Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Perspective - Beware the Strawberry Ice Cream

By Rodney Hays

In Perspective - Beware the Strawberry Ice Cream

Last week I took the week off from my walk down memory lane to discuss the Mediocre 10 and the new football re-alignments. This week I return to my childhood.

The year I started kindergarten my little family moved to Midwest City, Okla. -- home of the famous Tinker Air Force Base and the infamous Shotgun Sam's pizza parlor I used to eat at when I was a kid. I say Shotgun Sam's was infamous because I think that's where I ate the pizza that made me throw up one night and caused me to swear off pizza for the better part of a year.

I started school at East Side Elementary School -- Home of the Fighting Jets -- in 1972. I don't remember my teacher's name, but I do remember I was in the afternoon kindergarten class, which was very cool for me because that meant I could sleep late and watch The Price Is Right with its brand spanking new host, Bob Barker.

In that kindergarten class, to quote Robert Fulghum, I learned all I really need to know. I learned how to read by having fun with Dick and Jane and their dog Spot. I learned to write my name poorly, which I still do to this day. I learned to color way outside the lines and that purple was my favorite color, even for elephants. I learned that naps were good. And I learned that strawberry ice cream, no matter how good it tastes going down, does not impress girls when it comes back up.

I had to learn that last lesson the hard way.

I guess I had known most of my life up until that point that I was allergic to strawberries. At the time that wasn't a huge deal since the taste of real strawberries disgusted me. I always thought they looked so cool, but that little prickly fruit totally weirded me out when one was set before me.

On the other hand, the taste of imitation strawberry was right up my alley.

One day in school, the lunch room provided all good students with strawberry ice cream. Since I wasn't a good student, I traded my Spam sandwich for a small carton of the creamy delicious goodness.

I ate that strawberry ice cream like it was the antidote to the poison that Jack Bauer was exposed to. I sucked it down because it was delicious. I cashed that little cup because I wanted some ice cream, allergies or no allergies.

Then I went back to class.

After lunch at East Side Elementary school, we went out to the playground and then on to class for a little story time (probably more fun with Dick and Jane and reading about Spot running. See.).
All the students were gathered around the teacher. I remember sitting, what we called, Indian Style on the floor, but I'm sure today it is called Native American Style or maybe, criss-crossed. The teacher began the story. My stomach began to gurgle.

Before I knew what hit me, that pink creamy goodness that went down so easily, was now a pile of steamy pink froth sitting in between my Native American sitting legs.

It was disgusting.

It was so disgusting in fact, that a really pretty kindergarten girl sitting next to me decided she too would toss her lunch into the mix.

The weird part about all of that was there was a restroom right there in the classroom. I could have gotten up, walked five feet, and emptied my ice cream snack into a proper receptacle. Instead I emptied it onto the floor, in the middle of story time, causing another student to do the same.

I was embarrassed to say the least. And I didn't eat strawberry, real or fake for several years after (I mean when Starburst was introduced, who could pass that up). I also didn't get asked to the prom that year.

There was another great memory that really stands out from East Side Elementary School. It was show 'n tell.

One March my Uncle Jerry gave me some little tiny baby chickens for Easter. They were real live chickens, nothing plastic. They were all yellow and white except for their dyed little chicken wings, which were all the colors of Easter.

We must have had a half a dozen or so live chickens in a box in our living room. It smelled like Green Acres right there where I watched the Price Is Right -- and Green Acres for that matter.

But I was so proud the day I walked into that classroom with my little colorful chicks. My fellow classmates thought having baby chickens at your house might just be the coolest thing they had seen since the introduction of the 45 rpm record machine.

Most of the class even forgave me for smelling up the room with the scent of fake strawberry and bile.
Those were great times back then. I look back on East Side Elementary with fondness. Except for my short visit with the principal one day.

I was sent to the principal's office for being bad or coloring on the wall or throwing up my lunch or something. When I arrived, the principal didn't even want to hear my side of the story. He just reached into his drawer and showed me his extremely large paddle and told me where on my body the paddle might be applied. I got the point. I still think it's weird to threaten a 6-year-old with an instrument of torture, but this was the same school that gave strawberry ice cream to a kid with allergies. I should've known.

Anyway, kindergarten was a lot of fun. That first year is always exciting for kids. And I believe I probably did really learn a whole bunch of stuff I really need to know.

I learned to share. I learned to play nice. I learned to keep my hands to myself. And I learned that when throwing up, aim for the goofy-looking kid on the left.

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