As I enter the 68th year of life, I am reminded how much my precious mother, now deceased, meant to me.
In my younger days, I participated in adventures not spoken about around the kitchen table. Oh yes, dear mothers, if you only knew what my friends and I learned to do without the intrusion of parental rules.
But then, those were the 50‚s where children were allowed freer rein, more trusted and our pals looked out for one another.
Children of today miss so much with lives programmed like robots, surrounded with do‚s, and don‚ts, bodies chafing under the protection of well-meaning parents who worry they will hurt themselves. The fear of not making the hockey team, or soccer group; all marks of necessary success were challenges to overcome.
I speak from the point of view of a survivor. My limbs are intact and I am of sound mind.
Prepubescent years were special to those of us who still remember back when. A boyhood involved in Scouting was exciting. Cubs meant testing out early stages of testosterone, pitting our exuberance against one another during summer fun. Jostling each other in King of the Castle games meant risking being flung off a hillside onto brambles and ravines where smelly leaves and snakes coiled in waiting.
Thankfully various bruises mended by the time we returned home with clean underwear, washed the day before after a week‚s usage at Cub camp. Of course we had to rush into the washroom to clean our hands before an accumulation of germs overtook our dear mom.
And being thrown into the lake the day before by friends meant bath day finally arrived.
For some strange reason, bugs and other insects were an attraction to us little boys. Capturing them was a neat. How many of us played with grasshoppers, held slinky dew worms, got chased by hornets whose nest we bombarded with chunks of mud, and climbed trees until there was only sky left to hold onto?
Then we cheered for the one who jumped from the highest height.
Add a year or two for Boy Scout days, older should have meant wiser. But our antics at the same summer campground grew in daring. Now we tried to lure innocent friends close to the hornet nest so we could observe the pace at which they ran screaming towards the lake.
All of us raced closely behind eventually jumping into the lake fully clothed followed by a frenzy of wrestling and horsy-back jousting.
Mind you, there was adult leadership around and definitely some rules to behold, like arriving at the picnic table on time and no swearing in front of adults. Some of us dared using parts of that nasty vocabulary in private sessions with our peer group.
Boys had a code, never to be broken under pain of loss of friendship. If one wet the bed, it was taboo to speak of it openly. Talking to girls was also a no-no. And if you cried in front of friends, you would be barred from all social engagements such as wrestling, climbing trees or mud fights.
Yes, masking tears at all costs was a password to proper boyhood.
One day, friends and I were playing tag and I fell down, my right hand landing on top of a nail sticking upwards from a board. I simply pulled my numb hand upwards, and rushed home shouting ‚Lockjaw!‚ friends joining the procession to our family apartment.
Mom hurried me off to the doctors for a ‚shot‚ of prevention.
I even tried being a doctor myself those early days, under the supervision of my eight-year old sister. I used my Swiss Army knife blade to cut open festering wounds on our huge cat, Whiskers. After slathering the offending cuts with Iodine, he roared off into the night not returning for several days until the healing was done. Mom actually thought he had passed away.
Oh memories. How they attach themselves like a bandana around our necks as we played Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Our cap guns blazed, feet thumped like horse hooves, noise reverberating so loud in the apartment, until we were chased outside.
In nearby woods, we built forts, more like teepees, and chased each other from one side of the hill to another, even to the forbidden territory of the Boutour farm. It was there where someone might grab you, and feed you to the pigs, which roamed at will in a large fenced in area. We actually believed those rumors.
When we finally returned home after the adventures of summer camp, or simply being outside, mother was waiting with a hot meal. Whatever it was, we ate it, all of it, whether it was porridge, beans and toast, hamburgers or wieners, or soup. We ate it, all of it, or else. Thankfully we were always so hungry we never did find out what the ‚or else‚ was.
Now that I am older, I grow fonder for those young memories, of days when rules and do‚s and don‚ts were far away.
I still remember my fondness for walking the pipeline, which carried refuse from Noranda Copper Mine in our hometown of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. It extended several miles into the countryside and expelled into a huge lagoon of waste product.
I, and others dared each other to tip toe across this pipeline approximately two feet in diameter and ten feet above the lagoon. It was a rite of passage for us.
We did this many times, on a particular hundred foot stretch, unaware of what would happen if we fell into the slop below. Often I pretended mom was nearby and shouted, ‚Look mom, no hands!‚ And she would have screamed and perhaps fainted. Oh mother, I can almost see you chortling as I retell those moments.
At the time, mom, they were a private part of my life and perhaps helped me become the grown up son you wished for.
Goodnight, dear one.
¬ 2010 Richard L. Provencher
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