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a strange world


A couple of years ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I unearthed an interesting memory from approximately first or second grade. It's not like this came back in a traumatic, rushing kind of way. It was more like an "oh, wow, that's wild" kind of moment. The event itself didn't really make much of an impact on me and that's also surprising in retrospect.

So it's roughly 1975-ish and I'm at the local library in the children's section with a girl named Karrie. She was pretty worldly compared to the other girls I hung out with -- her mom and dad were divorced and she lived with her mom and her older brother, Bobby.

Anyway, Karrie and I were hanging out in the children's area in between a row of books and Karrie whispered to me, "Do you want to see a man's thing?" as she pointed to her own private parts to illustrate exactly what she meant when she said "thing" in an exaggerated tone.

As I pressed my lips together in concentration I decided, "Umm, okay." I wanted to feel like I could keep up with her, but I wasn't sure what she was talking about and this seemed like an opportunity to find out.

So she leads me to another row of books, in the children's section, mind you a couple rows down from where we had been. She pulls out a children's book on dinosaurs as we sit down in the middle of the row of books. She opens the book and sets it on the floor and points, accusingly, with her outstretched index finger to a cartoon picture of a dinosaur. "Right there," she whispers as she taps the page in the book.

I scanned the page in deep concentration looking for something amiss. Everything looked normal. "Where?" I asked.

Again, she points her index finger on the page as she says, more insistently, "Right. There."

Again, my seven-year-old brain lets me down. I am scanning, searching, squinting, concentrating, trying to get blood out of the page and I just cannot figure out what this girl is pointing to.

"I don't see it," I whisper back, as her frustration with me mounts. Finally, I realize she is trying to nod her head (without actually moving her head) toward the book case in front of us, but she is just using her eyeballs to indicate I should look at the book case.

Her eyes look at mine, then slide to her left. Look at mine, slide to the left. She does that again with an ever so slight movement of her head this time as she says, totally exasperated with me, "Right. There." All the while, her finger has remained steadfastly pointing to the innocent dinosaur in the book.

And this time my eyes followed in the right direction. As I peered between the rows of books on the book case I saw a male unit being stroked by a hand. That's all I saw. I don't remember what kind of pants he had on, I never saw his face or his feet. I just saw his hand doing its thing.

I stared, mouth hanging open. When I looked back at Karrie, she smiled, her finger never leaving the book on the floor.

After I recovered from the shock, we put the dinosaur book back and went back to the other row of books. It must not have made much of a dent in my psyche because I never told anyone and I haven't thought about it for at least 25 or more years.

I guess what it does remind me is that every generation has its less than stellar moments, no matter what we want to believe. Frequently I find myself saying to my own kids, "The world wasn't like this when I was young."

Apparently, the world really was just as strange when I was a kid.


2007-03-19 at 1:09 p.m.

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