Monday, September 28, 2009

Grandfather's arm

     The other night, we got to watch my nephew's soccer team win the championship game.  It was great seeing the kids running around on the field, sweaty, dirty, grinning as they bounced balls off each other's heads and knocked one  another down.  That is how kids are supposed to play, outside and filthy, not inside with all this video game stuff or spending  hours glued to the computer.  Recent studies have actually proven that kids who spend most of the time on the computer have fewer meaningful social relationships and social skills than their more active it took a rocket scientist to figure that one out!
     We weren't allowed inside as children unless it was to eat or sleep. It was outside, entertain yourself, don't get into trouble, and only come in if there's blood.  So we were constantly looking for something to keep us occupied.  When we visited our grandparents, the rules, of course, were relaxed. We were allowed all over that house. Our favorite spot was the attic, a treasure trove of delight for any child. There were boxes of old pocket watches to dismantle, trunks of clothing and hats and shoes, secret hidden spaces to explore, tables and chairs to build forts, narrow stairs and windows that opened out onto the roof, oh the list goes on and on. We could have lived in that attic forever.
     The greatest treasure of all was the day we found our great grandfather's arm. Not his actual arm, of course, since that had been blown off during the war between the states, but the pale pink, slightly disentegrated artificial limb that had replaced the original member. It still had the moveable fingers attached, although they were nibbled down by years of mice, and the straps and buckles that fastened onto the remaining stub were intact. You could stick your arm down the hole, strap it on,  and with some practice move the limb around in a somewhat realistic manner. Awkward, yes, but it convinced the 5 to 10 year old crowd.
      We found the arm in an old trunk in the attic at our grandmother's house one summer, and were beyond delighted when she let us strap it on and play with it.  That same summer, my brother and I had unearthed an old civil war sword near the cemetery behind their back yard. We found it buried underneath a fig tree where we were building a fort.  It was a real sword, with the brass handle, tarnished and worn, still intact. We hauled it up to the attic and added it to our pile of treasures. We had  taffeta, tulle, and lace gowns that my mother had worn to high school formals, some old silk shawls, a few hats, the sword, and now, grandfather's arm. That was enough entertainment to last an entire summer. 
     We made up all sorts of games with those costumes. The best gown was deep purple and  strapless, with yards and yards of tulle creating a great pouf of skirt. We would scramble to try to snatch that one first, because whoever donned the amythest gown got to be the heroine. The greatest honor of all, however,  was to strap on the arm and pretend to be the heroic amputee limping home from war, waving his mighty sword with his artificial arm as he arrived  in town.
       We sometimes pretended that Grandfather was riding home  on a train, waving to crowds from the window, when SPLAT!, the arm was ripped off as it was caught by a roadside pole.  We played that one so many times that in later years we had it so infused in our memories it had  become factual. As we were leaving the game the other evening, waiting on a train to pass, my daughter asked, "Didn't your great grandfather have his arm ripped off while riding on a train?" I started to say, "Why,yes, he did,"  since I had told her that story many times, but my mother quickly interupted  and gave the accurate history of the honorable passing of the arm.
    Fact or fiction, we didn't really care how he had managed to lose his arm, we just cared that we had managed to find it! When you are 10 years old and have a real fake arm to play with, it just didn't get any better than that.
     You can have your Playstation, your X-box,  your IPod, your Wii. I'll take a discarded body part and an attic full of memories any old day. 

No comments:

Post a Comment