Saturday, September 26, 2009

Driving Miss Crazy


As a sweet little 5-year-old, I began my schooling career in kindergarten. We had just moved the year before to Blanding, Utah and I had made a few friends in the neighborhood prior to starting school. One was my good friend, Charlie Brown. Yes, that was really his name. Actually it was Charles Brown Junior--his father's name was Charlie Brown as well. The Brown family lived a few blocks away. I loved to play at his house because his dad was an eccentric inventor. This translated into really fun junk to play with and crazy contraptions he built for his kids to play on.

Such as the bicycle swing-set. Three bikes hung from a big pole in a sort of carousel fashion, when you pedaled the bikes, they all swung around the pole in a circle. Inside the house was just as fun because it was in a constant state of remodel. Every time I went over, a wall had been moved or an addition tacked on--it was a sort of Dr. Suess-like atmosphere there all the time. And, as much fun as Charlie, his dad and his house were, he had two older sisters who were even wackier. One time when I was over there, they decided to have a wedding. Charlie and I were to be the bride and groom and we all made dozens of flowers out of Kleenex and toilet paper. Charlie and I were really not aware of the seriousness of the commitment we were making--he kept chasing after the dog and I would run after them trailing toilet paper and tissues as his sisters ran after us shouting for us to come back and get married. I don't think we ever actually took our vows--so don't worry--my sordid past doesn't include any abandoned husbands.

So, by the time school started, Charlie and I were good friends and we were in the same class at school. I was surprised to notice that Charlie was really quiet at school. I guess Dick and Jane and Puff and Spot were pretty dull when you came from a place like Charlie did.

But one day, his dad showed up at school to liven things up with his latest invention: a car. It was made mostly out of wood but it was basically a Power Wheel long before Power Wheels were even heard of. We all went out to the playground to watch Charlie demonstrate the car. He took it for a spin around the playground and then the teacher announced that we were all going to get a turn driving Charlie's car! We were all lined up alphabetically which put me about the middle of the line. Charlie's dad helped each child into the car and explained how it worked and each child took the same route: out, around the merry-go-round and back. I could feel the excitement and anticipation of my class-mates around me as we waited for our turn.

Before I knew it, I was climbing into the little wooden car. I remember Charlie's dad pointing to pedals and showing me which way to turn the steering wheel. I clearly was not paying as close attention as I should have because I headed out toward the merry-go-round and didn't turn wide enough, then I panicked trying to remember which pedal was the brake. I had a 50/50 chance of choosing the right one and stopping the car before it crashed into the merry-go-round.
I chose wrong.
The car careened into the merry-go-round with a loud "CRUNCH". The humiliation and embarrassment were compounded by all the dirty looks I got from the classmates whose last names came after "H" in the alphabet because the car was rendered undriveable after my fiasco and no one after me got a turn.
They turned sadly and followed the teacher back into the classroom as Charlie's dad loaded the totaled car back into the trailer. He kept reassuring me that it could be fixed easily and not to worry. Small comfort with all my classmates mad at me.
It was a few days before I felt comfortable going to Charlie's house again. As I walked up the street, I was relieved to see Charlie driving his car up and down the driveway. When he saw me coming he hurriedly pulled it into the garage and closed the door. He stood outside the garage door waving nonchalantly as I approached him. Fair enough--there were plenty of other fun things to do at his house and I really was NOT ready to get behind the wheel again anytime before my 16th birthday.
Let's fast forward about 12 years, my family moved away from Blanding when I was nine and we had moved several times since then. But my aunt, uncle and cousins moved there. I was visiting them and went to school one day with my cousin. It was fun to see some of the kids I had known in grade school. I didn't expect any of them to remember me though so I was surprised when a guy walked up and said:
"I remember you. We were in the same kindergarten class."
Before I could be flattered at being so memorable, he went on:
"I was in line after you to drive Charlie's car--and I never got my turn after you crashed it into the merry-go-round."

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