It’s hard to recall your happiest childhood memory. Childhood is being left further and further behind me as I stare down the barrel of popping my mortal clogs.
Fortunately there were a lot of happy childhood memories. I can’t say that I had one that stood out more than the rest, more of a (T.V.) series of them.
The earliest one I can recall was from Kindergarten, when aged about 5 I’d observed that on your birthday you were given a large intensely, brightly-coloured cake that most definitely piqued my fancy. Brightly coloured as all the late 1960’s-70’s psychedelically coloured rooms, clothes, T.V. and movies seemed to be around that time.
I couldn’t wait for my birthday but when it rolled around after time dragging the more I thought about it (as it invariably does), I was bitterly disappointed to find that it was made of Play-Doh.
I’d assumed that the cake we were served up to eat at other kid’s Kindergarten birthday parties and the vividly coloured obelisk that sat in the centre of the table with candles ablaze were one and the same. They weren’t. My happiness was intense but fleeting and illusory. I even took a big chunk of it into the locker room and tried really hard to swallow it but there was just nothing there that gave me the will to chew and swallow. It wasn’t like I was asking for much. Just some small spark of hope that there was something infinitely small but pleasurable from getting it down my gob. But there wasn’t. So there was no cake on that fateful day. Mum hadn’t made me one to take into Kindy as I’d assured her that we were going to be given a “Huge One” on the day. Sigh.
Why they put so much effort into a Play-Doh cake and not into making a real one was beyond me even at that young age. It made no sense I remember thinking. I guess it had to do with health and safety reasons, food allergies and those sorts of things. Although I can’t recall food allergies back then, just the occasional bee sting allergic reaction.
Another childhood memory was in reverse from that one in that it started a bit dodgy but had a happy ending.
My brothers and I had just finished a stint of Kung Fu Fighting inside the house.
Back then in the early 70s, Bruce Lee was the man and “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting”. Caine (David Carradine), the peace-loving Shaolin monk, was on T.V. in Kung Fu the series. There was the Kentucky Fried Movie Kung Fu spoof. Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s Chinese manservant from the Pink Panther film series. Also I had a really good friend from school called Eddie from Hong Kong.
Chinoiserie was the flavour of the times.
After my brothers had taken their rough medicine from me, Enter the Dragon style, and yielded before my mighty strength, I’d wondered later on during the course of the day about scenes I’d seen of Bruce kicking where his foot would twist to seemingly right angles in between someone’s crotch and also just his sheer power at being able to go through a wall with a kick. So because T.V. reality and reality were one in the same to me at that age, I decided to kick the wall Bruce style not expecting my foot to actually go through it – but it actually did !
Bloody hell I thought, my parents are going to kill me !
But I thought fast on my feet, martial arts are about improvisation I surmised, and I found an old magazine that I put down on the floor just as my mum rounded the corner to see what the hell the bang was. I then sheepishly looked and acted as though I’d gotten myself up off the floor. “What the Hell’s happened!” she said. “Mum”, I answered. “I’m really sorry but I’ve slipped on this magazine while going too fast down the hall and put my elbow through the wall…I’m really sorry.” She didn’t look too impressed but my acting was good and she bought it.
Phew, I got away with that and learnt about consequences I remember thinking.
A couple of weeks later with the hole in the wall still there (in fact it was never fixed), my brother saw something on T.V. about time capsules in walls and an idea was born.
Soon he had written a long note about his life that he read aloud to us. It was for a school project he said – “An experiment”. He was keen on adding some biological material, a “human cellular sample” to the note like blood. However he decided instead (and this was typical of my brother, and the reason we never ate any of his food. He who had a poster on his wall next to his bed that he put his nose pickings on and graded from small – big before he went to sleep at night) that he didn’t like the idea of pricking himself for blood, so went for a hunk of snot instead that he drew ball point pen around with arrows pointing to it having affixed it to the note.
In those days science hadn’t miniaturised like it is now, or else he would have added a strand of hair or something like that I guess. Somehow he also got mum and dad in on the act having seen an old banknote on the time capsule story on T.V. and roped them into giving him a $2 note to put in with his capsule. How he wrangled that much money out of them we couldn’t work out, but he may have played on it being educational – which is always a good ploy.
Anyway in it went into the wall and nothing happened for a few weeks. But I’d been thinking about this $2 note in there. I’d also been watching T.V. and a story about a stash of old Roman coins being dug up in Britain. Metal lasts longer than paper I thought. So it made more sense for me to put a 5 cent piece I had in there and get the $2 out. It didn’t harm and in fact furthered the chances of the scientific experiment succeeding. A noble thing to do.
But how to get it out?
I spent a good day, making an improvised World War 1 trench periscope to look into the darkened narrow hole using a flashlight to illuminate the cavity and also fashioned (half-snapped through sawing and taping it up for strength) an old rim gouged drum-stick of my dad’s onto something else so that I had length and angularity to stick down the hole. Then I started saving my wads of chewing gum & on the day of the op I chewed it all up so it was as sticky as I could get it and wrapped it around the broken drum stick concoction. I waited until my brothers went out to some friends having encouraged them to leave in a non-descript way and then got to work.
It took ages but I got it all out, including the note with my brother’s dried snot that I then put back down into the hole having exchanged the $2 note for a 5 cent coin.
I then went down to the corner dairy to buy chocolate with the $2. I saw big King Size bars that I could have had all for myself but my developing conscience part of my brain, dormant for so long began to whirr into life, so I bought 3 smaller bars of chocolate for we three boys.
When my brothers got home, they were thrilled when I gave them a chocolate bar each. Found some money I said between a crack (“hole”) in the pavement.
Eating chocolate with ill-gotten gains with my brothers while none were the wiser was one of the memorable moments of my childhood.