Nine Stories from My Childhood I’m Inexplicably Not Embarrassed By

I’m not going to say my parents weren’t the most observant parents. They weren’t bad parents by any means, but things were different in the 80s. The helicopter parenting hadn’t really caught on, so after school kids were just kids in their own world. Our parents didn’t check on us all that often unless someone started crying.

Which perhaps explains why my parents never noticed the series of strange behaviors I exhibited as a child that would have most people believing I had a raging case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Here are just a few examples:

1. Every year I would run a census of my stuffed animals. Each critter would be documented by name, location in my room, and occupation. For example, Swiftheart Rabbit the Care Bear Cousin pursued a career as jackhammer operator because of his ability to bounce and balance at the same time.

2. Rather than eat all my Halloween candy at once or simply keep it in the bucket until it was gone, I decided it would be better to ration it out. So, I put 5-7 pieces each in Ziploc bags and hid them around my room. I kept track of where they were located by drawing my own version of a treasure map, thinking my candy stash was not too unlike “The Goonies”.

3. My favorite day of the week was Sunday because the local paper included an insert that listed what was on all the TV channels that week. I would nab that section first thing in the mornin and go through it with a highlighter, trying to determine what I would theoretically watch every given hour of every given day, that way I would never be at a loss of what channel to put the TV on.

4. I used to organize my fun sized packs of M & Ms both by color and by number of each color. There is a color hierarchy with M & Ms, you see. Browns are obviously the worst, while yellows taste the best, so you have to partition out how you eat them accordingly.

5. Did you guys used to get the Service Merchandise catalog? This place was a catalog/story where you picked out what you wanted to buy from the catalog, then went to the “store”, which was more just the front of the store where the item you wanted would come out on a conveyor belt. I used to make long lists of what I would purchase from Service Merchandise when I got married, almost as if I was making a registry. I am not sure if this is a tip of the hat to my OCD or my raging love of consumerism. Likely the answer is somewhere in the middle.

6. Over the span of three of four years, I played an elaborate game with myself at the mall, which had linoleum floors in two colors of tile. I allowed myself a certain number of steps on the white tiles before I had to step on a green one. The more times I successfully hit my step goal, the more steps I would earn for the next trip. I also used to never step on cracks in sidewalks. This might explain why, to this day, when I walk, my natural reaction is to keep my head down.

7.For a period of a year or so, I would go home and watch the Disney live action musical “Newsies”. I would sing along with all the songs and, if I missed a lyric, I would rewind the tape and start the song over again. To this day, I could probably act out this entire movie by myself in a pinch. I also maintain that this is the finest work Christian Bale has ever done. I mean, he sings, dances, flirts with Ann Margaret, and rides a horse. Even Batman can’t beat that.

8. To this day, I refuse to ride on the same step as another person on an escalator. I don’t really know where it came from, but over the years, I developed an irrational fear of escalators, bridges, pedways, and any other structure off the ground that doesn’t appear to really have much of anything underneath it. Sometimes, this results in an impromptu dance of sorts in which it appears I am trying to do-si-do around my friends.

9. I don’t know if this next story is a sin of OCD or just that I was a little…er…mental? Like many other kids my age, I had a Teddy Ruxpin. As my mom tells it, I was four or five years old when she came downstairs to our playroom to discover me and my Teddy, but something was the matter. One of Teddy’s plastic eyes was missing. Turns out, it was just pushed into Teddy Ruxpin’s skull and bouncing around in there. When my mom asked me what happened, I could only offer one explanation:

“Teddy Ruxpin’s mom made me do it.”

I’d like to think it is probably for the best that, even with the menacing acts on my talking stuffed toys, my parents didn’t seek professional help for me. I’d like to think these tics made me quirky and perhaps see the world in a light I wouldn’t have otherwise should someone had made the effort to try to make me more normal.

Certainly, there is something to be said for kids getting help, don’t get me wrong, but I think I turned out as reasonably close to normal as I could have, penchant for organizing M & Ms or not. I mean, I am a functional human being, I haven’t gone to prison, and I can hold down a job and pay my bills. I may still walk with my head down too often and continue to set the yellow candies aside for last, but if this is what it takes to get through the day, then there is nothing wrong with that.

At least that is what Teddy Ruxpin’s mom tells me.


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