Let’s set the scene — circa 1983 (ish) when blinding neon, football-size shoulder pads, and poodle perms was all the rage. The Atari was the must-have toy along with the Cabbage Patch Doll, which everyone was getting into fistfights and drawing blood over. Something my teens find incredulous.
It was the year Sally Ride was the first U.S. woman aboard the space shuttle, singer Karen Carpenter died, and the last episode of M.A.S.H. aired.
It was a time when the hot movies were WarGames, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Jaws 3-D. (Yes, you should laugh at the latter, that’s the point!)
For yours truly, it was the year that my parents’ marriage first became rocky and unpredictable. Course, the 1980s was the peak in divorce rates, so the rug was ripped out from beneath a lot of kids’ feet.
Some families have ugly vases or rusty soup spoons as heirlooms. Mine is divorce. How about you?
School had its moments but leaned towards the wanton forgettable. Some days stand out more than others such as a day of show and tell in elementary, a first world problem more than anything at nine maybe ten years old. I vividly recall items passed from student to student, including what my memory says must have been a surprise toy from a cereal box, a trinket composed of several small plastic pieces.
For some reason, I failed to wear my glasses that day. It could have been an easy mistake — meaning I purposely left them at home. I was not blind without them but bent over, ski-slope nose nearly to the desktop to look at the toy when someone told me to hurry up with a shove between my shoulder blades.
Surprised by the shove, I gasped and thus inadvertently inhaled and began to choke on a piece of the toy.
Now, mind you, as a highly sensitive kid with a bad case of the spotlight effect, I was certain every single eyeball in that noisy classroom had been a witness. I was also certain the teacher would come round, yank me up from my desk by one arm to begin the Heimlich maneuver. Not because I was choking, oh no, I was entirely expendable, but the retrieval of the toy was mandatory.
Of course, it was only inevitable that I would swallow the piece with the gravity of the situation settling in the pit of my stomach, both figuratively and quite literal.
I can laugh now, recalling how I sat straight in my seat in horror only to find everyone too busy chatting with one another to notice what happened. No teacher came round to wrestle the toy from my innards. (I have a vivid picture in my mind of a game of Operation in the teacher’s lounge, it only seems fitting).
A war ensued in my mind. I wanted to raise my hand to tell the teacher, coupled with a stubborn determination to deny anything happened, should someone ask. (Missing piece? It must have fallen to the floor!) In the end, silence won out as I scooped the remaining pieces into one hand and promptly deposited them on the desk behind me.
I waited, fully expecting to be called out, but the kid behind me did not seem to care, even for all the fuss to hurry. The toy passed on to the next kid, and so it went around the room. Not a word was said, not an exclamation that something was amiss.
Isn’t that how it tends to go? You work yourself up, certain the world is going to come crashing down and then nothing. No one has noticed the seemingly-to-you disaster in the making, and the world continues to spin in an almost insulting fashion.
It is stories like these that I come across more and more when contemplating the (mis)adventures of life. Journals, diaries, and manuscripts make for great reference material dependent on the issue. I can refer to notes on divorce, jobs, or the near-complete project of growing up in 1980s Greenville for the reminder: Been there, done it, move on to the next (mis)adventure.
That’s life in a nutshell, one big giant lesson for yours truly and a tale of caution (peppered with humor to not make mountains out of molehills) for everyone else.