Short Stories: “Child-Within” – originally posted at Dear Dottie
SHARON FIDGETED in her seat while waiting for the guest speaker to appear. Why on earth she allowed her husband Roger, to convince her this evening’s lecture was really worth attending, was beyond her?
These were not the most comfortable of seats and her mind was already racing ahead of the evening as she worried how long she’d be able to put up with them?
Surprisingly, there had been a good response to the Lecture’s advertisement with many late arrivals now cramming in through the school hall’s front doorway.
Chafley College was known and appreciated for its recent renovations-
The school gymnastic squad had finally made the National Championships so with help from the parents, the P&C and a few local sponsors, Chafley College had a complete overhaul! But tonight they’d opened the auditorium instead- “Will you look at that?” Sharon had noticed a couple of familiar faces a few rows back which now had her brain ticking. Wonder what Mike & Whitney Symonds feel they need from this?…she mumbled while Robert chatted with the young couple seated to his left- He seemed to be in his realm, completely. Sharon had met Rob when on holiday up north with a group of family members- Thanks to the hotel’s room service making an error with a bottle of French champagne, Robert and Sharon were introduced. The order was meant for Robert’s room, but had somehow found its way to Sharon’s door. The hand of fate had been confused between room 329 and 326, and as the young Asian girl struggled to comprehend she had actually made a mistake, Sharon was quick to pick up on the problem. Accompanying the nervous room attendant Sharon was totally unprepared for what would happen next but it would always remain a special moment in time.
Wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, Robert greeted them with his usual big cheesy-grin, completely oblivious of his attire! Mouths wide open with their eyes seemingly way too large for their sockets, both Sharon & the room-attendant stood speechless before him. Finally locating a few words Sharon desperately sought composure while her little friend had a sudden attack of the giggles. “Please excuse our intrusion” said the young girl, ” It would seem this belongs to you?” her hands clenched the bottle tightly…. Time stood still. Sharon was caught right there, his gorgeous bright blue eyes penetrated her soul. And Robert, well, he was in-love! Seemed Sharon too had caught the same bug only for her, it didn’t kick in quite so fast. He knew she would be a hard nut to crack but was relentless in his pursuits so by the time her 2 week vacation had ended, he had secured a phone number. They had been together ever since.
Robert had always wanted to explore his ‘child within’, to get some clarity as to why he was always yearning…..longing for something he felt he’d never been given. This notion didn’t have the same impact upon Sharon, just considering such thoughts appeared fruitless and quite stupid, but she would ‘humor’ him. She turned to her hubby, “Do you know how long this thing actually goes for Robert?? She was hoping he’d see her reasoning…not tonight.
“Yeh hon, I think its somewhere from 7pm up until 11?? Their local newspapers had the evening event advertised with its schedule but failed to be accurate on time. “I could have sworn I overheard a few people saying the venue went from 7.15pm – 10.30pm?” she replied. “Why do they ALWAYS pick it on week nights, School nights?!” Their little girl, Megan, was at home being cared for by Rob’s sister but would need to be up and ready for ‘Kindy‘ the very next morning. Finally,the crowd had begun to clap as a very odd little man slowly entered the room. Some people actually stood in recognition to this man’s apparent genius? Sharon needed more than this to convince her! A blonde, tall rather solid woman appeared shortly after, bearing a box of plastic A-4 sized folders. They were quickly handed around the group of people and then passed from row to row. Attached to each folder a pen and pencil, inside a set of sheets with a set of tasks and as they passed them around barely a sound was made…some made silly expressions and a couple of people got up and left-
The crowd were instructed to keep the folders closed until such time that they would be needed. Sharon fiddled constantly with the pen, praying the questions being tossed about the room would not land in her lap! And then…”Okay lovely people”…his smooth British accent easy to listen to. “Inside the folders are a set of case studies, examples if you will”…His interpretations then went everywhere from the usual abstract of memories to the typical microscopic analysis of the family life and history. Sharon’s hands had become clammy, her stomach in knots. “Rob, do we have to?” And, as he so often would do in moments such as these, fobbed her off with his usual disconcerting frown. “Honey, its all in good fun…relax.”
