No, this post isn’t about how much I dislike children, I know, shocking. But I feel like I’ve expressed that point more than necessary for the time being, and until some little womb rat ends up ruining my day sometime in the near future, I’ll keep my sentiments to myself.
The other day I saw some kids rollerblading down the street and jumping off a curb and doing rail slides, or trying. It was cute. What was not cute, was the flashback I had to my childhood, and the various events that transpired which made me wonder how my parents managed to keep me alive. Let me explain.
I’m from the country. I say “country” because I was born and raised in a town of 200 people. I know how to raise, keep alive, and slaughter pigs, cows, goats, chickens and have been run down and nearly trampled by almost all of them (yes, chickens can trample, don’t laugh, it was scary). Anyway, I learned how to do these things by hanging with my Welo and Wela (Abuelo and Abuela-Grandparents-in Spanish for all the people who don’t follow) while they raised those animals to take to auction and occasionally slaughter for friends and customers for money. I wasn’t alone in my training, there was help, lots of it. On my street (which is faced by acres of fields, mountains and a stream) there were 13 kids. All cousins (the explanation is for another post, trust me, i’ll need schematics and charts). So there were a lot of us running around.
Like most country kids (and most children of the 80’s and earlier), when it was light outside, you were outside. There was no playing in the house, no video games or tv unless the weather was bad. When you’re talking weather in coastal California, you’re outside a lot. When you’re outside playing, you need to get creative. And we did. We played a lot in the street and with anything we could find really. So we would grab bikes and wagons and skateboards (no sidewalk to ride on mind you, just the poorly paved street) and tie them together and pull each other around for hours. When that got old, we would switch to playing on one or two driveways.
At Reynaldo and Marcos’ house, there was an inclined alley that went under the stairs, had a step down to a concrete slab that led to a hill which was the driveway which went to the street. Hook five or six skateboards up, throw as many kids as you could on them and hope no cars were coming by the time you got to the end of the hill and driveway would use up a lot of time. Did we end up in the stinging nettles once in a while? Sure did. Did we get bored of almost losing fingers and being smeared by cars after a few hours? Sure did. So what next?
We would move to bikes, down Amanda’s driveway, which was a steep hill about 30 yards long. The incline provided great speed and the opportunity to get caught up in a barbed wire fence in the middle of poison oak and nettles if you didn’t navigate turning abruptly onto the street as you careened out of the driveway. These are things we didn’t even think twice about. Nope, no one really ever got hurt, shockingly. Now when I’m home and I think of these things I wonder why our parents let us do such things. No one ever stopped us. Once in a while we would walk the concrete wall between my house and my aunt’s, 10 foot drop on either side, while doing little dance moves and jumps. Wela would pretty much always scream “You breaka you head!” In her almost broken English (I never knew if she knew what we were saying in English, but I sure as hell wasn’t one to test her, especially after the near drowning of Reynaldo via water hose one summer day).
We were pretty much always ok. I even flipped a go-cart while giving my cousin Alicia a ride one afternoon. Yup, my dad is a mechanic and my family is big on DIY, so we usually had cool toys that came from swap meets and yard sales (quads, dirt bikes, go-carts, nothing was ever fast enough for us, or my dad and uncles come to think of it). When we did get into trouble is when we went a little rogue and got our own bright ideas. The one I’m thinking of was the brain child of yours truly, of course.
Picture it, a back yard, early 1990 something, a young Royce takes advantage of the terrain which is a natural hill, down to a short flat area held by a three foot retaining wall into an open garden. He also takes advantage of the spare plywood, bricks, milk crates and newly acquired interest in roller coaster design and spare cousins to use as builders. Yup, we sure did.
A few planks of plywood down the hill, overlapping the one below it to ensure a smooth ride down to the flat portion which basically served as a launching ramp over the retaining wall, which led to an elevated banked curve and then end of our course that was about 2 feet above the ground. Yeah…genius, I know. I was the guinea pig and I either rode down on a wagon or a Roller Racer, I can’t remember. I did come up with it after all, and know what? It was fantastic and fun!
So obviously, it was pretty freaking awesome! We were using bikes, scooters, skateboards and roller-skates to play on this thing. Where were the adults with common sense saying “this is going to be bad, real bad?” Next door, working on a roof. Yup, they looked on as it was being built and tested, not a word of caution from the lot of them. In all honesty, its always fun and games until someone gets a compound fracture (ok, not compound really, but it was broken). What happened exactly can only be explained by Nicole herself, but I’ll just say she and her skates didn’t navigate my expertly designed banked curve and launched herself way off course and headfirst onto some non forgiving ground. My bad.
What followed was the only time I thought my dad was going to pummel me into a million pieces. It was like the jaws of life around my arm and a very large screaming Mexican man in my face with a quivering fist attached to a drawn back shoulder. No, he didn’t smack me, didn’t have to, I probably peed a little I was so scared. I did have to disassemble our awesome coaster as Nicole was rushed to the ER.
Disassembling my backyard coaster was hardly the end of Little Miss Accident Prone’s trips to the ER, we all had them, some just more frequent than others. I was chased down by a 400lb sow that had escaped her enclosure. Jessie fell out of a playhouse and got a concussion, her 2nd before she was 10. Reynaldo hit Joey square in the nose with a baseball bat. Dana ran into and got tangled up in an electric fence. Uncle Joe was giving me a ride on a three-wheeler and we flipped it and I was a very crushed 10 year old. And one of us fell down a well and ended up with a metal plate in his head (maybe thats why Wela always gave us that warning…).
Anyway, I’m so thankful I had and was part of those experiences, because looking back, I know why my sense of adventure is gone. I used it all up! But whenever I see kids playing outside I think, you kids need to seriously step it up, and what are you wearing on your head? A helmet? Psh, none of that. Take your licks like the rest of us did and hope you make it this far.