When my wife Abby and I were first dating, I was in the process of painting my apartment. For a while we worked on it together, and for those occasions, I bought a carafe of blush wine. One day one of us, a little tipsy, referred to it as a giraffe of wine, and thereafter, drinking one became known as “getting giraffed.”
The Tomato Hole
When I was six and my sister Nicole was three, we lived in Independence, Missouri, not far from Dad’s parents. It was an eventful year.
On one occasion, my sister was playing on the metal slide that was part of a swing set our dad was assembling in the back yard. She managed to slice open her knee pretty dramatically. It took about six stitches, but for most of her life, when she tells the story, it took 125 stitches and “hideously scarred her for life.”
That same summer, Nicole and I were playing in the back yard when Mom, who was making supper, decided she needed a tomato from the garden for the hamburgers. She came through the garage and stepped off the back porch. When she did, she stepped into an unseen hole that was overgrown with grass and sprained her ankle. With kids who were too small to help, she called for Dad, who came lumbering awkwardly as fast as he could speed-walk through the garage, stepped onto the porch, then into the same hole, spraining his ankle, and falling right next to Mom.
Since I have no recollection of how the two managed to get back into the house, I assume they are still there to this day.
Sliding on Golf Pond
With what little money I had in my freshman year in college, I bought my first Nikon camera and three lenses. I also bought a ski jacket at Chess King in the Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City. It was puffy and made of nylon.
One night during Christmas vacation, “Skip” and I decided to prowl around the golf course behind his house in Lawton, Oklahoma. We mostly talked about philosophy, but at one point we discovered that a large pond was frozen over, and that if we got a good running start, we could slide on our backs and/or butts the entire length of the pond.
The ski jacket was torn to shreds.
Three Hills Sledding
When I was just five, we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, in a nice two-story house with an attic in which my cousin Lori and I believed there were bodies hidden.
For much of our winter in Omaha, Dad’s Rambler was stuck in the garage because the driveway led downhill into it and it iced up and stayed iced. At least to my young mind, it was all winter.
Behind the house was a grade school, the playground for which was surrounded by three hills. I had a sled, and it was fun going down the smallest hill and fairly scary going down the medium hill. The big hill? I was never able to muster the courage.
Two seminal moments in my short, underachieving Cub Scout career:
Shooting .22s. As the shy, awkward kid, I tended not to be particularly assertive about getting in line. This time was different, though, since we were lining up to shoot guns. I thought I was getting at the front of the line, but I was actually at the back. When it came my turn to shoot, at first the scoutmaster simply ignored me. Then, after I protested, I got to shoot just three rounds because that’s all that was left.
Riding in a go cart race, again, I tried to get in the front of the line, but the bullies pushed me back. When all the races were over, there was just me left, so I got to ride without an opponent in the other lane. The older Boy Scouts who stopped the car at the end laughed and laughed.
Stealing Sunflowers and Throwing Each Other Under the Bus
In about third grade, the girl across the street (Cathy, last name redacted) and I found some huge sunflowers growing in an alley near a creek where we played. Thinking they were in the public domain, we picked a couple of them (with great difficulty, since they were so huge) and carried them around for a little while until they got too heavy. We didn’t think we’d done anything wrong.
An hour after getting home, Tracy’s mom (Tracy was in our grade, and ended up being a bitch) showed up at the front door, accusing us of destroying her sunflowers. That wasn’t fair, since they were planted in a public alley, but not wanting trouble, I said, “Cathy did it.”
Unknown to me, Cathy said, “Richard did it.”
This memory is from way, way back, and it’s somewhat unclear, but I am certain it happened. Maybe in second or third grade, I was in a musical performance, and was assigned to perform on a small xylophone that fit on my lap. Through the entire song, I had two notes, bling and blong. I was so intent on getting the mallets to hit the notes that I never once looked up. It was just me and bling…blong, bling…blong.
Afterwards Mom and Dad made fun of me for not looking up.