Thursday, March 8, 2018

"Still Stupid After All These Years"

I promised myself I would learn that lesson.  And then – wouldn’t you know it? – I forgot.

Camp Ogama – 1958.  

I was thirteen years old.

There had been a surprise Senior Unit-Wide “Program Break”, opening a two-day kind of a “Color War”, although, being a socially conscious camp, ours was branded

“The Hungarian Revolution.”

The distinguishing difference was, instead of teams representing “Red”, “Orange”, “Yellow” and “Green”, or whatever, our battling teams were “The Farmers”, “The Workers”, “The Students” and “The Doctors.” 

As was typical with elaborate “Program Breaks”, in this version, we were abruptly wrenched from our beds around midnight, led blearily to buses, which conveyed us to the other side of the lake, where our sleeping bags and wash-up “Mess Kits”, previously “lifted” from our cabins, awaited our somnambulant arrival.   

We would be staying there for two days.  (With temporary interruptions – for some – to attend appointments with Dr. Posen, an arriving orthodontist, traveling camp-to-camp, refitting “Bite Plates” and tightening braces, the unfortunately camper-patients motor-boated back to camp and later repatriated – wincing noticeably – to “The Hugarian Revolution.”)

My team, the oppressed “Workers”, was billeted on the second floor of an abandoned farmhouse.  The morning after our arrival there was “Clean-Up”, making our temporary domicile livable through two days of athletic competition, the “Program” culminating with a fiery pageant (in which I played Imre Nagy, the soon-to-be executed Prime Minister of Hungary.  I did not mind facing personal execution.  Pageant rehearsals provided a welcome “Escape Hatch” from participating in the races. 

In the sweltering midsummer heat.

Part of my “Clean-Up” assignment involved dusting the windowsills, where I immediately noticed that there was no glass any of the windows.  Not that that cooled our accommodations.  It was stickier outside than it was in our “Workers’ Quarters.”   

It was then that a funny idea came to me. 

“Hey, guys!  Look!”  I shouted.

I do not recall if anyone looked, but like a piano player in an unlistening saloon, I forged gamely ahead for my personal amusement, secretly hoping somebody might notice.

Making a splashy show of things, I raised the frame of one of the glassless window, where it hung, suspended in its elevated position.  I then took a refreshing breath by the now “open” window, suggesting, if not literally announcing,

“Isn’t that better?”

At that point, the glassless window “Guillotined” down onto my fingers, casually resting on the windowsill.

Then, I believe,

People started to notice. 

Pulsating fingers, swollen in lobster-like redness are always certain to garner attention. 

Though I do not recall any laughs.


Anna and Colby arrive, bearing “Baby Golda”, the trio escaping a flooding, mistake-induced water leak in their new home.  (When their erring plumbing contractor received the emergency phone call, he incongruously explained, “My therapist told me not to have any confrontations right now.”)

I was called out unlock the gate and help carry some of infant paraphernalia into the house.  When I arrived, I found her hatchback’s door lifted and Anna extracting various necessary items out of the trunk.

It was then that a funny idea came to me.

(I can almost hear that “Canned Laugher” recorded from I Love Lucy going, “Uh-oh! – hee-hee-hee-hee!”)

Making a splashy show of things, I bent down, as if searching for “Baby Golda”, whom I pretended her parents had transported, rolling around in the trunk.

That’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

Anyway, just as I leaned in, Anna pressed a button, triggering the lowering of the trunk’s door.

Look out!

As the descending door grazed – well, maybe more than grazed – my protruding forehead, my first thought – well, my second thought after “OW!” was,

“Abandoned farmhouse – 1958.” 

Going for a laugh, I had, sixty years later, wound up once again,

Swollen and throbbing.

Why couldn’t I remember?

I can tell you one thing, though.

This will definitely not be happening again.


Anyone buyin’ that?

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I hope your hand feels better.

But can I just say...>>(When their erring plumbing contractor received the emergency phone call, he incongruously explained, “My therapist told me not to have any confrontations right now.”)>> ONLY IN LA.