Saturday, May 24, 2014

Curiosity Kid

Nun Unknown
Nun Unknown (Photo credit: Todd Ehlers)


         Like children tend to be I was curious when I was a kid.   There were those mysteries about the world that puzzled me. Then there was my fascination with how things worked or what was inside of things.  It was not unusual for me to break something open to see if I could figure out what made the darn thing do what it did.  Or I'd just come up with some random question that would cause my mother to immediately shush me.

         When I was very young living in Cleveland, Ohio, my mother would sometimes cart my sister and me downtown as she ran her errands.  Since my parents only had one car in their early years together, my mother, my sister and I would have to walk a few blocks to the bus stop in order to take the bus downtown.   Looking back I've got to admire her fortitude in running errands via public transportation with two very small kids in tow.  At that time I would have been about 4 or 5 years old.  My sister was 20 months younger than I.  We must have been a handful!

        As the older child I was probably the more talkative and the one most prone to saying embarrassing things.   Like the time when I saw two nuns board the bus.  We weren't Roman Catholic and those were the first nuns I had ever seen.   My eyes must have been wide as they could be.   Tugging my mother's arm I blurted, "Look Mommy, ghosts!"

         My mother put her hand over my mouth and told me they weren't ghosts.  I don't remember her explanation, but thereafter I was aware that nuns had something to do with church.  For a long time after that the concept of nuns was a bit of a mystery to me.

           This was back in the mid-1950's and most neighborhoods were pretty segregated.   I'd seen black people on television, but I thought they were just characters with some kind of make up.  I had no understanding of racial differences back then.   My first actual encounter with a black person was on one of those bus trips with my mother.  I couldn't take my eyes off of the first black person I ever saw--the concept of skin color was puzzling to me.   Staring intently at the black man I asked my mother as surreptitiously as I could, "Mommy, if he took a bath would the color wash off?"

           My mother quickly shushed me on this one.  If the black man heard me he didn't show it.  I kept looking at him wondering about that skin color.  I really wanted to understand how some people were darker than others.  I'm sure I was not much more curious than other kids my age.  After all when the world is new and we are learning everyday, we want to know about everything.

          Where you a curious kid?   What kinds of things did you wonder about when you were a small child?  How often do you think your curiosity embarrassed your parents?


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15 comments:

  1. I'm sure I was curious as a kid because I sure am now. I don't know how I lived without the internet, google and wikipedia. I did make some comments to teachers that my parents found embarrassing only because I repeated things I overheard which were meant in jest. My dad used to like to take all the leftovers in the fridge and make one big meal of them that he called 'slops'. He said that was his fave thing to eat. When my 1st grade teacher asked what our parents' fave meal was I raised my hand and said, 'slops'.

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  2. !. I grew up around nuns, so that one was really funny.

    2. Your first comment about an African American wasn't near so bad as mine, though both were innocent.

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  3. If you ever want to see the world through another lens... talk to a kid.

    I just asked my mother about a story that I remember being similar to yours and the black man on the bus. She doesn't remember it. What she DID remember was that when I was only a couple of years old I identified strangers by the color of their shirt. So, when talking about people on the bus or at the grocery story they became Red Man, Orange Woman, Green Girl, and one unfortunate time in line at the grocery store... Black Boy. You know, because he reall was black. Mom said that if he heard he didn't say anything. Her mind reeled so far and so fast that she couldn't figure out how to "make it okay." Since she doesn't recall an aftermath I think no one said anything. Just thought I was A BIG BRAT. And she was racist. Ha!

    Another one of her favorite stories from when I was about two years old (or so) was when I asked her about her lipstick. Wanted to know what it was. At the time I was involved in my very own fascination with stickers. So, she says, It's lipstick." From that point on I called it "lipsticker."

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  4. Uh... that picture you posted of a nun... uhm... the hands?... the face?... Are you... SURE? Because... I'm nun too sure muhself. Her name might be... Bob.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  5. I learned who was smarter and more patient in the family, because they could answer my questions. How else is a kid to know?

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  6. JoJo -- I think curiosity stimulates us to learn and that's something we should never stop doing. You have to watch what you say around kids because you never know how it will get reinterpreted.

    CW -- I can only imagine the innocent comment, but if we don't know any better anything makes sense when you're young and naive.

    Robin -- I think most people overlook most things kids say--if they even hear them.

    StMc-- Now I'm thinking of Austin Powers--"It's a man, baby!".

    DG -- A good parent has to include patience as one of their attributes.

    Lee

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  7. I suppose I said some things that embarrassed my parents but mostly they laughed at my comments.

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  8. My grandfather used to tell me that if I touched a black person, I would turn black. So one day I did. I waited all day and the next hoping that when I finally turned black, mom wouldn't punish me.

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  9. Damn. I can hardly imagine growing up and never even seeing a black person.

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  10. Patricia-- I also said plenty of things that made my parents laugh. Sometimes I felt like an entertainer.

    Shelly -- People used to say and believe strange things.

    Story-- Well, keep in mind I was only five and that was the first black person I remember seeing. But true I didn't go to school with any black kids until I was in high school in Tennessee and even then there were only a handful. They were very segregated times. Now the neighborhood where I live in California is extremely integrated. In fact I as a caucasian living here am in the minority. It's a fine neighborhood other than having to deal with the community association.

    Lee


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  11. I wasn't very curious as a child, but my younger brother was. Now as a mom of 5 small people, I get the other side of that curiosity. A couple of mine have definitely been loudly curious at very inopportune times. LOL

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  12. I was curious, but more in a "what could happen in this situation" kind of way. I also grew up in an area without much diversity, which is part of why my children have had the opportunity to live in NYC and the very diverse Orlando area. It's good for them to see other cultures and feel comfortable around them.

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  13. Your stories made me smile.
    I was a curious kid too-- really wanted to know kids came into Mom's tummies, which must have made my parents uncomfortable. They hmmed and ignored me a lot.

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  14. Dear Lee, I think that all children are naturally curious about their world unless they live with abusive parents who punish them often for saying things. Then the children keep the curiosity to themselves for fear of asking something and being punished.

    I can't remember embarrassing my parents, but I bet I did--frequently. Peace.

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  15. My questions were always "why"? I don't know if I embarrassed my parents but I'm sure I drove them crazy.

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