Monday, March 17, 2014

F-Bombs Bursting in Air (StoredStory # 8)

My parents protected me from the F-word for as long as they could. My dad considered it the nastiest word a person could possibly ever utter. Although, he didn't particularly care for "sucks" either. I remember when a band playing at a music awards show wore black t-shirts with "War Sucks" in white lettering. Dad was not amused by the choice of wording.  Oh, and that time Stephen King's The Tommy Knockers was supposed to come on TV, Dad thought it was the Tummy Knockers and wondered in horror at the audacity of network TV. The common denominator here is all these words have a sexual element in their etymologies and common usages. Except for Tommy, but you get how replacing the "o" with a "u" changes things up quite a bit!

During my childhood, the F-bomb kept me from being able to watch a lot of movies that I heard other kids talking about. Like Child's Play. In fact, it was Child's Play that introduced me to the concept of the F-bomb before I had ever heard it said. I had seen the VHS boxes on the rental rack at Billy's Grocery. (Nope, I didn't have Blockbuster where I grew up, but the little country grocery store had a two-sided shelf with current titles). Plus, my friend Matthew had told me all about Chucky while we watched the glowing red embers of a camp fire glare menacingly at us during the crisp night. My imagination being what it was, I was scared to death of the idea of a man entering a doll's body via some satanic ritual. But, I was so utterly fascinated and curious. I wanted to see Child's Play.

I needed to see Child's Play. Since I hadn't seen it, I imagined all sorts of horrors. I began having dreams of Chucky being in my room at night. One night in particular, Chucky was climbing up my bed covers at the foot of the bed. With knife in hand, he was pulling himself up, but the covers would slide off of me, and he would land back on the floor. I woke from this dream just as the covers slid over my feet and went off onto the ground. I was paralyzed with fear. I lay there not knowing what to do. In a burst of animal flight or fight, I hopped to the end of the bed, reached and grabbed my covers, and threw them back over me. I don't remember falling back to sleep.

A while later, we visited my aunt and grandmother. My second cousin stayed there a lot, so he had a lot of movies to watch. Looking through the VHS collection, I came across Child's Play. YES! I could now watch this damn thing and get it over with. So, in my coy, childlike way of asking, I began dropping hints that I wanted to see this. All the adults must have had a consultation. I'm sure they went down a list: he's still scared of the dark, he'll want to sleep with someone, what's this movie about anyway?, and oh it has the F-word. In fact, I saw my aunt whisper in my mom's ear about this last detail. That decided it. I could not see it.

But why? I pressed them about it quite a bit. My dad always seemed to try to give a rational answer. "Because it has a word, the most disgusting word in the world in it. It ain't fitting to watch!"

Okay, well this opened a whole new set of questions, and replaced my interest in Child's Play for a hot minute. Ever inquisitive, I wanted to know what word it was. Can't you just tell me? How do you spell it? At least what it starts with? What does it mean? Why is it so bad?

Time went on. I tried at different times to get the word out of my parents. I needed to know. Knowledge was and has always been my way of dealing with the world. Maybe if I knew it, I could go ahead and see Child's Play. No such luck. My parents would not tell me the word.

One day in fourth grade, a couple of us went into the boy's bathroom. Our bathrooms had light blue tiles on the wall. Scrawled  high up on the shiny tiles by the last stall was "FUCK" written in this rather pointy font, kind of like Chiller. As soon as I saw the word, I knew that was the one my parents had remained so tight-lipped about. This was the word they didn't want me to know. Now I knew it. What was so vulgar, I wondered. I didn't know what it meant, but I knew I had better never say it in front of my family. Part of my curiosity had now been settled by an accidental discovery in the field research called life.

And perhaps this is part of the beauty of innocence, and how we try to protect it. We discover the world bit by bit because we are gently released over time into the world. It's like decompressing a scuba diver.

I wouldn't see Child's Play for years to come, but when I did, I don't even think the F-bomb really registered.

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