As a child in a lot of ways I lived a privileged childhood life of a middle class black family. My parents were married and worked. Our house had a winding staircase, a two-car garage and a finished basement. There were 5 children and the newest addition was my baby sister. I could not have been more than 5 years old at the time but I was already a detective and scientist in my own right. I possessed a curiosity and a thirst for knowledge that made it hard for my parents to contend with my curiosity. This thirst for scientific prowess almost got me killed on multiple occasions and once it almost got me killed twice in one day.
The first brush with death came early in the day. Being that I was sickly with asthma and bronchitis, I could not go outside so staying indoors was mandatory. I learned to read by age four as there was not a lot else I could do. I read anything I could get my hands on specifically scientific journals, hence my morbid curiosity. My favorite monster movie at the time was Frankenstein as I simply saw a thirst for knowledge within Professor Victor Frankenstein. I also liked space exploration so science was a natural fit. I had a composition notebook where I would record my daily experiments and observations. I literally wrote down everything. Surprisingly my mother still has this actual scientific masterpiece by her mad scientist son. On this day, I was conducting experiment #36.
Experiment #36 was designed to determine how the mini-plug in the wall would allow multiple things to emit electrical power. This I would later come to know as a splitter but for now I digress and it was a mini-plug. It turned one outlet into four and my scientific mission was to determine how it did this. Now based on what I had seen on Frankenstein I knew I needed to use metal as conductors to utilize and ascertain the process the electricity used. I then took the mini-plug and plugged it into the wall. To conduct the electric current and process it for observation I would use my metal keys to see the reactions of connecting the positive and the negatives of the electric current.
I stuck in the first key and observation one stated “No Reaction.” I proceeded to stick and drop in key number two and the response was the same “No Reaction.” This puzzled the detective and the scientist in me. So, I decided that the positives and negatives needed to connect and be in unison to get the response of the power flowing like the lighting on Frankenstein. To accomplish this I simply pushed the second key with a flick to the second key. (Luckily I did not do this with my hands or I would not be here to write this story!)
A Loud Pop
A Cloud of Smoke
No more Lights
And my older brother said “aww shit.”
At that point, my mom saw the experiment and sent me to the corner of the winding staircase stating how I needed to wait until my father got home, and that I was in trouble. She chose the corner for the winding staircase as an act of motherly cruelty because the stairs had no landing and so one foot was on one stair and another was on a different stair. This made me look like a person who had one leg longer than the other and this in and of itself was an act of cruel and unusual punishment, as I had heard the lawyers on television say was illegal. Now the time spent agonizing over wondering what my father was going to say and do when he got home was self-inflicted agony. My mind worked to think how to get out of the mess I was in.
My father came home and my mother told him the sordid tale of the day’s experiments. As my father called my name, I started with the “I know I am in trouble” and before I could say another word he replied “DAMN RIGHT YOU ARE IN TROUBLE GET YOUR ASS DOWSTAIRS IN THE BASEMENT.” I had never heard my dad swear before so that in and of itself gave pause for alarm. Secondly “The Basement” was used for one purpose when my dad was upset … You guessed it, it was ass whooping time and boy did I get it. That long black leather belt came out and this time there was no “this is going to hurt me more than it does you,” speech. It was more of I cannot believe you destroyed the fuse box in the house. You and that damn experimenting brain of yours.
After a five minute spanking I was sent upstairs sore ass and all. Dad began to work on repairing the damage I had caused and I began writing notes in my journal while sitting on the floor by my mom’s feet. I had to go to the bathroom so I got up and went. My mom grabbed my journal to see what I was writing. Then she just started laughing loudly and called my dad upstairs. Still fearing for my ass, I peeked around the corner listening to see what was so funny my mom read my notes aloud Observation five, got an ass whooping, do not ever do that experiment again. My dad erupted in laughter and saw me peeking around the corner. He hugged me, told me he loved me and that he would show me about electricity so he took me to the basement. No more ass whooping whew!!!
The day concluded we had dinner and we always got desert but today I was still hungry. I did not want to seem like the problem child so I did not tell my mom I just figured I would be OK. Well it was 11 pm and I was still hungry but everyone was in bed sleeping. My bed was covered with Star Wars sheets and pillowcases. My nerdy night-light with the Star Trek logo was on and I was always reading. Underneath all that though was my favorite science fiction of all time, the Battlestar Galactica logo Mattress. I always imagined I was on some great adventure out in the void of space saving the human race.
I decided to turn off the night-light and I began to make my way down the stairs. The hallway lights were not fixed yet but walking in the dark was easy once your eyes adjusted, plus I knew my house like the back of my hand even in the dark. The stairs creaked a bit but everyone was asleep so I was just trying not to wake anyone. I made it down the stairs, through the hall, and past the refrigerator. I climbed on the bottom drawer as I pulled it out and climbed onto the counter opening the cabinets. I saw some crackers which I remember thinking eww, but what I saw behind that was the chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies with ginger sprinkles on top. I raided the package holding my little flashlight so I could see like a laser gun pointed at the enemy. I snagged 6 of them and placed them in my shirt then I climbed down the counter. I held the bottom of the Battlestar Galactica shirt cupping the cookies between the shirt and my chest. Like a thief in the night I started up the stairs and right when I got to the corner of the winding staircase, I had a flashlight and a huge 357 magnum gun pointed at me.
I raised my hands and the cookies fell on the floor. I froze. My father had heard me and he froze too. He then put the gun off to the side and picked up the cookies and told me to follow him. I did and he threw the cookies away, and then replaced them with fresh cookies in a bowl. He hugged me and started to cry. I was too young to truly understand the events of the day, so I asked inquisitively why he was crying. My Father explained he almost lost me twice today and that I needed to be more careful.
What I did do though seeing how vulnerable my dad was at that moment was write in my journal that I needed to listen to my dad more and I needed to be more careful. I felt bad because I had caused him to worry and cry and in some ways, I was careless. I listened to his every lesson after that and some of the things he would tell me about life would come true ten years to the day from when he told it to me. It was a strange lesson and all taught by several things that all came together at once, Frankenstein, Cookies, and a 357 Magnum.
We often in life have our curiosities, and we can be responsible for them and the impact they have on those we love. Life is precious and we can be curious in life. At the same time we can simply enjoy our lives and speak to what we love. Our imagination is boundless and if we truly open ourselves to it, w an create a life of wonder that works for the world. Embrace the childhood passions with curiosity and care. The world is yours if you rise up and take it.