Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yes, We Were Strange Children

Is it odd that at the age of 23, I can still remember the address of the house I lived in for the first 7 years of my life?

That's a random question and it really doesn't have anything to do with this post. Except that what I'm about to write about took place in that home.

That old house had four bedrooms and a fairly large living room, dining room, and kitchen. But the place where we children spent most of our time was in the enclosed addition off the living room. We called it the schoolroom but we did everything in there. We played with hard rubber animals, legos, and wooden blocks. We read books. We built "secret" forts and hid from each other. We ran around. We did school. We watched our mom sew. And we made lots and lots of crafts. Mostly paper chains made of construction paper, which always resulted in little scraps of paper landing on the floor.

The floor in the schoolroom was covered in an atrocious indoor-outdoor, bright tealish-blue carpet. The carpet was rough in texture and it grabbed onto everything, especially little scraps of paper.

Growing up, my parents never allowed us to chew gum (bear with me here, I promise this is going somewhere). I'm not sure where my parents' dislike of chewing gum came from, but I know they thought it looked disrespectful. My dad, who was a teacher in a public classroom at the time, had us all memorize the following poem:

The gum-chewing student
And the cud-chewing cow
They're both alike
But they're different, somehow
What is the difference?
I can see it all now
'Tis the intelligent look
On the face of the cow

(Author unknown)

On occasion, an older woman from the church we attended would give all the children half a stick of gum after service. This was a rare and wonderful treat and we would chew the gum for as long as we possibly could.

A little over half our friends were allowed to chew gum on a regular basis and we always looked at them a bit enviously. Chewing gum looked cool, we thought, and the fact that it was forbidden in our family made it seem that much cooler.

So, back to the schoolroom. After our craft-making sessions, our mom would invariably call a "10-Minute Blitz" which meant that for 10 minutes, all of the children would clean the schoolroom (this is a very effective method for straightening, by the way). The most time-consuming part of the process was picking up all the bits of paper. Because of the texture of the carpet, vacuuming would not pick them up, so we had to do it by hand.

This next part is where it gets strange. We really, really wanted to chew gum. So we pretended that the little papers were gum. While we went around picking up the scraps, we would put the medium-small pieces in our mouths and chew them. Sometimes we would chew the construction paper the entire time we were cleaning. After we were done, we'd spit the paper out in the trash can.

We even pretended that the different colors represented different flavors. My favorite was red.

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