he doesn't remember it at all.

New Topic for June

Dirty Tricks and Practical Jokes