A funny thing happens when you have kids; they grow up, you get old, and they move out and hopefully take all their crap with them so you can turn their bedroom into a tattoo parlor to make extra money. But there is always stuff left behind. A butterfly doesn’t take its cocoon with it, and I didn’t take my G.I. Joe guys with me. I think moms hoping for grand children keep some of the crap…or in the case of my mother in law…all of it. Sometimes this is a good thing. Sometimes the toys are choking hazards made of lead.
My father and uncles left a few really cool toys behind with our grandmother that we found later, when no one was looking.
It was a crisp, clear fall day when we drove over to our grandparents house so dad could show off his brand new Isuzu Trooper 2. Smokey, MILK, and I entertained ourselves in the backseat by punching each other in a heated bout of “Slug Bug”.
We pulled up to the curb outside of Grandma’s house and spilled out of the car. We all gave grandma a big hug and kiss, careful not to bump into her ever present cigarette.
Our grandfather admired our dad’s new ride and they popped the hood and kicked the tires and made guy noises of approval. Then gramps announced that the 49er game was starting and there was beer in the fridge and we all went inside.
MILK went over to grandma’s station at the head of the dinner table, the spot where she always read the paper front to back and smoked and, if it was past noon, sipped scotch and water. MILK perched at her elbow, coloring and breathing second hand. She was audience and apprentice to grandma, who dropped witty remarks between inhales, both about society at large and about the men and boys watching football. On a side note, it’s weird that MILK was the only one who never dabbled in smoking later.
Smokey and I got bored at half time and made this known to the grown ups by the age old tradition of whining “we’re borrrrrrred”.
“Look in my old toy box in the garage, there should be a football you can toss around,” dad said.
We went and looked and found the football alright, but there was something else underneath it.
JARTS!!!! Also known as Lawn Darts. For the uninitiated Jarts were giant darts with big plastic fins and metal tips. You were supposed to throw them at hoops on a lawn in a game of skill. That’s “were,” because they are now illegal due to the maiming and killing of lots of kids, and because giving kids giant metal darts is just a bad idea.
We immediately ran outside and began tossing them, they stuck into the ground with a satisfying thud. Then I did the thing all kids did with Lawn Darts and whipped one as hard as I could straight up.
“hahahahah, run for your life!” I yelled. We did. Why the hell would anyone give these things to little boys?
The bright blue dart flew majestically into the October sky and then decelerated and turned for reentry. We were a safe distance aways and, for a brief, precious moment, it seemed like the thing might even miss the Trooper.
Thwang! It made just the sound you would imagine it would make driving into the roof of a brand new car. The dart stuck there, faded plastic fins trembling. There was no way dad wasn’t going to notice.
Smokey and I looked at each other. Then he started cracking up and pointing at the dart in the car and pointing at me and telling me how totally busted I was.
My father at that exact moment walked outside to toss the football around with the boys. He assessed the situation as any father would. I held my breath and waited for the coming storm as soon as he noticed the dart in the car. Since Smokey was pointing at it and laughing that didn’t take long.
He looked at the dart and let loose a stream of expletives and then went for Smokey who was rolling on the ground laughing. Smokey realizing what was about to happen began to proclaim innocence, I’ve always known when to keep my mouth shut, and slowly backed away.
By the time Smokey managed to convince dad that it wasn’t him and he was just laughing, dad didn’t have anything left for me. He made me climb up and get the dart and throw the whole set away. Smokey and I both had to sit through a well-rehearsed lecture on thinking things through, and not being a dumb ass, and what if that was our thick skulls and not the car, and don’t tell mom, blah blah blah… where was I?
Oh right. So Lawn Darts are awesome, but super dangerous. You can probably still get some on eBay, but I can’t recommend it, for legal reasons.