The first few years of my life feel like a fog without any sort of clear timeline. Much of it seems like tiny Polaroid pictures. Like the time my sister told me a mud puddle was really chocolate milk and I believed her. Or the time when I gave my cat a haircut, or when I poked her in the anus because I thought it was some sort of button and I wondered what would happen if I pressed it. Then there were the times I’d sneak shots out of the bottle of Pepto-Bismol from my parent’s medicine cabinet. Or the time another kid and I at Camelot Elementary, or Camel Snot as we called it, thought it would be fun to fire our shoes into the air to see how high we could kick them. When I came back in to class and the teacher saw me standing there with a shoe on one foot and a dirty baggy sock on the other she asked me where my other shoe was. I told her it was on the roof of the school. The janitor had to be called to fetch it. When he came back down with my shoe he gave it to me and said through gritted teeth, “Keep it on your foot where it belongs.”
Over the years I’ve been able to fill in the gaps. Something I didn’t remember was how my father and I used to wrestle. My mother told me when I was young the first thing my father would do every night when he got home from work was wrestle with me. One night he didn’t get home until long after I was in bed. I remember opening my eyes and seeing my father’s silhouette sitting on the side of my bed. The silhouette asked me if I wanted to wrestle.
Once I became a teenager my mother warned my father that I was getting too big for wrestling. By the age of seventeen I had become a beautiful 170lb 6’ tall butterfly. I was no longer that little boy he used to wrestle with. I had become a man. I had lost my innocence and learned about things like wedgies.
For those of you who don’t know what a wedgie is allow me to take your innocence.
Wikipedia defines a wedgie as when “a person’s nether underwear or other garments are wedged between the buttocks.“
High school was a time of great tension. You had to be on guard at all times. You didn’t know where or when someone was going to give you a wedgie or pants you. For those who don’t know what getting pantsed is, it’s when someone yanks down your pants, leaving you there standing in your underwear.
The last time this happened to me I was in a van with a bunch of people from my church youth group. Someone asked me to adjust the volume on the television in the van. When I got up to adjust the volume knob someone yanked down my pants. Usually people laugh when this happens. No one was laughing. Everyone went silent. I had decided to go commando on that particular day. I pulled my pants back up, rather embarrassed.
Finally one of the girls said, “Nice tan.”
Before I came along my father had never heard of a wedgie. It soon became common place during our wrestling matches. One day we were wrestling in the living room.
He danced around the room while saying “Float like a butterfly! Sting like a bee!”
Mother was busy in the kitchen preparing dinner, keeping a disapproving eye on us.
“Robert, he’s getting too big for that. You’re going to get hurt,” my mother warned him. He disregarded her, as men usually do when women tell them what to do.
(It seems like mothers are always trying to spoil your fun, like it’s their job. They don’t want you to do anything that involves any sort of risk. And it seems no sooner than when they say “Don’t do that. You’re going to hurt yourself,” and we tell them “Trust me. I know what I’m doing,” then BLAM! We end up hurting ourselves, and then we have to hear them say “I told you so.”)
We both danced around the room like boxers often do before they clobber each other’s faces. I tap danced, ran in place, did jumping jacks, all while feigning punches.
“You want some of this?”
“Yeah, but put the sauce on the side.”
“I hope you left room in your stomach because I’m going to ram my fist into it!”
Neither of us really knew how to box or wrestle so we looked like a couple of spaz’s.
I went to jab my father in the ribs. He deflected by raising his left knee. The knuckles in my right hand all popped at once.
“Yeeeeow,” I hollered. He laughed and asked me how that felt.
I tackled him and we went into the clinch, and then I put him in a headlock, digging my bicep into his neck. With Jack be nimble and quick speed and I grabbed the back of my father’s fruit of the looms and yanked them up almost to his shoulder blades, nearly ripping the band clean off. My father danced on his tip toes and howled a High C. He tried desperately to free himself. He clawed around to find my waistband. He accidentally stepped on my foot, and when I tried to take it back I lost half my sock and my balance. We tumbled backward toward the couch. I still had my father in a headlock and inadvertently used his head as a battering ram against the wall, while I landed safely on the couch cushions.
For a while my father lay there like a dead accordion, his head resting against the wall, his severed underwear hanging out of the back of his sweat pants while he breathed heavily.
“Robert, I told you,” my mother said.
“Yes, dear,” my father said with winded voice. “We’re done wrestling.” Shortly thereafter his tattered fruit of the looms became a dust rag and our days of wrestling became a thing of that past.