I was on the front porch when you drove by and I waved — or I thought it was you behind the Covid-19 face mask.
This past Sunday I sat at my laptop, clicked on Zoom, and there was my Sunday school class, people sitting in little boxes all neatly stacked like the old “Hollywood Squares” TV show. This brought back memories of old black and white TV broadcasts and the genteel evenings we used to have in our city home before we moved to the farm.
We didn’t glance at text messages at the table or take our plate and wander off to eat alone. Instead we were taught to wait for the slowest eater, my youngest sister, and then we cleared the table. After that you could go outside and play. The thought of staying inside on a warm evening never crossed our minds. We played outside and got grass stains on the knees of our jeans.
Our laid-back community offered little in the way of formality, but I enjoyed a bit of pomp and flash. Every morning at Elmhurst Elementary School, we Cub Scouts led the class in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, ending with a smart salute. I felt a nice touch would be an honor guard performing maneuvers that ended in rifle shots.
By nine years of age I did not like to play with kids younger than myself — you had to tell them everything to do, which is okay if you’re playing Army or Civil War. But if you’re King Goodheart II of Joevania ascending the throne in a Roy Rogers bathrobe and a dented kitchen colander crown — then the Joevanians are supposed to pay homage, give you some decent bows, show a bended knee and lay precious gifts at your feet while backing away from the throne, and it’s a real downer if the King has to tell them how to do all that.
Sometimes we were a crack squad of soldiers, led by me, hunkering down in the azaleas making plans to ambush German soldiers. You check your gun (big stick), your commando knife (small stick), everybody’s pockets are stuffed with pine cone grenades, you give the “GO!” signal and just then one kid says “I wanna play baseball” and it ruins everything.
One rainy afternoon we decided to play “Work Office” in a friend’s storage shed.
He had two old desks, a cracked black phone, a cigar box for “In” and one for “Out” along with pencil nubs and scrap paper. You’d scribble something on paper and hand it to someone who would pick up the phone and order whatever, usually by the millions. We’d write long columns of numbers on paper and file them in a bucket.
Judy, my friends’ older sister, was our CEO and walked around our desks with her hands clasped behind her back. Her mother had given her a pack of candy cigarettes and if you wanted to walk around with one in your mouth and look cool like an adult, then she had to be boss. She supervised our work while a candy cigarette hung out the corner of our mouths. She denied water-cooler breaks and threatened to fire us.
All afternoon we worked like demons but we were constantly reprimanded for being too slow or lazy. Later Judy got tired of threatening to fire us and decided to go inside the house to watch “Rocky and Bullwinkle” on television. She told us we had to stay behind and work. “I expect those orders to go out. Today.” she said.
So, I asked her for another cigarette, got it, and I quit.