You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. ~ Franklin P. Jones
Bar codes were a status symbol.
Back in school, some of the kids would have a parent who’d be working abroad. I used to be one of them; Father used to work for DHL in Japan and would visit us twice a year. I remember a girl named Socorro. She used to bring chocolate bars, deliciously tempting in their shiny paper wrappers. She would then gather the girls around her in the morning before class started – for she can’t wait until recess time to show off – and tell us in that very knowledgeable tone, “See these lines at the back of the wrapper? These tell you that this chocolate is bought from America.” And we would all go, “Ohhh.” It was fascinating. Often, we would get jealous. That’s when I would pester Mother to phone Father and remind him to bring chocolates home, emphasizing to stop over in America and make sure that he buys only those which have bar codes on the wrapper.
Soft drinks were a treat.
We had a rule at home: Mother would allow us the luxury of indulging in a glassful of soft drink only when there’s a special occasion, like birthdays, good grades, or being at our best behavior when visiting relatives. My sisters and I would marvel at the glass full of cola with ice cubes in them. Each one of us would sip slowly, keeping an eye on every glass, making sure others finish theirs first. Often, I would ask the youngest to give me a sip. “Let me just check if yours taste the same as mine,” I would tell her. “And?” She would later ask curiously. “It tastes just the same. You don’t have to try mine.”
We always had toy cars.
“I want my daughters to grow up like boys – strong and independent,” Father would often say. That’s why he always bought home toy cars instead of dolls. Mother disliked those cars. Much to our disappointment, she would give them away as gifts. Mother insisted that we should have books and crayons instead. “We should develop our children’s creative skills by letting them create their own toys,” she would explain to Father. So my sisters and I spent summers drawing, painting, playing teacher, and reading colorful story books.
Dolls didn’t make sense.
Father finally bought home a doll for sister #3. We were curious for it would close its eyes when laid down and would cry when a button on her back was pressed. The doll wasn’t even decently dressed – she wore a dress. Only a dress. “This is so silly, ” I thought. I somehow brainwashed sister #3 to give me her doll and participate in my game. I opened a meat shop in our bedroom and removed the doll’s arms and legs, hanged them on the window, and sold “goat meat” to my sisters. When we got tired of playing, we left to do something else. That’s when sister #3 realized what happened to her doll, and cried her heart out. That afternoon, I was grounded – no TV that day.
It wasn’t just the doll. I think I had dismantled a lot of other things as well.
Afternoons weren’t spent at home.
“If you take a nap in the afternoon, you’ll grow tall and smart,” Grandma would tell me. I didn’t really care about growing tall. It just didn’t matter. Most afternoons, she would call us to give her feet a light massage as she would doze off to sleep. That was torture. She would hear our footsteps and call us by name. So we used to remove our slippers, hold them in our hands, and would silently tiptoe out of the house to play badminton on the street.
By the way, I also did a few good and noble deeds as a young child, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to bore you with those.