A Big Tangent

This is the sunrise we woke up to the day we left for our trip. I’m obviously not a photographer, yet anyway, but you can imagine how beautiful this is in person. It gets me every time. I miss it already.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I woke up with a headache. The funny thing is, I started writing my post and, due to the fuzzy state of my brain, I got off on this huge tangent about my childhood. After several paragraphs, I realized my divergent thinking, took those paragraphs out, and kept writing.

Today, perhaps because the sinus pressure’s threatening to overtake my brain, I’ve decided to share yesterday’s giant tangent with you in hopes that it will bring to mind for many of you similar humorous childhood memories. And if not, hopefully you’ll get a little laugh at my expense. I’m helpful that way.

What got me off on this tangent yesterday was the paragraph where I talked about my eldest playing Lord of the Rings in the ocean. I started remembering some of my childhood fantasy games, including my Wonder Woman game, inspired by Lynda Carter of course. Here’s where yesterday’s tangent began:

When I was his age, my imagination games ran deep, sometimes to the point of almost colliding with reality. This was fine if I was imagining Little House on the Prairie and building log cabins out of pillows and trying to can enough pretend food with play dough cans to last the winter.

However, when I got into the Wonder Woman phase, things got a little more dicey. During recess at school, a couple of friends and I began playing Wonder Woman. All three of us were Wonder Woman, because no one wanted to be any other character. So we would make up these little school dramas where “bad guys” were invading our school and we had to stop them. Basically, the attacks were short-lived, because our favorite part about being Wonder Woman was spinning around so our imaginary Wonder Woman costumes/personas would appear.

The Wonder Woman game took a hilarious turn when we decided to pretend that aliens were secretly trying to take over our school. How were the aliens masterminding their complete takeover of a suburban elementary school? They started with the lunch ladies, by taking over their bodies. You heard me correctly. And the scary thing was, we went with this storyline for so long and took it so deep in our minds, that we started to wonder if perhaps it could be true. I mean, it had clearly happened on TV before, and if you were aliens trying to take over a suburban elementary school, an obviously desirable target and natural place for you to begin your world takeover would be with the quasi-innocuous lunch ladies. It just seemed like a strategically brilliant place to start in our third-grade minds.

We would sit at lunch, staring intently at the lunch ladies, trying to figure out which ones had been “taken over.” Did their eyes have a glazed look to them? Were they glancing furtively around the room, even sneaking glances toward the sky? Were they exchanging secretive looks between themselves from time to time? We watched and waited, prepared for the day we would be called upon to use our Wonder Woman powers. Never mind that our powers were not real. We had long forgotten that small point.

The problem came into play when I realized that my best neighborhood friend’s mother, a lunch lady in our school, might in fact then be in danger. My neighborhood friend went to a Catholic school, so she was unaware of the alien dramas taking place in the local public school and therefore couldn’t warn her mother. So the responsibility was mine alone. On one hand, I felt so stupid trying to say anything to her because I realized how it sounded. And on TV, everyone always laughs at the beacon of truth initially. On the other hand, if we were right, my friend’s mother was truly in danger. I debated for a while. Finally, I hit a breaking point. I had to warn her. And I couldn’t say it to her face, because she was, well, kind of a tough lady, relatively speaking. So, I went to my friend. We sat down on her swing set, and I explained the whole thing quickly, before I could chicken out.

My friend stared at me for a minute.

Then she ran in her house to find her mother.

I sat on that swing set, and reality rolled in like a wave. I felt dumb, then dumber, then dumbest. What had I done? Maybe, the aliens had taken over me.

I considered running home and hiding in my room, but I knew that was a plan fraught with weaknesses, as my friend lived right across the street from me and would have to be faced eventually. There was nothing to do but lie in the bed I’d made with my own messed up imagination.

My friend came back out after a minute. She looked irritated.

“My mom says you are crazy. Aliens aren’t real. And you probably just made the story up to tease me. She says I shouldn’t listen to you if you’re going to try to make me believe stupid stuff.”

I felt awful. My willingness to submit myself to public ridicule in order to save my friend’s mom had instead looked like I was trying to manipulate my friend into believing absurd things so she’d look stupid.

I made a weak attempt to try to explain my thinking to her, and then we swung in silence for a while.

Fortunately, we were good friends, so our friendship survived the alien episode, and I think she came to realize I was not attempting subterfuge. And, after all, we were third graders, so this, like most all else, was soon forgotten. Neither of us ever mentioned it again.

Years later, I came to see the humor in this story, and have laughed long and hard at myself numerous times, thinking about how I was able to so fervently believe in something one minute and then promptly realize how foolhardy it was the second I verbalized it to my friend. Frankly, in many ways it was a good lesson, one that may have kept me from “drinking the Kool-Aid” later on in childhood. Who knows? Anyway, I hope I made you laugh a little, and if not, then I guess pray that the fog clears soon so that my digressions will cease.

6 Comment

  1. I must say that the mom’s reaction was a little harsh. Then again, I can see how something like that might slip through the “filter” depending on the day. I used to play Wonder Woman with kids at the bus stop after school. I would and get so lost in my own imagination that it would take all of my friends going home and my mom coming to look for me to snap me out of it. I was the boss of all the other Justice League superheros, because I had an invisible jet. Obviously.

    1. Who were the superhero twins that came on later in the Justice League cartoons with “Super Twin powers, activate!” with a fist bump up high or something like that? My memory’s kind of sketchy right now on that. Boy, I’d love to watch some of those shows again now from an adult’s perspective. I was never smart enough to get the invisible jet, but I pushed the boundaries with what my lasso could do! Funny stuff.

      1. The Wonder Twins! “Wonder Twin powers…activate!” Zan and Jana? One of them always took the form of an animal, and the other a form of water. I can’t for the life of me remember which one chose which form, but it was always the same category.

        I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can remember useless trivia like nobody’s business.

  2. Monica says: Reply

    Hilarious. Great story.
    Reminds me of my boys about now! 🙂

  3. Oh yes, the aliens in the lunchroom. Did you ever notice they (the aliens) always started with the lady who served the dessert and then took over the other ladies? It’s as if they KNEW that they controlled the dessert, they could control us. If we (the collective Wonder Women) had not raised the alarms, it would have spread to the janitors. And then all he** would have broken loose.

    1. Ah, so I wasn’t the only one on to their plans way back when! Too funny!

Leave a Reply