Friday, October 8, 2010

Life's Wacky Packages


I had a boyhood chum once upon a time. And from my ten-year-old perspective at least, his parents were different. No, there wasn't a Heather Has Two Mommies issue there, or any such thing, which would have certainly raised a big stink in the old neighborhood. They were, however, among a distinct minority. That is, their worldviews—what they expected of their children, and what they wanted them to be when they grew up—were well outside the mainstream.

Sometime in the mid-1970s, I remember being on my front stoop with Billy O’Hare and showing him my neat collection of Wacky Packages. Now, I thought those stickers were quite cool and clever, and still think so all these years later. But little Billy sniffed at the waste of time and money in acquiring such childish ephemera. He mentioned, too, that his parents didn’t approve of Wacky Packages and what they represented. What was that? Humor? Fun? Billy’s folks also didn’t sanction his watching The Three Stooges—too violent—despite Officer Joe Bolton gently reminding us each and every day that Moe, Larry, and Curly were merely acting, not really poking one another in the eyes, and that we should therefore never try any such thing at home.

I suspect that Billy was the only kid in the Bronx's Kingsbridge instructed to answer his home telephone: “O’Hare residence. William speaking. May I ask who’s calling?” You would think Ma and Pa O'Hare were grooming their boy to be a valet or butler. But no, they weren't. No Wacky Packages, no Three Stooges, and the right and proper manners were floorboards in Billy's foundation. And while I'm generally a fan of atypical parents looking out for their boys and girls, taking great interest in them, and maintaining the highest hopes for their futures, there was something wacky, if you will, about the O'Hare's no Wacky Packages edict.

Today, I sincerely hope Billy understands that the more run-of-the-mill parents in the old neighborhood were completely innocent in permitting their youngsters to buy and trade Wacky Packages. Granted, there were many indictable parental actions from those bygone years. But possession of Wacky Packages was not among them. And don't you think answering the phone like Mr. French,when you were just ten-years-old, was kind of silly and even a bit bizarre? "Hello" would have sufficed. Ah...but then you would have been just like the rest of us.

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