Saturday, March 8, 2008

Boys, Fire, and Video Cameras

Tonight I got a glimpse of my own past so vividly that it nearly caused a rift in the space-time continuum. It was like looking at myself 30 years ago. You see, this week in school, D made a Revolutionary War Minuteman from a toilet paper tube and construction paper. He had a patch over one eye, presumably from his early days as a pirate, and a pitch fork in one hand to fight off the Red Coats. He was 6 inches tall.

With enthusiasm that I remember vividly from my own days as a preteen (as if I grew out of it) D told me of his plans to "line a bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with gasoline or cooking fuel or something" like a little incendiary Jacuzzi for his paper man. The aluminum foil was to protect the bowl, you see. It's safety first with that one. Then he wanted to throw a match on it and record the "fireball" with his video camera. Oh yes, and then upload it onto YouTube, presumably for the world of preteen boys to enjoy.

Now M and I have been married for 15 years. In that time she has learned to trust me about "boy things". Sometimes she looks at me and whispers under her breath "Is that normal?" in response to some play centered around guns or crashing cars or explosions. I think that young girls must seldom engage in such play, and therefore have no grid for it when they grow up and see their sons engage in behavior they consider pre-arsonist.

When I was about his age I made a very large Star Wars production and filmed it with a Super 8 film camera. My friend Bobby and I worked on it all summer. We had a script and props and special effects o' plenty. One of our best scenes centered around, get this, an X-wing fighter made of toilet paper tubes! We stuffed it full of Kleenex and firecrackers and sparklers. In the film, it crash landed on a jungle planet (Dad's backyard shrubs) and burst into flames. The firecrackers and sparklers went off perfectly and the scene was great. But Dad's shrubs suffered some fire damage and may have eventually died.

So you see, I couldn't exactly say no to D tonight when he wanted to burn and video his toilet paper man. I did veto the gasoline, however. We lit him in an empty flower pot full of dried leaves and he burned up swell. Unfortunately, the batteries in his camera went out and we lost the footage. But we're going to try again tomorrow night.


LittleBear said...

I learned how to read when I was three. I also had (unfortunately for my parents I suppose) an aptitude for context. I also liked to read labels on household objects. When I was 6 I discovered the word 'flammable.' I suppose this lands somewhere between 'push to turn' and 'reverse psychology' on the list of words and phrases that a kid that young should not know about... but I was dangerous like that. Anyway, I decided that I was going to test this word out firsthand and so I grabbed my 4 year old brother, fished a birthday candle out of the junk drawer in the kitchen, and located a bottle of push-to-spray hairspray under the bathroom sink. After lighting the candle off the pilot light from our gas stove and instructing my brother to hold the candle as far away from him as possible I sprayed the flame with the hairspray. This had several delightful results. 1 - a small replica of the sun. 2 - a terrified look on my little brothers face (I'm sure that his life flashed before his eyes) 3 - a faint smell of singed eyebrows and 4 - the horrified look on my mothers face when this incident came up in casual dinner conversation about 14 years later as she was hearing about it for the first time. I guess my point here is this though... some little girls are just as predisposed to arson as boys. However, I did decide that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer when I was 7 (I was taking revenge on my parents for refusing to buy me an erector set, "no that's a boys toy," kinda thing)so I guess maybe I'm the exception rather than the rule. - Nikki D

Orangehouse said...

Woo Hoo! Nice story Nikki. I think you're going to make a good engineer, by the way! I'm looking forward to having you with us in Honduras this summer.

And to clarify for everyone, I don't mean to promote stereotypes with this post. I'm just relaying the perspective of my wife and some of her girlfriends with sons.

LittleBear said...

I didn't mean to imply that you were promoting steryotypes. :) I just had the urge to relay an amusing contradiction from my childhood.

Orangehouse said...

I don't mean to imply that you meant to imply... oh never mind. I'm tired.