QUIRKY, RANDOM CHILDHOOD THOUGHTS by
suppose I was about three years old when I first noticed something strange happened
every time I walked across a certain type of floor. I remember that black and
white checkered tile was the vogue of that era. The first time it happened my
father was holding my hand and leading me to the front desk of a hotel. I froze
in my tracks and refused to budge. My dad's confusion was understandable. I just
kept staring down at the floor with a frightened, wide-eyed expression. Finally,
he picked me up and carried me the rest of the way. I don't think he ever asked
what I was afraid of and I don't believe I ever told him. It's kind of hard to
explain, but I'll try. Do you remember those computer generated pictures of about
20 years ago? I saw a bunch of people staring at them in a shopping mall. I was
curious so I took a closer look at one of them. At first glance it looked like
a bunch of meaningless numbers and letters. I read the instructions and saw that
you were to relax your eyes and not try to focus on the image, just stare in space.
It took several tries but finally I started to get double vision and then it happened.
The picture popped out in beautiful 3D. After all those years I realized what
happened when I stood in the middle of a black and white tile floor. As I stared
down at them I started to get double vision and the tiles overlapped until they
fitted neatly over each other and looking like just one floor beneath me. . I
had the 3D illusion that I was standing waist deep in the flooring. I tried it
again the next time I saw a similar floor and it proved my theory correct. You
may not be able to get it to work for you, but if you do you'll see how it could
really frighten a small child.|
Have you noticed how little tykes take everything you say literally? At that age I was no exception. My mother had made
some of her famous fudge and the grown ups were enjoying some of it. When I went
to the dish to get a square for myself one of my older cousins asked me to bring
him a small piece. When I brought him his candy everyone in the room laughed hysterically.
I didn't understand until years later that it was because I gave him a sliver
of fudge about the size of BB. Well, he did said a small piece, didn't he?
Also, there was the time I heard one of my friends tell about one of our school
mates who had "feet like a man". I offered no comment but a vision came into my
mind. I reasoned that instead of feet below his ankles there were miniature men.
"Feet like a man". I stared at his shoes for the rest of the day trying to think
of an excuse to get him to take them off.
There's one thing kids can do
a lot better than grownups. Pretend. I suppose I was as good at it as anyone.
There was one particular time I remember in Marlin, Texas. I guess I was about
nine. I had just emerged from a darkened movie theater and I was trying to adjust
my eyes to the bright light of day. I almost ran into a black boy about my age.
He looked frightened and quickly stepped out of my way. I wondered why he reacted
that way. After awhile I came to the conclusion that it was because I was white.
As I ambled on down the street to rejoin my parents I started to wondering what
it would be like to be of that race. With every step I felt my skin getting darker
and darker. My cotton white hair became black and kinky. I found myself stepping
closer to the curb to let the "white folks" have the sidewalk. The transition
had taken its full measure. I was now black. Even during the ride back home I
couldn't shake it. That experience left a lasting impression on me. Today I could
never create a fantasy any where near as real as that one no matter how hard I
My first memory of the state was the featureless country around
Wink in far west Texas.
When we went eastward I noticed that the prairies gave way to beautiful rolling
hills and finally to the thick forest of deep east Texas. It seemed to me that
it was reasonable to assume that every state had the same east and west land features
with prairies to the west and forest to the east. When we got to Louisiana I expected
to cross the border and find myself back in sage brush, sand and cactus. After
all, this was the western part of the state.
I guess I always had an eye
for detail and dimensions. This had an effect on my social life with other children.
When we played with toy cars everything went fine as long as all the autos were
of the same scale. I recall one day when we were enjoying our magic world. Little
streets had been laid out in the dirt and we were driving our miniature cars up
and down them. It was so real to me I could almost see the families in the cars
and hear their conversations. It was a perfect, peaceful place with no problems
or cares. Then another boy suddenly plopped down beside us with a car that was
many times larger than ours. I took one look and the whole scene went "poof".
The beautiful wonderland I was enjoying so much evaporated into an incongruent
mess. No one else seemed to notice and my objections fell on deaf ears. Try as
I might I could not make them understand why his out-of-scale car spoiled the
illusion. Compromise was not in my vocabulary. I picked up my toys and went home.
I was approaching my eightieth birthday my wife wanted to have a big party to
celebrate that milestone in my life. I had refused her attempts to plan such parties
in the past but this was a special occasion and she thought I would relent. I
stood fast. "No birthday party for me, that's it". It goes back to my childhood.
I had attended many birthday parties for other children and enjoyed them as much
as anyone. But that all changed when my mother had a party for me. When the other
kids arrived and they all gathered to sing "Happy Birthday" to me I suddenly turned
and ran away. My poor mother was mystified and tried in vain to get me to return
to the party. I spent the rest of the day hiding in my room. I have no idea why,
even today, I don't want a birthday party for myself. I just don't. My wife and
I observed my eightieth birthday with just the two of us having a quiet meal in
my favorite Mexican food restaurant.
In the thirties there was a border
dispute between Texas and Louisiana. A small parcel of land was claimed by both
states. It was eventually resolved peacefully but at first my brother and I imagined
there would be a war between Texas and Louisiana. He proclaimed that it wouldn't
be much of a fight because Texas was so much larger. I pondered this for awhile.
After much contemplation I returned with my theory of how the battle would turn
out. I agreed that Texas was a much larger state but he was forgetting about Barksdale
Air Base in Shreveport and all those war planes readily available to repel the
invading Texans. That's the only time I can remember Sam being stumped. He said
he had completely forgotten about that.