Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll considers a few of THE THINGS WE HAVE PUT IN OUR MOUTHS. She writes:

I’m talking, of course, about how we built our immune systems and what wonderful systems they truly are. And beginning a discussion of Risk Management, Old School.

Babies, quite notoriously, will put every single thing they can get ahold of into their mouths. When you look at a toybox full of rattles and stuffed animals, blocks and dolls, surely not every item gets sterilized every day. Or every week. We were very poor when our son was small and bought many toys at garage sales where God only knows where those Fisher-Price Little People had been.

I read a pretty amusing description of the difference between the parents’ protocol with the first child and the subsequent children. With the first child, when she drops her pacifier, you boil it. With the second child, you run it under the faucet for a few seconds to remove any visible dirt. With the third child, you have the dog fetch it.

The Famous 5-Second Rule is not any kind of rule at all. Even if you scrubbed your kitchen floor with Lysol every day – and Mama came close – the minute you walk over it with shoes that have been in your bathroom or outside, it is a veritable carpet of germs. If your toddler drops his candy on the floor, the germs do not require 6 seconds to adhere to it. But we all have invoked the 5-Second Rule and survived.

Next to her family and her Lord, Mother loved Chocolate-Covered Peanuts more than anything. And one fine day, I came into the kitchen and saw her trying to clean up a Chocolate-Covered Peanut she had found behind the refrigerator. She did eventually give up and pitch it. Otherwise, she might have only lived to 94 instead of 95. Who was I to judge? I admit to having eaten a Milk Dud that I found in the bottom of my purse. So far, so good.

Mama was as thorough and constant a housekeeper as ever walked (or vacuumed) the Earth. In a neighborhood full of German and Scandinavian housewives, she had a lot of competition. There was a dear German lady across the street who would scrub her driveway on her hands and knees. She scrubbed her mailbox about every other day.

But Mother’s older sister was crazier still. My Aunt Jess used to wash the Monopoly hotels and houses and other pieces from my cousins’ board games. She even tried putting the board itself and the Monopoly money into the oven for a bit to roast off the germs, which was not a total success and resulted in the purchase of a brand new game. We used to play “Store” with the charred money.

Nevertheless, Mother had a few blind spots when her natural and extreme THRIFT conflicted with her fanatic cleanliness. Once when I was a typesetter it fell to me to type some huge OSHA manual for restaurants, and what a revelation that was! Based on that information, Mother should have killed us all many times over. The OSHA rules demand that anything that is to be cooled is to be cooled QUICKLY, like by setting the pot in ice water. Mother would leave stuff on the stove or counter for many hours, sometimes days.

She fried most things in bacon grease and stored the grease in a pewter crock that she kept under the counter unrefrigerated. Nobody ever got sick. In fact, I never missed a single day of school during my entire 12 years, except once when I was trying to finish Gone With The Wind (1,037 pages) in a 24-hour period and pretended to be sick so that I could stay home and read. In my adult years, she patronized a store that sold expired and dented cans, even though I begged her not to and promised to give her the difference in cash money. It was a tempting offer, but saving money was, for her, a Sacred Quest.

But back to Kid World. We played in – and ingested – sand in a sandbox made out of an old tractor tire. It was evident that we shared the sandbox with the neighborhood cats who were appreciative of an outdoor litter box. After playing in the sandbox, we would go to the little neighborhood store for a Popsicle which we would break with our hands without so much as a run under the garden hose, never mind a surgical scrub. Which was nothing compared to eating Lik-M-Aid, which was basically dyed sugar that came in a packet. You poured it into your grubby little hands and then LITERALLY licked it off. Hence the clever name.

In school, we snacked on library paste, which seemed like a good idea when we were high from covering our faces with newly minted worksheets fresh off the mimeograph machine. Is there any better smell on earth than mimeo ink? I feel sorry for you youngsters who never got to experience it. Printers! Feh!

When our mothers heard about a kid who had Chicken Pox or Measles or Mumps, we were sent to play with them so we could get the disease and get it over with. The mothers in the 50s believed in herd immunity, not lockdowns.

Masks were for Halloween and were cheap things with the flimsiest rubber band in the history of the world to hold it on. It was broken by your second house and had to be held on with your hand or abandoned altogether, thus severely compromising your costume. I think the same company that made the rubber bands for masks also made the rubber bands for the game of Bolo, wherein a ping pong sized hard rubber ball could be bounced several times on a paddle before the rubber band came loose from the flimsy staple that held it on. A rollicking good time for 30 seconds of fun and sure to attract the advice to “Take that outside!”

We spent practically our whole childhoods outside, no matter the season, playing death-defying games with such names as “Kill the Man with the Ball,” “Crack the Whip” (played on ice skates), “Mumblety Peg” (played with a real working jackknife), and “Red Rover.” At least in Minnesota, we played outside until our FATHERS, not our mothers, called for us, or until you couldn’t see the ball or until frostbite set into our fingers and we could no longer feel our faces. If we had ever seen – as I have seen recently — a kid on a pogo stick wearing a helmet, that kid would have been called a sissy until at least college graduation.

We rode in the beds of pickup trucks, slept unfettered on the rear-seat window shelf, and swam all day in lakes with no lifeguards. It was a great time to be ALIVE. Not just in existence. ALIVE. I fear we shall never see its like again. Remember to figure out what three friends you will be allowed by Biden to gather on July 4th. Outside. Double masks. Yeah, THAT’S gonna fly here in Arizona. Come ON, Americans, this ain’t the Alamo – just a little recollection of what it was like to live as a free people. Pay no attention to the senile husk behind the Teleprompter. Dig deep and find some dignity and LIVE!

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