What is your earliest memory? Baking cookies with grandma? Maybe picking flowers for your mom in a field of Dandelions? One of my earliest memories as a child is of Frankenstein. (I know, I know, it was actually Frankenstein’s Monster, for all of you Lit Junkies, before you ‘correct’ me. Just go with it, ok?)
There was once a playground near my old house that I went to nearly every day during those hot Texas summers when I was growing up. The only problem was that it had to be at least a mile away and my mom would never drive me. She made me walk all by myself. The good news was that it was on the way to the pool. When the weather is over 100, any kid will walk a mile to get to a pool. The monster stood in the middle of a field, like a sentinel of childhood nightmares. When the wind blew, you could hear an eerie sound whistle through his iron lungs:
“Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh whooooshhhhhh,” he would cry as if in agony.
It must have been created by some demented engineer who enjoyed torturing poodles when he wasn’t designing playground equipment for small children.
Imagine climbing inside the bowels of that beast, ascending an iron stair case that led up to three levels. Each arm stretched out in front of the monster and sloped down a drop of at least 18 feet, forming the classic Frankenstein stance as the mindless creature seemed to lumber forward with his arms in front of him. Out of his mouth was an even steeper grade slide that plummeted screaming children toward the rocky ground below. This was back in the days before these foam padded sissy playgrounds. When we were ejected from the slide, we were launched into the air, kicking wildly in empty space until we skidded to an awkward stop over gravel, broken beer bottles, discarded cigarette butts and dog droppings. (This was also before the days when people picked up after their dogs)
When I got married, I wanted to take my wife to those childhood stomping grounds. We drove around a bit as I pointed things out to her that I remembered. I found my old house and we got out of the car. After peeking inside the windows and scaring a little girl who was trying to sleep, an angry father clad only in his boxer shorts chased us out of his lawn.
“Come on,” I told her. “I want to show you this freaky playground.”
So I turned left on Beltline, but made immediate right into the public pool parking lot. It felt odd, because I could have sworn it was farther down the road than that. Across the lot stood a pathetic little Frankenstein slide, standing all alone in an overgrown field of weeds. I walked up to it and turned around. Strange…I could see my old house from here. I never knew that before.
I scratched my head and looked at the rusted equipment. There were two slides on either side of the iron monster, but they were not part of the same structure at all. He did have a slide out of his mouth and as I walked up to it, I affectionately ran my fingers along the top of the slide…coming out about eye level to me and gently sloping down into a soft sand pit below. They must have added that sand pit in the 90’s.
He must have shrunk, too.
What is the moral of this little story? I’m glad you asked. As we grow up, our paradigms shift and seem to grow with us. What felt like a mile long journey to an enormous monster in a park as a child of 6 seemed actually a little dwarfed to a man in his 30’s. I had grown up and the monsters that once haunted my wild imagination were actually pathetic eye sores, probably slated to be torn down in a year or so to make room for a new sissy playground with a foam padded floors.
I feel like that little boy again today, walking out into a huge world of bloggers, and tweeters and self publishers and agents and editors, accomplished writers and heroes of my craft with their credentials pouring out of them like 18’ slides flanking a monster of “PUBLICATION.”
I feel like that kid again, looking around at everyone so much ‘bigger’ than me.
Of course the blogasphere has been all a buzz over the past week over Ms. Amanda Hocking’s success. Even I’ve blogged about it earlier this week. I hunted her site down today:
I can’t help but feel overwhelmed when I consider thousands of emails, followers and tweeters. I feel so small when I look at my blog and Facebook page.
But here is the cool thing: I grew up. That playground was not really a mile away and my mom was probably ALWAYS watching me from the window, though I didn’t know it at the time. As I grew up, my monsters shrank.
So will yours.
I want to hear from those who feel so small. You have dreams but right now they seem to mock you. If you’ve been published and are successful, I want to hear from you too if you can remember what it was like to stand before your monster and feel so small.
“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.”
I. Samuel 17: 48-50