Here’s another short story from the archives of my mind. Although I grew up in California, I have plenty of memories of playing with my cousins back in the suburbs of Boston.
This story makes me ponder (more than usual, that is) the differences between growing up in the 1950’s and growing up in the 1980’s/1990’s. Just recalling the manner in which we imagined things appears to be a reflection on the times: violence on TV and in movies was the norm by the time I was a kid, and while I myself was anything but violent, looking back at this memory does show that I was impacted by it as well.
You can see things slowly starting take a turn for the worst, in what leads up to today’s world full of dark, sick humor that we can’t totally escape… You might as well laugh. Because, really, what else can you do!
So here’s a playtime memory from my childhood that sounds like it could be an episode of “South Park”. Best case scenario, you find it darkly amusing, like I do.
Snow White’s Bad Day
One afternoon, when I was about seven, my cousin Max and I were dreaming up another “let’s pretend” game. We were playing on the porch at our other cousins house. These cousins had a tree house which nobody ever played in. It wasn’t finished and my Aunt and Uncle said it was too dangerous. That might be what gave us the idea to make up what we did next…
Imagine this, if you will: we were friends with Snow White. Normally, one of the kids would probably play Snow White. Or, worst case scenario, they’d get a doll to play Snow White. That’s what most kids would do. But not us. We enjoyed making her entirely imagined, or “invisible” if you will, to everyone but us.
Of course, Snow White is not difficult to imagine. The Disney version, with her beautiful porcelain skin and coiffed dark hair, ruby lips and lovely yellow and blue dress is an image kids have been familiar with since 1939. But it’s what we imagined was happening to Snow White that was a little bit more odd.
My four-year-old cousin Max was the type of kid that was into all things dark and gruesome. I enjoyed intense drama. Put those two things together and you had shit that Hollywood couldn’t think up.
Snow White was having a particularly bad day. We had to call an invisible ambulance to get her after she fell out of the tree house that our Aunt and Uncle wouldn’t let us play in.
Max and I were taking inventory of her injuries.
“She broke both arms,” Max said.
“Okay,” I said, pretending to jot that down in an imaginary doctor’s notebook.
“Half of her face is all bloody,” Max went on.
I stopped writing for a minute. “Hmm… But why? Oh! I know! As she was falling out of the tree house, she got a nail stuck in her eyeball.”
“Yeah!” Max agreed.
“Great,” I said. “So two broken arms and a nail in her eyeball. Anything else?”
“Yeah!” Max said. “She broke her legs too.”
“How about just one of her legs?” I asked. I guess I didn’t want to kill her off completely.
Max nodded. “Okay. Just one.”
I pretended to write in my imaginary notebook again.
Max continued, “And her head broke off!”
“Um, no.” I said. “How about she just broke her neck?”
“All right,” Max agreed. “And it was all bloody!”
“But why was Snow White up in the tree house in the first place?” I wondered.
“Because she was hiding from Dracula!” Max replied gleefully.
That seemed about as good of a reason as any.
I don’t remember how the rest of the afternoon panned out for poor Snow White, but I remember when evening came and it was time for Max to go home, I recounted the Princess’s injuries one more time.
“Remember, Max,” I said, as his mother was putting his little jacket on. “Snow White has two broken arms.”
Max was tired at this point, so he just nodded. Intensely, however, as if it were something he never wanted to forget.
“Oh!” I continued. “And remember that Snow White also has a nail in her eyeball.”
At that point I think Max’s mother commented by saying something like “Ouch!”
And the thing I remember most, to this very day, was imagining Snow White falling from the tree house. It’s like watching some twisted Disney movie that was never made, the memory conjured up by my imagination is still so clear.
I guess it wasn’t all that strange… That’s the way kids played in the 80’s and 90’s. In the 1950’s, it probably would have gone something like:
“Snow White scraped her knee, so Max is the doctor and I’m the nurse. All we need is a little band aid. There you go, Snow White, as good as new.”
(Wait, did they have band aids in the 1950’s? Remind me to look that one up.)
So I suppose the innocence lost after the Nifty Fifties was not only reflected by Free Love and high crime rates… children played differently too. I shudder to think of what today’s kids are pretending happens to Snow White. Whatever it is, I’m sure they have an app for that.
tree house graphic from clipart-library