One of their tasks was that of closing their eyes and reflecting back to when they first recalled watching their favourite programme on television. Instructions were simple: Write the name of the programme, or the character which you most likely associated yourself to, and then proceed to describe ‘how you felt’. Did you have any heroes and if yes, who were they and what impact did they have upon you? It took a few moments for Sharon’s pen to move but when it began, it wouldn’t stop! There were so many memories, more than she had anticipated! The whole time thinking to herself how very clever the task-this guy had done his homework! The Englishman had given this group a space of time to finish the task and enough left over for the group to mingle and swap cases. A way to ‘break the ice’ whilst learning more. The big blonde quickly rounded up the folders once time was called, placing the pile on a nearby table. Voices became louder in conversation as each member of the room rattled off their cases to one another. Sharon found herself talking with the man on her right as Robert once more made pleasant ‘chit chat’ with the young couple. “My clearest memory is of the cartoon Astro Boy, so I chose to zoom in on that time of my life.” she babbled. That alone was interesting and quite out of the ordinary for her, mainly as she hadn’t ever really thought about this particular time in her life, and now, here she was sharing her history with a complete stranger!
“They were great days” Sharon had started down a path that had many twists and turns, but sadly for the gentleman to her right, there seemed to be no end in sight? She just continued to share her life as a child, totally emancipated and loving every moment. She spoke of days down by the old river, ‘skipping stones’ with her buddies, her incredible collection of stamps which her Grandfather had helped her begin, her love for the local Milk bar where she would spend every second Saturday scoffing down a cool banana split topped with strawberry flavouring and how there was no comparison to that of the hot milk bottles which sat in the school playground come first thing in the morning. You could hear the excitement mounting inside her voice box whilst she tripped over her own words. “Did I mention I played Jacks?” Another story began….yes, Sharon had found her ‘inner child’ that night and as she and Robert headed home, more moments from the past continued to emerge. “Well you sure got right into it Shaz!”….said Robert, the astonishment quite obvious in his voice.” Yeh, it wasn’t that bad I guess”…she replied smiling back at him. “Funny you know Rob, I had no idea of how many things I was capable of remembering…. Talking about it brought it all back…how did you go?”…..
“In all that madness we never did get a chance to exchange stories…did it work?… Do you think you managed to get anything out of tonight?”
But for Rob, it wasn’t what he’d hoped for…not as stimulating as it had apparently been for Sharon? “It’s all good Shaz, at least you allowed yourself to explore something different by attending and I’m really pleased you came along…..Now, how about we stop off and grab a bite to eat eh? It’s still not too late to call into Remo’s?”
This lovely little Italian restaurant had opened almost 12 months ago in their town, hoping to give the ‘golden arches’ a run for their money. Not to be outdone, they also added their own drive-through service operation which was indeed a success. “Mmmm…yum okay Roberto, lead the way!”
The first young window attendant politely requested their orders then directed them to the next window. “Here you are Sir, 1 Veal Scaloppine, 1 Spaghetti/Meatballs and your garlic bread”
Once home, Sharon checked in on Megan who by now, was fast asleep…she thanked her sister-in-law for watching over her and gave her a brief run down of the evening’s events. “Well guys its late and I’m sure you two are both tired so I’ll say goodnight…give you a call Sharon about lunch this week?”
Rob let out a mighty loud yawn, stretched his arms and made a beeline towards their bedroom. Sharon on the other hand, was miles away in thought and had a real desire to dig up her past just a bit more! So, for the next few hours, Sharon delighted in digging through the many boxes stored away upstairs in their closet. Boxes that had not seen light of day since Sharon’s mother had packed away almost 20 years prior. The collection of goodies had been a permanent fixture in the attic of the house Sharon had grown up in, holding everything from books, toys, photos and other odd and funny memorabilia which her mother had presented to her daughter after the family home had been sold. The dust may have settled for awhile but that night, as Robert lay watching his favourite cop show on TV and little Megan slept in her bed, Sharon sat upstairs reliving her childhood…..to her surprise and joy, Sharon’s ability and skills with a set of “jacks” were still in tact and she played happily into the wee hours of the morning….You might be able to take the child out of her past, but you can never remove the child from her past.
Knucklebones, or Jacks, is a game of very ancient origin, played with usually five small objects, originally the “knucklebones” (actually the astragalus: a bone in the ankle, or hock) of a sheep, which are thrown up and caught in various ways. Modern knucklebones consist of six points, or knobs, proceeding from a common base, and are usually made of metal or plastic. The winner is the first player to successfully complete a prescribed series of throws, which, while of the same general character, differ widely in detail. The simplest consists in tossing up one stone, the jack, and picking up one or more from the table while it is in the air; and so on until all five stones have been picked up. Another consists in tossing up first one stone, then two, then three and so on, and catching them on the back of the hand. Different throws have received distinctive names, such as riding the elephant, peas in the pod, and horses in the stable.
As with many children’s playground games, the game is known by a wide variety of names including astragaloi, hucklebones, dibs, dibstones, jackstones, chuckstones, five-stones jackrocks, onesies, jax, kugelach, batu seremban, or snobs.