Monday, February 28, 2011
I was reading a very good piece of childhood reminiscence, by Knucklehead, and got to thinking that I should be able to get at least 1,200 words out of much the same sort of stuff. So, always willing to boldly go where everybody else has gone before, here's the result.
Let's start with the comment I left over at Knucklehead's place, in response to his story of playground injury...
We grew up tough. I remember loads of injuries on the playground, and all of them that gushed blood were slathered with Mercurochrome. I think that stuff is illegal now, but My Mom swore by it.
"Jimmy, I'm going to paint your leg with toxin and send you back out to play. First, though, have some whole milk with raw eggs mixed in. Have to keep up your strength!"
For those not familiar with it, this is Mercurochrome.
Notice the lovely color? As you might have guessed from the name, it contained mercury. Yup. Moms all across the nation were swabbing open wounds with a concoction made from stuff now well-known to cause brain damage, kidney failure, and birth defects. Wheeeeeee!
(As MY WIFE often opines when she considers the amount of lead paint chips she ate during her childhood, I wonder what sort of an Einstein I might have been had I not had every open wound filled with a medicine containing a substance which if found in a tuna causes the tuna to be unfit for putting in a can. Sorry, Charlie!)
If your mom didn't keep Mercurochrome in stock, the usual treatment was Iodine. That stuff was always a joy. You touched it to a cut and the kid with a boo-boo would jump four feet vertically. While assuredly more effective than Mercurochrome as an antiseptic, it didn't leave a gory red stain on your skin and was thus not as desirable for boys who liked the effect of having their various battle scars heightened. Of course, it did leave a dark purple stain (unless your mother was one of those who put a band-aid on top of everything, in which case you ripped it off as soon as you were able so that all of your friends could see how magnificently crippled you had become during your latest adventures.)
(By the way, I just now found out that Iodine can explode unexpectedly when mixed with ammonia and water.
Kid: "See that big purple spot on Johnny's leg? I heard that if you pee on it, he'll blow up!"
Other Kid: "Cool! Hey, Johnny, come here!"
[unzips fly as Johnny walks over]
Johnny: "Hey! What the..."
I mentioned raw eggs and whole milk before. My Mom, and almost every other mom in our neighborhood, thought those were wonderfully nutritious ingredients in a pre-school breakfast. More mornings than not, I used to get a raw egg or two stirred into a tall glass of milk, a little chocolate syrup added, and it was called an eggnog. When other folks were retching while watching the scene in Rocky where Sly Stallone gulps down a glass full of raw eggs, I was feeling pangs of nostalgia. Salmonella? What's that?
Lunch was also loaded with vitaminous goodity. My Mom often packed a cream cheese and jelly sandwich for me to ingest while at school. Just to be sure there was no chance of anything remotely healthy entering my body, I usually insisted she cut off the crust. A big thermos jug full of whole milk accompanied that meal, along with a handful of cookies or, if I was really trying to watch the calories, a bag of Fritos.
More cookies and milk, or whoopie pies, or maybe some very healthy crackers and cheese (American cheese! Of course it's good for you! What are you, some kind of communist?) would suffice to tide me over until dinner, so long as I didn't ruin my appetite and had room for my fried pork chops and mashed potatoes. You have to have meat with every dinner or else you'll grow up all weak and sissified. And potatoes are... well, they're potatoes, and what else are we going to do with the gravy if we don't have any potatoes to pour it on? Just so the entire meal won't be brown, here are some canned wax beans. Yum!
(I had MY WIFE read this to see if she thought I should add anything. She said, "Those are the things you were eating when I met you, and you still eat the same things now!"
Well, yeah. I never said I didn't like it, did I?)
Among the other things we were fed, and that are now generally considered to be slow-acting poisons, were margarine and lard. Margarine was made from vegetables! Well, vegetable oil, in any case, and that certainly couldn't be bad for you, could it? Spread it thick on that white bread. Lard, on the other hand, just plain made everything taste better, and you were eating pork chops, anyway, so why shouldn't the chocolate layer cake have some pig in it? We topped it off with another huge glass of wholesome whole milk because we wanted to grow up to be big and strong like Dad, who was in the living room chain-smoking unfiltered Camels.
(And, if second-hand smoke is all that bad for you, I should have had seven different kinds of cancer by the time I was eighteen with all the smoke-filled kitchens and parlors I hung out in when I was growing up. The relatives who didn't smoke were the oddballs. I had to be inhaling the equivalent of half-a-pack a day whenever we visited the Sullivan side of my family. I'd ask some of them for further information to verify that statement, but they're all dead now. Who knows? Maybe I am, too, by the time you read this. Woo-Hoo!)
Well, I suppose I could go on and on (maybe I already have) but I've given detail before about eating raw hamburger scraped with my fingers from a store's grinder, hitching a ride on a freight train and walking home on subway tracks, falling through the ice while playing hockey on the Neponset River, and playing baseball on asphalt (including sliding on the stuff), so that should prove something about the sort of childhood I had. Maybe that Mercurochrome had more of an effect on my brain than I've ever given it credit for.
Soon, with more better stuff.
VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER
My Mom is a wonderful person, highly intelligent, and full of love for me. She was all of those things during my childhood, also. I wouldn't have traded a single lard-filled whoopee pie if it meant I'd live for an extra five years. Anyway, NOBODY knew any better then. And, rest assured, this is the same sort of stuff some current snot-nosed kid will be telling his peers forty years from now, on some electronic media we haven't even thought of yet, concerning arugula, bean sprouts, and soy milk. It's all good.