|My mother recently wrote about an incident I had as a child, where (she thinks) I accidentally dropped a rubber snake on a hot lightbulb. This was no accident. I've always had an inquisitive mind. I had seen a piece of cellophane curl up on a heat source, and, in my mind, rubber was close enough to cellophane. I wanted to see my rubber snake "come alive" on the hot lightbulb. Of course, rubber is not cellophane. It melted and created a gooey mess. And I was mortified. How was I going to get my rubber snake back?
This was not the first time I had tried to melt plastic. I was the flower girl at my aunt's wedding when I was about five years old. I briefly wandered off from the wedding party after the ceremony, to find a hot lamp, over which I held my flower girl's hat with artificial flowers. My father discovered me just in time for my hat to be smoking. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn't have been interrupted in the pursuit of my incendiary studies.
One year, for Christmas, both my sister and I wanted plastic goop Thingmakers. She got a Fun Flowers set, and I got a Creeple Peeple set. To make your rubber creatures, you had to cook plastic goop in a mold that you put on a hot plate. Nowadays, people are horrified at the thought of little fingers handling a hot mold. Kids deserve more credit than that - let me tell you, you learn quickly not to touch a hotplate! The fun far outweighed any danger.
I am the original Halloween Kid. I loved rubber bugs, snakes - anything that I could use to gross out the grownups, as well as loved playing with makeup - making costumes and creating faces for the stage. My favorite was the "old woman's face," which I learned how to do in a minicourse class at my middle school. Liverpool taxpayers' money hard at work. Even as an adult, I still buy rubber snakes. If you ever come to one of my Halloween parties, you'll find them in unexpected places. I still get a kick out of creeping out the adults.
I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid. I loved nothing more than playing with the neighborhood boys and climbing trees. I even built my own tree forts, which were basically nothing more than abandoned boards secured to treebranches. How I never fell out of those trees and broke something, I am not sure. I came home with plenty of scraped hands and knees, which my mother kissed better and sprayed with Bactine.
As I grew older, my taste in science experiments grew more sophisticated. I wanted a chemistry set and a microscope for my own scientific explorations. I wanted to keep caterpillars and watch them spin cocoons. Unfortunately, I only ever found moth caterpillars that died in captivity. I also caught pollywogs and toads (the ones that the dog didn't half eat) and found them fascinating. I burned sulphur powder in one of my testubes, which stunk up our basement and rendered the testube useless. You can not clean burned sulphur out of a Pyrex testube. I have tried.
I don't know when the girliness kicked in. I think that maybe I was 15 or 16. I had my first real boyfriend. I was attending church, which meant (to me anyway) that I had to act a bit churchy, and wear dresses. It was hard to climb trees with breasts and hips, and my girlfriends were all into the pop idols of the day. I remember one sleepover I went to, where Tony DiFranco's "Heartbeat is a Love Beat" was played endlessly for hours as we attempted to play ping pong. Some people smoked pot and lost brain cells. I went to sleepovers where my brain was fried on the DiFranco Family and the Carpenters. My friend Joan was really into the Osmonds, and because she was my best friend, I got into them, too (although I much preferred David Bowie and the Beatles, despite the fact that they had been broken up for years.)
The one last remnant of my tomboy days were the days that Joan and I would go out fishing with her dad. I hated baiting the hook, but we always dug up live worms for bait. I learned how to fillet fish after we caught them. That didn't bother me, as the fish were dead by the time they were filleted. The worms, however, being alive, fought being speared with a fish hook in order to be something else's dinner. That kind of wriggling turned my stomach.
I think I'll stick with rubber snakes and bugs.