2010-11-18 / Sam Bari

Childrenisms – a laugh a minute

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Occasionally I write about my youth, when I was a member of a gang of young ruffians that banded together for no other reason than to survive childhood. We figured there was strength in numbers. None of us thought we would ever see adulthood if we attempted to grow up on our own.

The gang was a collection of social outcasts. Most were too nerdy to be accepted by the popular kids. The ethnic kids, as well as the not-too-well-socialized kids from the poor side of town, were also included in our loosely organized “gang,” for lack of a better term.

One of our most beloved members was Chilly Mac. His real name was MacArthur Harrison. His father was a staff sergeant in the Army and had named his only son after the great Army general, Douglas MacArthur.

Chilly was the only black kid in the neighborhood, and we made sure that he felt as if he fit in. Back in those days, being an ethnic in any neighborhood was tough.

Anyway, Chilly was one of those kids who could make us laugh whenever he opened his mouth. He said some of the funniest things, and he often did not intend to be funny – he just was.

Now keep in mind, we were only five or six years old at the time. We were learning to communicate and we were curious about everything life had to offer. Chilly was the only black kid, and I was the only Hawaiian kid. I was brown, and although the other kids never made us feel as if we were different, sometimes our color sparked our curiosity.

One day I asked Chilly a question that would not be tolerated in today’s sensitive culture. But we didn’t perceive the question as rude at the time. It was something to be considered. I asked him why the palms of his hands were white and the rest of him was black.

Without missing a beat he said, “I’ve thought about that too. I think it’s because my mom makes me wash them too much.”

We laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks. Life was like that back then, and I will never forget Chilly for his generous smile and quick wit. His father was away much of the time, and we were Chilly’s surrogate family.

Writing about Chilly inspired me to gather anecdotes and witty quotes from other kids so I can share them with readers. Here are a few from the past few months:

This came from the diary of a pre-school teacher. Her fiveyear old students were learning to read. One of them pointed at a picture in a zoo book and said, “Look at this! It’s a frickin’ elephant!”

She said that she about had a heart attack but kept her composure and asked, “What did you call it?” The kid replied, “It’s a frickin’ elephant! It says so on the picture!”

And sure enough, the caption under the picture said “African Elephant.”

Children in their formative years are a breeding ground for the greatest wit in the world. Here’s another:

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. She came home frustrated and said to her mom, “I’m just wasting my time. I can’t read, I can’t write, and they won’t let me talk!”

Sounds logical to me. The following contribution was from a policeman:

“At the end of the day I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. ‘Is that a dog you got back there?’ he asked. ‘It sure is,’ I replied. Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, ‘What’d he do?’”

Kids have opinions too: On the first day of school, a firstgrader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read: “The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.”

Nudity is of little consequence: A young mother was driving with her three young children when a woman in a convertible ahead of her stood up and waved. She was stark naked. The young mother’s 5 year old then shouted from the back seat, “Mom, that lady isn’t wearing a seat belt!”

“Childrenisms” — just one of the wonderful perks from life in a system we can’t understand.

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