A close friend who lives out of town has three young sons. He and his wife visit about once a year and sometimes stay for a few days. During one of their visits, they needed to attend a wedding so we babysat their boys.
It was fun. At bedtime, I focused on the older one who, his dad had told me, had a hard time going to bed at night. After we played games and wrestled for a while, he nodded off to sleep without any conflict. My friend refers to that visit as “Dave’s boot camp,” because the boys had no problem going to sleep. I was complimented and reminded of a saying from my childhood relative to the subject.
As a young boy, I wasn’t interested in going to sleep at bedtime. While my dad was fighting World War II, my mother, sister, and I lived with my grandparents. I loved sitting in their living room during the evening and listening to the adults chat. Eventually, my grandmother would say, “David, it’s time for you to go to bed.” She had to be up early to go to work in the Gonic Woolen Mill.
Mom and I headed upstairs, and I got into bed. However, as soon as she walked back downstairs, I climbed out of bed and quietly sat on the stairs and through the railings watched them in the living room until I got bored. Then I got up and ran to my grandmother and asked her to tell me a story. She said, “I’ll tell you a story about Johnny Borey, and now my story has begun. I’ll tell you another about his brother, and now my story is done. And now, David, it’s time for you to go back to bed.”
At that point, I knew the fun was over, and that it was my turn to do the right thing. I kissed her and Mom goodnight and headed upstairs on my own. She and Mom always made me feel that I was responsible enough to do what was right, and that made me feel good about myself. I never met Johnny Borey and don’t believe he exists, but you never know. In a subtle and funny way, the story was a good way to tell children that it was bedtime.
Rules are amazing and can be beneficial in many ways. I can’t say I have ever been a lover of rules, but some have kept me from danger or out of trouble. To me, the source or originator of the rule has a lot to do with the value of the rule, and I assume that is true with most other people.
As a young boy and later as a teenager, I enjoyed riding my bike throughout our community. I had many part-time jobs until I could secure a work permit at age fourteen, so I was always out looking for work after school or during the summer.
When I couldn’t find work, one week I visited a classmate after school. She was one of the prettier and exciting girls in our class. She was social and invited me in and offered me cookies and a soda. I enjoyed the visit and decided I would do it again. The next day after school I biked to East Rochester and visited another good looking girl in our class. She was just as social; we had a wonderful time. I biked home thinking both girls were classy and a pleasure to spend time with. On the third day, I decided to bike to Rochester Hill and visited the third special girl in our class. She had beautiful brown hair and a bubbly personality. I again enjoyed the visit and felt I had discovered a new routine and planned to repeat it the following week.
However, the following Monday afternoon one of the three girls I had visited stopped me in the corridor at school. Her name was Lorraine. She asked if we could talk. I said, “Sure.”
We stepped out of the main stream of traffic so our words would not be heard by others. “The two girls you visited last week and I talked and decided that one of us needed to talk to you. What you are doing is wrong. Visiting three girls three days in a row breaks all the rules. You need to decide which girl you like the best and visit just her.”
I was fine with that and told her so. But I also wasn’t stupid. There was no way I was going to select one of them and send negative signals to the other two. I liked all three of them too much. I just moved my visits to the other side of town.
I did learn a new rule: smart ladies talk! It was a good lesson. Lorraine and I became close friends in our senior year. We eventually went steady, got engaged and married after I finished my first year of college. She now edits everything I write and has an editing guide book on her shelf titled, “Lori’s Rules.” I love her but have to admit that although I have not memorized every rule in her book, we have been happily married for fifty-four years.
Do you recall the first exciting events of your life? The older I get it seems the clearer my past becomes.
One of my earliest memories of excitement was sitting in my French grandfather’s boat when he took me for a high-speed ride on Milton Three Ponds. The wind was blowing past my face, and his hair was flying back like strands of white string. The motor noise was wonderfully loud, and on turns the engine seemed to scream.
My second most exciting memory was making and walking on a pair of stilts. My cousin and I made them in my English grandfather’s tool shed in the back of the garage. It was raining outside that day, so we walked on them in our grandparents’ basement. My cousin bet me a buck I couldn’t walk down their cellar stairs with them.
The bet was on, so I climbed up the stairs and quietly opened the door to the den. It was easy to stand on them on the top step because the top of the staircase had walls on both sides. As I walked down the stairs on the stilts, the staircase opened up to the cellar on one side and a window on the other side. I lost my balance and headed headfirst to the bottom of the stairs, landing right next to the water meter. My cousin screamed, and in my excitement and recovery I recall my aunt commenting about her “dumb nephew.”
Driving my uncle’s truck on his property was more than exciting. I could barely reach the gas and brake pedals. To stop the truck, I had to stand on the brake pedal while not being able to see out the truck’s front window. I was really young, but my uncle was patient and very kind to teach me. My aunt reminded him in front of me that my dad might not like the fact that he had taught me how to drive so young. She was instantly forgiven by me because I loved being her dumb nephew.
The most exciting and yet frightening event of my early youth occurred on a boat with my sister, mother and aunt. We were traveling to visit an uncle who was serving his military tour of duty on an island off the coast of Maine. My sister had to go to the bathroom, so my aunt was watching me. I was standing on a large box under the stairs to the second deck. The box may have been for life preservers. I complained to her that I couldn’t see the ocean or what was going on because of the stairs, so she grabbed me under my arms and hung me over the rail above the water and asked if I could now see. I could see the water very clearly. She brought me back on the boat. When my mother and sister returned, I told my mother what my aunt had done, but she didn’t believe me.
I guessed that my aunt had accomplished her mission, and I kept her at a distance until later when I truly appreciated her sense of humor. I eventually realized her humor was much like her dad’s. Having to live up to the reputation of being her dumb nephew was easy and came natural to me. Much of my family has passed on, but their loving kindnesses and memories will never leave me.