The Good-Ole-Days Series
#6 Remember when…
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO
Monkey see monkey do! A pidgin style phrase introduced into our culture around the early 1920’s. It simply means to learn a process without understanding why it works. You mimic an action or gesture intentionally out of ridicule or ignorance of not knowing or understanding an outcome.
I’m sure most anyone can relate to this analogy. For example, in the workplace, I would ask why a specific task is performed a certain way?
The answer, because we’ve been doing it this way for years. Mindlessly this task would be executed in the same manner without any effort in understanding why. I’ve witnessed it first hand for years.
THEN CAME JOHNNY
Then the Good Lord placed me, a quiet and shy little boy, on earth to redefine Monkey see, monkey do. From birth, forward, I displayed innocent, ignorant behavior of copying what I saw through the actions and perceptions of a seven-year-old second grader.
1967 proved to be a turning point for learning new skills.
The Lord above also blessed me with an insatiable desire to want to understand how everything worked. The world around me became my personal playground. Visual stimulation saturated my brain like warm melted butter soaking in and oozing over hot biscuits. Any direction my eyes fixed on that was pleasing to me, gave me an urgency to investigate.
Observing people early on in my life contributed to mimicking their actions and behaviors, educationally, and humorously.
We have all played silly games with kids, right? Contorting our faces or making hand gestures to see if they copy our action, all in the name of fun.
OBSERVATION AT ITS FINEST
I grew up among Hungarian immigrants my entire life. Get-togethers were frequent, both fun and extreme, especially after adults consumed homemade wine, liquor, or both.
It was also an era when most people smoked. Ladies would leave smashed ugly little nubs of ruby red lipstick colored cigarette butts overflowing in ashtrays. Men would chomp down on big fat cigars or continuously relight tobacco in their pipes.
Off in the corner, I watched my grandfather engage in heated political discussions about his native land. Most times the debates ended with arguing, but, it was the norm.
Grandpa and his friend spoke for hours in deep conversation. Both smoked heavy like a coal-burning locomotive waving their hands in the air gesturing to make a point. Smoke would pour and roll out of, what seemed like every orifice of their bodies. The room filled with suffocating swirling smoke to the point of almost unbearable.
The two men break from talking to offer and pour each other a small shot glass of liquid courage. Then face each other — raise their glass — say Salute — bump glasses — growl at each other in laughter from the coarseness of the whiskey — reach and fumble for another cigarette out of their breast shirt pocket — sit — start the debate over again.
THEN SOMETHING CAUGHT MY EYE
My grandfather picked up a small box off the coffee table and slid it open. He pulled a little stick from the container and rubbed it along its side. To my astonishment, he created fire! Awestruck, I walked up to grandpa and asked him to rub another stick on the box.
I wasn’t new to matches by all means. I’ve seen them before, but I think at that moment it was another level of awareness I graduated too for my age.
Both men yelped out a hearty laugh at my inquisitive nature. The two began demonstrating how to strike the box to ignite the match. The scent of the sulfur had an odor that piqued my curiosity, and the flame had a hypnotic effect on me.
I slowly reached for a matchstick while fixedly looking into my grandfather’s eyes for approval. He smiled and allowed me to continue to pull a match out of the box. Holding it firmly between my fingers, I stopped, and once again looked up at grandpa seeking his permission. He didn’t say a word. He smiled and nodded his head to continue. Swoosh I slid the match alongside the box.
I heard a hissing sound while watching the sulfur ignite and burst into a brilliant flame holding the matchstick in front of my face. The smoke danced whimsically off the match tip like steam rising off an over-boiling pot of water. When the fire tapered off, I tossed the expired stick in the ashtray. I looked up at my two spectators with the biggest grin one could give.
A PYROMANIAC WAS BORN
Innocently enough, my grandfather and his friend had no idea, or would have ever thought; they planted a seed of curiosity in my youthful mind. You see, we’re talking about men born in Europe who carried around a pocket knife at my age. They lived in a different world than I did back in the early 1900’s. Showing me how to light a match was nothing to them. I’m sure they viewed it as a fundamental survival skill.
THEN THERE WAS THIS GIRL
In my second-grade classroom, a girl smiled at me. I’m not sure why her smile stirred my heart so much, but it did. After beaming back, I couldn’t stop staring at her, nor could I speak because of my shyness. I experienced my first crush on a girl. Throughout the day she would catch me looking at her while we sat in the classroom smiling at me even more.
I went home infatuated thinking about this little girl. It consumed my every thought to the point of convincing myself I needed a way to figure out how to impress her.
It was imperative I gain her attention in some form.
It had to be spectacular! I know what I can do!
I’ll show her the new skill I learned from grandpa, tomorrow at school, I thought.
That’s it! That’s what I’ll do! I’ll show her how talented I am.
Never Impress a Girl with Fire Part II coming soon.
Visit John at Thinker.Me.com.