Gary Brown: What Mom and Dad don’t know won’t hurt them, will it?
In my memory, I am a young boy, riding with no hands on my bicycle handlebars, down a long hill at the right side of a road that emptied into an uneven, crash-inducing shoulder.
So it appears clear now that when I was growing up I was an idiot.
It’s amazing that I made it until “now.”
I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t know I was a numbskull. After I’d coasted that short flat portion of the road at the base of the hill, then turned into my driveway, she never greeted me at the door and asked, “Are you crazy?” or “Do you want me to tell your father when he gets home?”
The answers would have been “No,” and “Not particularly,” but, fortunately, for me I never had to give them.
And I never recall any of the neighbors spotting me in a hands-off-handlebars glide, then calling my parents to ask, “Want to know what your stupid son is doing? ... Look out your window ...”
In my mother’s defense — not that any kind of child protective services is likely to snatch me up and put me under a more watchful parent at the age of 60 — even if she had looked out the window she only would have seen me re-gripping the handlebars and braking. All the head-shaking stuff on the hill was hidden by the lilac bush.
Mom and Dad didn’t see us doing a lot of things. I grew up at a time when children were just sent outside to discover things to occupy themselves, and I guess parents trusted us until the doctor’s bills got too high.
I remember the time we learned that we could swing on a rope from one hay mow in my cousin’s barn to the hay mow that was on the other side of a 15-foot drop. It was a lot of fun — unless you dropped.
And I recall racing to see who could touch the electric fence near that barn, and return to the starting point — worried only about the ultimate victory and not the tingle you felt up your arm when you touched the wire.
Then, I remember riding down a sled hill by standing at the back of the sled, holding the rope to steady myself as the sled descended the hill, entered some weeds, jumped a small rut and finished on a sheet of glare ice.
One of my most vivid memories is having my croquet ball blasted into the vacant lot next to our yard, and heading into the weeds dressed in shorts and no shirt so I could find it by cutting down poison ivy with a hand sickle.
The list is longer, but you likely understand.
And what I’m trying to get at is that kids are not that bright. So you should watch them all the time. If you can’t, try not to think about it. It worked for mom.
As a word of warning, I should point out that the memory of me riding down the hill on my bicycle, with my hands stretched out to the side and my shoulders up as though I was invincible, is a memory generated by a large number of such rides.
It does not, I will admit, include the memory of one ride when the front wheel steered itself off the side of the road, hit a rock and turned, stopping the bike and sending me flailing over the front of it, where I was able to land gracefully enough to skin both hands and one knee, and sprain my wrist enough that I didn’t bat well in neighborhood baseball games for most of the summer.
Those are the kind of memories a guy tries to suppress.
I hope it doesn’t remind any of you of anything you did when you were an idiot.
Contact Gary Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.