Monday, February 10, 2014

clarity from an invisible jet

(I originally titled this post "Jumping Sticks", and was going to be a lesson from the Samson playground... and somehow, it went a different direction.  So I'll still write "Jumping Sticks" later... but for now, enjoy this "Lesson From Home")

When I moved to Alabama in October of 1984, they had just built Samson Elementary School.  I left Mrs. Underwood's 4th grade class Ridgetop Elementary in Austin, Texas, to join Mrs. Smith's 4th grade class in Samson...

...twas a good thing, too, because about three weeks before we moved, or before I even knew we were going to move, we were given the task of going to the library, picking out a book and doing a book report on it.  For whatever reason, even 29 years later, I still do not understand why I chose the 306 page behemoth-to-a-4th-grader book, "National Velvet" by Enid Bangnold.  Maybe I liked horses that week, and it had a horse on it.  Maybe I liked Elizabeth Taylor or something (I hadn't yet discovered Jo from "Facts of Life", much less real girls yet) or maybe I just thought it would be a challenge.  Either way, five days before the book report was due, I had only finished part of the book.

And then we moved like, a day or two before it was due.  So, Brian Bruner, Becky Roacha and Melissa Gonzalez, hope you did well.  You know, in early October 1984.

Where was I?  Oh yes...

...Samson Elementary was brand new, so new that they didn't even want the students leaning on the walls, cause they might get all dirty and stuff.  And with a new school, a new playground, which was also fun... jungle gyms (do they still even allow those?)... one of those fort type things with a wooden suspension bridge (that I think it collapsed with someone on it, so later it became a straight bridge)... a real life tire swing (which Leslie Whigham punched me in the stomach so hard that I lost my breath because I cut in front of her in line)... and other odds and ends of things to climb on. 

Of course, as a 4th grader, soon a 5th grader, you didn't really want to play on the "kiddie" things, so we tended to make our own fun... many times, we played "V" on the school courtyard.  One guy would be Donovan, one girl would be Julie, another chick would be Diana, and the rest would be just minions.  We would form fake guns with our hands, crouch behind planters and posts, and just yell "Pew! Pew! Pew!" for 20 minutes until it was time to go inside. 

There really wasn't any rhyme or reason as to whether you lived or died... there wasn't a laser pointer on my hand nor did any paintballs shoot out of my fingers, so I couldn't really tell you if I had truly shot Wade Fulford or Monty Powell with my ray gun, but if they chose to die--which was really them wanting to be dramatic and act out a death scene more than them building my confidence--then hey, that's lucky for me.  Another notch on my kill list. 

I do hope Campbell Isaiah will be allowed to play "V" when he gets to be in 4th grade.  Probably not.  He'll be forced to act out Downton Abbey or something, because we all know if a little boy fakes shooting an alien wearing human skin hellbent on world domination with a hand formed into a laser gun, then of course, he's going to grow up and shoot up the local community college. 

Besides "V", we also did versions of The A-Team, sometimes Knight Rider, and of course, GI Joe...

And for GI Joe, there was this one kid who had like EVERYTHING.  Well, he said he did, and who was I to doubt him?  Sometimes, The Kid in Question (I'm going to call him that, lest he actually read this and think I'm poking fun at him... well, I mean, I am, but that's besides around the point), would bring a bunch of his GI Joe figures and vehicles with him to school sometimes, and at recess, he would pass out the figures and the vehicles, like Jeeps and tanks and cool helicopters and other awesome war machines that we would see on the show that everyone watched after Transformers came on...

See, though, I was never all that popular.  I talked about this a little bit in a previous post, but please do not think I'm complaining... the more time goes by, the more I can reflect on those daily ventures of my childhood that were both meaningless and completely meaningful all at once. 

Looking back, I'm glad I never got this
guy.  Though honestly, I would LOVE to
own this dude now.  I mean, Ice Cream
Soldier?  Really?  REALLY?
So, in not being that popular, I would be towards the last of the kids to get whatever toys The Kid in Question was passing out.  I'd set my sights on a Rapid Fire Motorcycle (RAM) that I could put Roadblock in... and it would get handed off to Jason Smith.  Well, then I'd peer into the bag and see a Cobra Flight Pod, complete with Destro sitting inside... and Chad Ward would claim that one.  Finally, I would see a brilliant Cobra Rattler ground attack jet, with Wild Weasel in the cockpit, and think, "That's still in there!"  I'd stick my hand out and say, "Oh, oh!  Can I have th..." and would be cut off immediately with Daniel Stephenson already running away with it, flying it through the air, "Pew! Pew!ing" all the way down the sidewalk.

Dejected, finally, The Kid in Question would hand out the remaining figures.  I remember once, I got Bar-B-Que.  Like, really?  Bar-B-Que?  An orange guy who didn't even have a flame thrower attached? 

What to do, what to do... everyone else is flying around, playing war with their GI Joes, and I have Bar-B-Que. 

This actually happened a few times, with me getting lame figures like Chuckles, the Joe in the Hawaiian shirt, or maybe Raptor, not named for the cool dinosaur that would become popular in Jurassic Park 7 years later, no... named because he was a bird trainer, code name "Cobra Falconer"...

One day, I did get a lame figure.  And no jet to fly him in, no ATV to wheel him around in.  Just a figure.  Well, it was time to stop complaining, and start solving my problem...

So I took Bar-B-Que, bent his legs a bit and put him in a seated position.  I then declared he was "in an invisible jet", which I then, placing my thumb and index fingers on Bar-B-Que's tiny plastic waist, I zoomed him through the air to simulate flight.

"You can't do that!" came the cry of The Kid in Question...

"Yeah, yeah I can," I replied, Pew Pew'ing someone in their tangible ATV.  "My lasers are invisible too!  I just blew you up, The Kid in Question!"  Of course, rather than fighting the fact that invisible jets that just came into existence actually existed, he then contested the point that I shouldn't have blown him up, and that wasn't fair.

Of course, I didn't take any lasers. Bobbing and weaving in and out of enemy fire, I discovered the great thing about an invisible jet, especially one that is made up, is that you can kind of also make up your own rules.

Sometimes you can't just make up the rules to solve your problem.  But sometimes you can.  And perhaps the reason you are told that you can't make up the rules is because the person telling you is someone who never tried, or perhaps were beaten because they didn't try to solve their own problem.

I could have cried.  I could have complained, and for a few days, I did.  But when I got tired of complaining, got tired of crying, I figured I could keep doing that, or I could make it work.  And I made it work.

Sure, there is a big difference in problems of a 5th grader and problems of a 25 year old... 35 year old... 45 year old... and beyond.  But at its root, many times the problem is just that you dont have a solution. 

Have you tried making one up?

Try that before you declare its impossible.

Make your own invisible jet and finally fly above those things you can't seem to get past.  Your jet might be hard to make, it might take more work that wrapping two fingers around a lame GI Joe character, but you won't know until you try.

(6940 words written in #15KWordsInFeb, 13060 to go)

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