Thursday, May 08, 2008

My Year of Living Vacantly

I am thoroughly enjoying a book recommended some time back by brother David and which I have started multiple times only to be distracted away from it time and time again. Last week I found the audio version and have been laughing myself silly all week. The book is by Bill Bryson and is named The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. It is essentially a book about growing up in the 1950s and is chock full of references only we baby boomers can completely appreciate. For instance, who among us remembers Sky King, Sea Hunt, Roy and Dale, the smell of mimeograph ink? If you do, then this book will take you back.

One chapter really hit home for me. I have long described my 11th year on earth as being one where I wasn't really here. It turns out I am not alone in that experience. Bill Bryson describes how he never could remember what day of the week to bring his money to buy savings stamps, could never remember to bring his signed permission slip for class trips, etc. That was me in fifth grade. Does every kid go through a spell of complete oblivion?

The bad thing is, the fifth grade was the first time I had a man for a homeroom teacher. This particular man, Mr. K, was partial to boys and didn't really have much use for flighty girls. So it was particularly unfortunate that my brain went on vacation that year. He was the only teacher who ever actually took girls out in the hall for paddling and I think there was a time or two when I feared I would be next, because I have vague memories of his irritation at my forgetfulness. (There's a vintage memory right there. Paddling?)

I could not remember anything. I annoyed my friends to the breaking point that year by asking every afternoon what we were supposed to do for homework that night. I simply had no recollection of assignments being given, much less what they were. Looking back, I have no memory of anything that happened in that fifth-grade classroom, with the exception of one afternoon when an older boy I had a crush on gave a demonstration of walkie-talkies. And the book rack. I can remember standing at the book rack picking out a new book to read. I guess that is where my 11th year went. I must have spent the entire year lost in books and daydreams.

Whatever the cause, by sixth grade I was more or less back in my physical body. I can remember that year clearly. I can remember the fourth grade clearly. So far as fifth grade is concerned, I was in another dimension. Now, thanks to Bill Bryson, I know I was not the only one that happened to.

Of course, it could be that I was a victim of alien abduction. Did we have UFOs in 1965?


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