Although yesterday is fuzzy and breakfast a blur, some things never drop out of my brain’s memory files. Faces, especially.
For instance, if you were to ask me: “Did the kids on your elementary school playground ever flock around to watch classmate David throw a baseball straight up, higher than it seemed possible, catch it in his big, bare hands, then do it again and again?” I would have to say, “You bet we did!”
David’s skill was amazing. I don’t remember that he ever pitched a ball to a batter or threw out a runner at home, but I still can see those vertical cannonballs in my mind after all these years. He was our hero, just for throwing a ball straight up into the air.
Another boy, the older brother of our classmate Linda, was a half-size Mickey Mantle, who was all the rage at the time. Johnny had blond hair, good looks and broad shoulders, just like the Mick, and he played ball almost as well. He was always the first chosen for sports on the playground.
I don’t remember his sister as being an athlete, but her entrepreneurial talents shined. In the eighth grade, when The Beatles mushroomed out of Liverpool, Linda took boxes of Beatles trading cards to school from her parents’ country store and sold them at recess.
Beatles trading cards? The were just like baseball cards, with black-and-white photos on front and vital statistics (“Paul is left-handed”) on back. The cards were accompanied by a slab of bubble gum. The whole thing cost a nickel, I believe, and Linda sold out of several boxes every day.
I have not heard of Beatles cards since then. I might be the only person who remembers them.
Those wonder years were sometimes scary. It was, after all, the time of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis and polio. Classmate Terry hopped around with a metal leg brace and crutches because of the disease, but he never considered it a handicap. He was in the middle of every ball game, every wrestling match, every schoolyard brawl.
Our school had its own drug problem, of a sort. In the second grade, for no particular reason, Richard swallowed a whole bottle of aspirin. They had to pump his stomach, and he got sick as a dog. You can be sure that the rest of us learned from his mistake.
We had bullies in elementary school, too – one per grade. Ours was Bud, a heck of a nice guy. Good looking, sharply dressed, popular with the girls. When it was our time to get a playground beating, though, there was no questioning his intentions. We took it, and the next day we were buddies again.
Standards were important, even then.
All those faces, so far away and yet so near. I hope you remember a few, too.