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Hoses, Ovens, Suppression: A Happy Childhood Explored (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
I wrote this for a memoir assignment for AP Language and Composition back in the fall (of 2005). Just thought I'd share, since my stated purpose was "for entertainment."

As a camp counselor, I gained a perfect view of the entire spectrum of human nature. Merely walking from Point A to Point B I would observe bovine stragglers, average participants, mellow “space-cadets” and most commonly, hyperactive little monsters (though my advisor would always discourage such descriptions). I would reprimand the sociopaths punching the meek and commend the sparkling leadership-infused adolescents. The insightful would make me ponder and the gross would make me cringe. I would find myself panting in the wake of the athletic and boggled by the precocious math-whiz who kindly informed me that I was 2.38 times his age. This diversity – all of these various flaws and talents, flying around my head like kickballs – made me wonder what kind of child I was. I needed a second opinion…and a third…and probably a ninth, if it would help to elucidate my cloudy past.
If I have learned anything from the eternities of television I’ve vegetated through, it is that people change. Murderous robots become politicians, child stars become B-movie stars, and pure characters are corrupted beyond recognition by spin-offs and merchandising. Therefore, I knew that I, a boy who frequently sleeps his Spanish classes away and dehydrates others with dry humor, could not possibly be the same me as before. This, coupled with the fact that I could never seem to trust my rusty memory, ruled out my most obvious source of information.
Never before had I looked through the old, dusty scrapbooks of my youth. My mom had embarrassed me with them, but I think, out of spite, I’d neglected to glance at them in depth. I quickly found out what I’d been missing over the years. It was an egotist’s heaven – pictures of my beautiful, baby self, plastered everywhere. There was me eating a bagel, taking a bath, and using the dog as a pillow! I’m so adorable in these pictures… if I was someone else’s baby, I’d be tempted to kidnap me. After perusing my past, I grabbed an arbitrary picture of myself gnawing on a garden hose, and consulted my mother.
“Of course you’d looked at the photo albums before!” My mom was adamant.
“No mom, I’m really sure that I didn’t.” I’m pretty sure that I’m more adamant though.
“Arnold, hasn’t Michael seen the photo albums before?” Uh oh, she was calling for backup.
“Mom, I haven’t cared enough to look at them before.” That’s true.
“Oh, you were such a chubby baby.” Thanks.
“I can tell.” I could.
“And so energetic! You would always make a mess of everything and crawl everywhere. You used to pull chairs up to the counters and tables and climb up to the top and crawl around,” my mom said, blankly staring at some unimportant electrical bills.
“That’s pretty interesting.” It was!
“We would have to tie the oven shut with a dog leash because you would always climb in.”
“Oh man, I was the coolest baby ever,” I replied, conjuring up an image of my infant self in stylish sunglasses, grinning through a grungy, oven window.
“No, you weren’t. Your father and I were overwhelmed because your brother had always been such a calm baby.”
“Pfffft, Daniel.” I responded weakly.

There was really nothing bad to say about my brother Daniel, so that was all I could manage. For as long as I can remember, the only insult I’d been able to justly use against him was “You exercise too much!” He would make my life miserable, and lift weights in order to gain more muscles to beat me with. I would be miserable, and point out his over-exercise, only to be made more miserable. But now that I found out he was a calm baby…well, I still had nothing to work with, but it was good to know. If nothing else, it validated my knowledge of people’s change and amused me. Yes, I could see a fictitious headline now: Calm Baby Caught in a Life of Crime; Arrested for Assaulting Defenseless Brother! Still, his insights into my past had to be worth something, and since he had gone to a liberal arts college, he’d changed into the cool-cosmopolitan-sibling and become personable. I decided to question him next in hopes of learning more about myself.
“I like how this is what matters to you… there are umpteen blank college applications sitting in a pile on the floor over there and you’re celebrating the fact that you climbed into ovens as a baby,” I heard my mom rant as I sidled away. How was I supposed to apply to college without knowing about myself? Preposterous!
At this point, I was fully enthused about my journey of self-discovery. I rushed upstairs, dove onto my bed, and greedily grabbed the phone. I pressed the keys furiously, so focused on my goal that it took me minutes to realize that I did not know my brother’s phone number, and that I had achieved nothing with my dialing. To make matters worse, my shrewd mother held my brother’s phone number ransom, so I had to fill out countless college applications before gaining access to it. After this arduous task, with a feeling of déjà vu, I bolted up the stairs and onto my bed once again. With renewed enthusiasm, I pounded the keys to form an actual phone number. Finally, the insufferable rings were silenced by a voice I’d never been so happy to hear.
“Hello?” He sounded tired.
“Hey.” So did I…it was amazing how suddenly my mood changed.
“Hey.” Only my brother could recognize this introduction. What a connection we have.
“How’s work?” I needed to come across not-creepy, so I warmed him up with small-talk.
“Pretty dull. How’s school?” He just answered both of our questions.
“Oh man, I hate math.” I said that he’d become personable, not that we had lively conversations.
“What’s up?” Straight to the point, I guess.
“I was wondering…well, uh, what was I like as a kid?” That came across weird.
He laughed for a few seconds before saying, “You were so annoying. And you’d believe anything. I remember that I told you your stuffed dog was named Hemorrhoids. Ha ha, for a week it was ‘I love you, Hemorrhoids! You’re so cool, Hemorrhoids!’ before mom yelled at me.”
“You’re such a jerk.” Well, that’s a filtered version of what I said.
“Yeah, it was pretty awesome.” I swore under my breath.
“So is that how you would sum up my childhood personality? Annoying and gullible?”
“I think so…sorry for the beatings, but I needed to keep you suppressed. I was always worried you’d surpass me.”

I can honestly say that I did not expect that one. Was he serious? That’s just downright demented; he’s my brother! There was no need for him to suppress me, like a Communist dictator. I could only manage to tell him his worries were justified before hanging up the phone. Then I pressed redial, blurted out even cruder insults that I mustn’t repeat, and hung up again.True, all of this happened a decade ago, but I was incensed.
I couldn’t seem to move from my bed as I stared listlessly at that same photograph of Me vs. Hose resting before my eyes. I had not changed much from the wild baby in this picture. My “journey of self-discovery” was just as pointless and random as brawling with a hose. When I thought about it, I realized that I’d always had a habit of starting quixotic, fruitless tasks. My basement was testament to this fact: a papier-mâché spaceship I once developed to visit Saturn’s rings, a half-built, life-size Lego monument to my father that I had given up on in favor of buying him a book, and the unsold vinyl albums from my one-man-show, Mike on Broadway. These endeavors weren’t really failures; they were just impractical or based upon naivety. Except those albums. What was I thinking?
I suppose it is in my nature to never plan ahead, to never look at reality and weigh outcomes with statistics and probability. I have always chosen to doodle instead of study, crawl around ovens instead of playpens, and most recently, keep Clown College as my safety-school. I briefly wondered if this would ever change, but I was certain that it wouldn’t.
Everybody changes, but deep-down there are a few embedded instincts which never go away. Everything about me had changed in my life, except this, the backbone of my personality. I could’ve been sad upon this epiphany, but I found myself pleasantly contented. Pragmatism had never been fun for me. I had learned that change is always haunted by the specter of instinct.
But enough of this nonsense. With one journey ended, another must begin. And so I went to demonstrate Hamlet’s antic disposition by writing my English essay backwards. It would later grant me a glaring F-, but I was deluded and spontaneous, and enjoying my newfound personality.
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Senior Member
This is one of the better memoirs I've read in a while. You have a lovely, brutal wit, and a delicate way with language. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.