Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A bit of childhood mystery for you

(As a side note, a lot of things I post will be rough drafts from class. I welcome constructive criticism and fawn under praise. However, if you don't like my shit, just kiss my cracker ass. Thanks! -KAR)

When my oldest child was a toddler, I found an old Fisher Price record player at a yard sale and something from my own childhood called me to buy it even though the world had long moved onto CDs by then. We listened to a few records I’d bought with the record player but Rain never showed any real interest in it and over time I realized I’d been attempting to pass my Fisher Price memories on to her.

My record player was a small brown deal decked out in the wonderful late 70s colors of brown, orange and more brown. A plastic technological wonder of my very own, my record player was an untouchable to all other children, including my brother who still wet the bed. It was mine and was the one thing I ever bothered to take care of except for the Grimace cookie I once kept in the top dresser drawer as a pet. (The Grimace cookie was specifically chosen for its potential long shelf life after I was horrified to discover Grandaddy longleg spiders did not keep very well in a dresser drawer.) Grimace and I spent a lot of time jamming to our records in my little room of closet proportions fashionably decorated in 1978 trailer wood paneling.

We listened to “This Old Man” and sometimes I shouted out the lyrics so the Doberman out in the yard could hear them:





I knew this old man had a lot of problems and obviously drank to excess otherwise he could walk home instead of having to roll. For days, maybe even weeks or months, I’d come home from my kindergarten mornings, grab Grimace out of the dresser drawer and crank up This Old Man while I contemplated his life. I kicked off my shoes and sometimes danced around on the gritty bedroom linoleum my mother seemed to have given up on or possibly forgotten about in the struggle to keep body and soul together. It was a very catchy song.

This Old Man was also a very deep song about alcoholism and stalking. I knew this even then. They weren’t fooling me with that knick knack paddywhack business. The man played it all over the place. He played knick knack on my thumb, my shoes, my spine, and my gate. He gave the dog a bone to shut him up when he went on the knick knacking spree and then he rolled on home drunk as my Uncle Timothy Paul. Only a drunk would have to roll home. Normal people walk or drive. I guess paddywhacking was a very stressful sort of life and This Old Man had to drink himself into a stupor to deal with his own existence.

This Old Man captivated me. He was an alcoholic. Possibly a pervert. Maybe he was a few bricks off of a full load and just more child-like than perverted. The answer stood in the actual meaning of knick knack paddywhack. I was captivated and Fisher Price was the key to discovering the truth of This Old Man.

I lost Grimace because it turns out McDonald’s cookies do not have an exceptionally long shelf life . Life, however, moves on quickly for a five year old and I found a new record: Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City.” It was my most favorite song, even more so than the disturbing This Old Man. The 45 single, with it’s blue paper and butterfly symbol, expressed mysteries of wild and unknown places like cities where hungry children were shaped up like something wild and all the young boys wanted to take her home.

Fisher Price introduced me to what I thought was the idea of real freedom, of discovery by young girls of the world and their place in it. We rocked, pigtails and jelly shoes or not, we could be cool just like those kids at the roller rink. I’ve spent a lot of time as an adult wondering about what kind of people my parents were to let a child listen obsessively to a song about child prostitution. My favorite movies were Lady Sings the Blues and Barbarella so I can assume they were not ones to monitor the media content of their children.

I lost the record player sometimes after my parents divorced. I’m not sure what happened to it. Maybe I unknowingly lost it when they split the meager assets. My father often had a habit of taking bits and pieces of advanced technology and taking them apart to create something else. It is entirely feasible my record player became part of a fisher price/RCA/duct tape concoction used to hold a car engine together or play Atlanta sations on the radio. I was 13 before it was ever properly replaced with a wood paneled dual tape player, turn top, subwoofer system bought from the JC Penny Christmas catalogue. I slept between the speakers most nights.

My children still have the record player I picked up from a yard sale all those years ago. Only my youngest has ever expressed an interest in listening to it. He seems to especially like Puff the Magic Dragon. But we don’t ever listen to This Old Man. The guy’s a pervert.

No comments: