By Brian M. Howle
When looking back on the big picture of my life, it’s more than just a little bit ironic that I actually ended up making my home in Myrtle Beach for the long haul.
You probably have not really thought about it, but I bet most of you can’t recall your lives beyond a certain point in your very early youth. The vast majority of my friends seem to hit a wall when they try to go back in their memories, and it seems to be around when they were 4 to 5-years of age.
Not me. My earliest memories go back to when I was horizontal in my crib, checking out the looming world above the rails of its sides. And there are two decidedly major reasons for this ability to recall my infancy.
One: My parents installed a hanging mobile over my crib, and it was one of those plastic deals that was designed to transform from a mobile to toys that an infant could play with. It was made of a softer plastic; a “train” of various shapes that plugged into each other to form a circle for the mobile. As an infant grew – and eventually developed dexterity and hand-eye coordination (well, as much as a toddler can develop) – the individual parts pulled apart for play, and the world of discovery opened up a little one’s eyes to the world of geometric shapes. Some were round, some square, and some multi-sided. Some were solid in color and some had patterns imprinted on them. All I knew was, I couldn’t wait to get my stubby leetle hands on them. No doubt about it – the very first goal of my cognizant life was to pull those wonderful, spinning, swinging little rascals down to my level for a full inspection. After all, they were just perfect for a full day of leisurely gumming and cooing. And;
Two: Someone hung a picture on the wall beside my crib, and when the mobile lost its novelty, that picture kept me entranced for hours on end. It was a Disney lithograph of some “Babes in Toyland”-type scene, but it wasn’t just any little ol’ picture.
This bad boy was perhaps the finest illustration every produced, as far as form, composition and color go. The colors were beyond vivid; they seemed to be alive with depth and hue, almost as if they were encased in the deep gloss of today’s polyurethane finishes for furniture and the like.
There were cubes, and boxes, and balls of all sizes, in a veritable rainbow of colors. There were the obligatory toy soldiers, whose uniforms and epaulets sharply contrasted with their puffy, Beefeater-style headgear, and their gleaming, sleek wooden rifles with finely detailed triggers and barrels.
There was a myriad of accompanying items – booming cannons, bright tinsel, mirrored forms, sparkling lights and shooting stars of exploding color.
It captured my imagination to the point where I actually recall thinking to myself, “Man, when I finally get out of this popsicle stand, I gotta have some of those things for real!”
I had no idea what I would do with them, but that was just a technical glitch. No matter – I wanted.
At some point along the way, I finally got my hands on the mobile. I spent day after day plugging the parts together and then pulling them apart, gleefully anticipating the “pop” that came along with separating the little rascals. Of course, since there wasn’t much else to do in a crib for hours on end – between feeding, burping, and making little gifts in my diapers for my proud parents and all that – it made my days seem, somehow, fulfilled.
Next thing I knew, I had figured out the standing up part. It was touch and go, for sure, but I had the luxury of those crib balusters for helping out with the balancing difficulties. And it wasn’t long before Mr. mobile was no more: I now had all the pieces on the mattress with me, where there were endless combinations of possible configurations of making the loop any size I wanted.
But the Holy Grail of Unattainable Quest – that Disney litho – was still beyond my spastic reach. I stretched and attempted climbing upon all of my cribmates – the assorted stuffed animals that were, by now, gnawed into unrecognizable little puffy forms. But alas, that hanging photo was still outside the fringe of capture.
And wouldn’t you know it? On the day when I finally made it to where I could just barely touch the bottom of the frame, when I could taste victory and the unknown joy of finally holding that sucker …
My father came into the room and scooped me up, tossing me into the air while he laughed and made all those weird parent noises that we all inevitably make when we have kids.
“How would you like to go out with mama and daddy today, little big man?” he asked, as if I was actually going to respond in some articulate manner.
Next thing I knew, they had bundled me up and whisked me out of the house! Did you hear me? OUT OF THE HOUSE! Not just out of my room, which I don’t ever remember leaving before – but OUT OF THE HOUSE!
Wow! There was a whole new world out there, and they had been keeping it from me all this time. Who were these cruel beings? Whose idea was it to keep the little kid from discovering the big, wide world, anyway?
Well, I didn’t really have time to formulate a lengthy diatribe over the issue, mainly because my swirling glimpse of the world only consisted of about 25 feet before being packed into some kind of travel bed inside some kind of moving room that – of course – I had never experienced before.
Which soon accounted for the massive pukefest that followed, during my first automobile trip.
Man, all that spinning that I watched with the mobile was nothing compared to what was going on now in my own leetle noggin. And about this time, I began to realize that my dad was one twisted puppy, because while my mother frantically tried to stop my world-class Linda Blair impersonation, he just laughed and laughed and laughed …
Well, at least until mama held me up and pointed me in his direction.
This went on for what seemed like forever (again, when you have no reference point for time – since you’re an infant and all – everything seemed like forever), until the strange, moving room finally came to a stop.
Mama held me close and sang the song that her mother sang to her when times were tough, and as I calmed down, we both watched my dad unload all the stuff from the car and take it into a small, white building.
There was bright sunshine beaming all around. The air seemed to actually smell different, although I couldn’t quite put my stubby little finger on it. (Again, a lack of reference point left me stumped). But whatever it was about this strange place, my parents seemed to really, really enjoy it.
They placed me on a bed for a few minutes while they changed their clothes, and then scooped me up again and out the door we went. My view consisted of sky – trees – sky – trees – and them more sky and more trees. But it sure beat that spinning, moving room I endured for the trip.
Dad pulled up a chair for my mom, and she sat down beside another woman, who just had
to poke her face into my mine and start up with all that weird adult noise thing like they always seemed destined to do. Dad was nowhere in sight, and the two women in my life lifted me up and placed me down beside them.
Hmmm … this was not soft like my blankie. In fact, it was downright hard. Hard – like, say, concrete.
But now, just beyond my fat leetle feet, there was another new adventure I had yet to experience, or even see before.
Shimmering, glistening, shining reflections of dancing light that flashed across my eyes; accompanied with sloshing, lapping sounds that seemed to know me, and call me name. Why, it was calling my name.
And since I knew my name, I gladly accepted its beckoning invitation.
WHOA! Hey, this was different … coooool beans; now, this was really different. It was like that time I knocked my sippy cup all over me and mama, except my sippy cup never had this much of that stuff in it.
And everything looked really weird, like when I was sleeping and all those “Babes in Toyland” guys came marching in to play with me all night. But I could still see mom and her friend, although they didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me anymore.
All that sparkling sunshine was just a-wavering around. But hey, you know, now the light was beginning to dim a little, and I couldn’t really see mama and her friend anymore. And you know, for some reason, I didn’t seem to be getting a lot of that fresh air.
In fact, I wasn’t getting any air.
I was drowning.
As I slowly, calmly sank to the bottom of the motel pool that I had just fallen into, I reflected on my short life and didn’t really worry about wetting my diaper because, well, I was DROWNING.
Suddenly, a form broke the surface above me and dove straight to me, snatching me from the jaws of the big dirt nap and racing back to the surface, where the calm, bright day was now filled with the sounds of screaming women (primarily, my mother and her scary friend).
The pool was part of The Clover Motel, a small mom-and-pop motel, which was located on the corner of 38th Ave. North and Kings Highway right here in Myrtle Beach, where a much-needed putt-putt golf course now sits. And if my dad – who had gone to fill the ice bucket so mama could have a nice, cold Coca Cola while not watching me at the pool – hadn’t returned when he did, well, that would have really sucked.
Instead, I grew up, got an education, went out in the world and ended up living right here. But during my school years, you know what I did during the summer to make money?
I was a lifeguard.
Just goes to show – everything happens for a reason.
The previous article was originally published in the July 13, 2006 issue of Alternatives NewsMagazine.