Acknowledgement of Gratitude
Copyright 2016, by John Manimas
I was told early in life that it is good to be kind and love your neighbor. I was rather free to go outside and play with whatever neighbor I could find even at age four. That is when my socialization started. It was kind of like a twenty-first century playdate or daycare experience, except that the daycare was the suburban street and God was the supervisor. The street was Marlborough Terrace, kind of long but not very busy because it was used only by those who lived on that street, for the most part. Once each summer the town oil trucks came by and sprayed the hot black tar oil on the road and covered it with sand and fine gravel. Us kids would then run out and walk on it and bring the new road material into the house. That caused my mother to have an episode.
I want to thank Roger, which is probably not his real name. I have forgotten his name, but I remember his character. He played a very short but powerful role in my social training. He was my age and he must have been visiting the neighborhood, because I never played with him again after that day. If he was not visiting, he became an off limits person for me, not just because my mother said so, but because I hated him forever. We were playing on the grass beside the street. He said let's get down on our hands and knees like we are dogs and cats and walk around on all fours. I saw no point in it but we were playing and I thought "Okay. We will crawl around on our hands and knees, for fun." My left hand screamed with pain as a sharp point of glass pushed upward into it, or rather I pressed my hand, my make-belief forepaw, onto the glass point. I ran to my mother screaming in pain and fear, and bleeding. She met me with a towel and wrapped my hand. We got a ride to the emergency room. There was not enough time to give me an anesthetic. They might have been concerned about my allergies, which my mother would have emphasized. She lived in the suburbs of Fairfield rather than in the city of Bridgeport, because Dr. Luciano told her that if she lived in the city of Bridgeport I would die from my asthma. Much later in life I thought that if I lived in the city of Bridgeport I would not die from asthma, but I might die from people. The center of my left palm was all sting and heat. The point did not go all the way through my left palm, but it felt like it had. "He will have a scar," doctor said. Nice sewing job, but a mean wound. I did have a scar, all of my life, the scar of social training. The element of trust comes to mind. I was convinced then and always have been, by some inherited instinct or attitude, that Roger knew the broken glass was there pointed upward. It was the broken bottom of a soda bottle. He may have actually set it in place. This was my first deep lesson in social relationships. There are a lot of people out there who do not love their neighbor, which is me. It is very important to know who can be trusted. It is very important to examine suggestions before following them. It is very important not to go along with a person who gives me a sense that they do not know what they are doing, or who have harmful motives, or who are just plain stupid. It is a dangerous world. Thank you Roger for my first lesson teaching me that a friend can be an asshole.
The dangers do not come only from others. Great danger can come from the stupid fool inside one's own head. When I was three, my cousin Bobby, who was only six months older and lived about a mile away, walked that mile to come and visit me on a late winter morning. The snow had melted but we were still both wearing snowsuits, which looked like little kids in space suits. I said "Hi Bobby" like we were expecting this playdate and we went into the shed that was only about ten feet from the house. We went in and started draining the exotic smelling gold liquid from the 55-gallon barrel that was on its side and had a spigot sticking out. We put some in a can and covered ourselves with it and we were having a wonderful time until my mother came downstairs, with a towel, having an episode and yelling "Bobby! What are you doing here! That's kerosene! You could burn! You can't play with kerosene!"
We understood we had done something wrong. I got it. The kerosene was highly flammable. We used it on the heater and in our cooking stove. Later I came to understand that our landlord, Pon, would often sit on the small front porch, not far from the shed, and light up his pipe. When he lit his pipe, he would toss the match into the yard. We could have been flaming snowsuits. That would have been a very bad way to start life, as a flaming snowsuit. Thank you God, for your great outdoors daycare supervision. Thank you for Pon not smoking his pipe that morning. Maybe he misplaced it. Maybe Ponyi offered him something better than his pipe. Whatever it was, I am glad that my childhood ignorance did not cause me and my cousin to start life as a bonfire. These are memories that make a deep imprint on the primitive mind. They carry great weight. The brain has notebooks. One of those notebooks is: "Remember This."
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