Thursday was GIMP DAY.
When I was a kid our house was just like 'The Cleavers' except it was more crowded, there was a little more yelling and my mom did not wear an apron over her dress with heels and a string of pearls around her neck. She wasn't pulling an apple pie out of the oven everyday and I never once heard her tell my dad that he was too hard on the beaver.
Back then kids just went out the door to see what there was to do. I spent two summers at Glen Oaks Park between the ages of nine and eleven. I pretty much lived there. I would run home for a peanut butter sandwich exactly at noon, because although life was a free for all, punctuality for meals and bedtime were very strict. After lunch I was right back out the door and back to that park.
A person didn't carry a water bottle then. A person didn't stay hydrated then. There were bubblers all over the place. So a person just drank water when a person was thirsty. You see, when you got thirsty you would go to the bubbler, turn the handle and gulp down the ice cold water for about a day.
There were a couple of college recreational interns at Glen Oaks Park. They were forever gathering everybody up by blowing their whistles to play games, like, the telephone game, clapping and finger snapping coordination games, charades, red rover red rover, Simon says, softball and of course, Duck, Duck, Goose.
Traveling puppet shows even came to that park and we'd sit in the itchy grass to watch them.
I hated those puppet shows.
My goal in life for those two years was to win a game of tether ball. So I'd wait my turn in line. Then finally, there I'd be, pounding heart in chest and ball in hand. I'd toss it in the air, slap it as hard as I could up and over the head of my opponent. Then I'd get my rhythm going and slap it again and again and then always about the third or fourth slap I'd miss and slap the air because it was going too fast and then my opponent would hit it in the opposite direction over my head and then I would watch my opponent get his rhythm going and I would jump and jump and to try to touch that ball, but soon the rope and ball would spin themselves into a frenzy around and around and around, way up there at the top of the pole where I couldn't possibly reach them and then I would be back at the end of the line waiting, again.
I never did win a game.
When there were no tether ball takers I would make my way over to the washer pits. I had a lot more luck over there.
And if no one was playing tether ball or washers I would join the game of freeze tag or whatever the rec leaders had going on.
But the park had lots to offer during the non organized recreational hours too.
That's when the older kids wearing their black leather jackets with fringe hanging from the sleeves would come out and carve their initials into the picnic table, smoke cigarettes, swear and talk about boobs and periods right in front of me. I kept my distance. I feared blushing like the plague. One of those big bad boys played tether ball once in a blue moon in his motorcycle boots, jeans and white t-shirt. He murdered me every game. Then a few years later he went to jail because he murdered someone for real. He stabbed somebody, probably with the same knife he'd been carving on the picnic table.
A little creek ran through the park and flowed into a drainage ditch. So there was plenty of wildlife for us to bother in the water and it just so happened that our skinny little bodies could fit through the prison bars of the drainage ditch.
That opened up a whole other under ground world to be explored.
No one ever said we couldn't go into the sewer.
Then again we never brought it up.
Don't ask, don't tell has always been around.
During our, 'Harriet the Spy', sewer phase, three of us went all the way to Gettle Ave, halfway to Knoche's Grocery Store, underground. We were investigators and we were searching for clues. I don't know what we were investigating or what kind of clues we were looking for, but then again, I don't think 'Harriet the Spy,' ever did either. She just wrote stuff in her notebook.
In the tunnel we could tell where we were because of the grate on the ceiling above and it was in the middle of the road. At that same spot there was a drop down to another level. So naturally we jumped down there and continued on our way with our flashlights and notebooks, until my girlfriend said, "So what happens if it rains? Will there be a big flood in here?"
We all got kind of creeped out then and headed back to the light of the hole in the road above. The jump down to our new level seemed like a bigger deal from down where we stood. This is when horrifying thoughts began racing through our minds.
"No one knows where we are. We are going to starve to death and then we will be carried all the way to the ocean when it storms and they will never ever find our bodies. Our faces will be plastered on milk cartons at Knoche's and people will say things like; "What a shame. Such nice girls. Nope, nobody ever found them. Probably murdered. Pity."
I think one of us got on another's shoulders and was hoisted up to the upper tunnel and then that person helped to pull the second one up from the shoulders of the last one down there in the pit. How we got her out I don't recall, but we must have, right? The funny thing is, I don't remember who the third one was. I hope to hell she isn't still down there and I've just blocked her out of my mind.
Parents, please check the sewers if your kids go missing.
Let's not forget the Giant Strikes. They were about the coolest thing ever.
And no one didn't have a knot on their head or a bloody lip from the heavy metal bars hanging on chains to prove it. When you got going on the Giant Strikes, you could really, seriously, fly.
And then there were Thursdays.
I would wake up with an indescribable feeling of exhilaration and be filled with butterflies.
It was GIMP DAY.
At three o'clock I'd watch that key in the hand of the park girl turn and open that shed door and voila, rolls and rolls of colorful gimp would emerge on wooden spools on a cart and the cart would be rolled over to the picnic table.
It was all so pretty.
My breathing would become short and my palms would sweat mixing in with the dirt in my hands.
Clearly I was addicted to gimp. But this was during a time that people didn't talk about addictions.
The gimp cost a nickel a yard and we, as in my sisters and I, always got one yard of three different colors.
It was so exciting. And I would change my mind several times before getting to the front of the line. My head would have this kind of a conversation going on, "Black, red and yellow. No. Black, blue and pink. No, you got that last time. Pink, white and green. No. White, red and yellow. NO. no. no. YUCK. Pink, purple and black. That's it, pink purple and black."
The pony tailed park girl would say."Okay, Millie, what do you want this week?"
"Um....Orange, purple and pink," I would spit out.
Then I'd watch her gather the three surprise colors, put them all together in her fist and pull them across the picnic table to the one yard nick line and snip them off with a scissors. I would drop my sticky money into the metal change box and take my beloved strings of gimp.
Then I was outta there. I had to take my gimp home where I could sit on my bed and look at them. I needed my space. I had to decide what to make. So many options. Well, I was sort of limited in what I could make because I never got the hang of how to do those square knots. But I could braid a pretty bracelet .
And I could transform a normal black wire hanger into a thing of rare beauty.
I made absolutely gorgeous gimp hangers.
We all three made gorgeous gimp hangers.
I gave away those hangers as Christmas presents.
We all gave away those hangers as Christmas presents.
Those grandparents of ours were certainly lucky. They must have had closets full of gimp hangers.
I don't know where any of those priceless hangers are now.
What could have happened to them? They couldn't have been tossed out. They were way too pretty.
You would think that someone would have inherited the heirlooms. But who? Maybe my aunts and uncles have them all. My parents don't have any. But wait a minute, my dad was an only child. And whatever happened to all the hangers that we made for our mom? There are no gimp hangers in her closet.
That's weird, isn't it?
I don't know if the park program ended or if I just quit going to the park.
But my life as a gimp artist was over.
If you draw my name for Christmas, I would like some gimp, please.