1000 a Day – Day 16

Memories of childhood friends whom I no longer even remember their name:

The very first apartment I lived in when I got to the States still exist today in exactly the same condition as it did back then. They’re two stories and built in the faux “Adobe” style to reflect the South Western nature of Southern California. One family lived on the first floor, one on the second. There were no yards, but a small patch of grass in front, and even more apartments in the back though I don’t think I’ve ever wandered through them. There were some trees between the buildings. Back then, we had a neighboring Chinese family who had a son just about my age. I remember spending some time with him playing, mostly after school while my parents were both still working.

Of the things I remember doing:

We played Nintendo; Duck Hunt, Metroid, and 1941, a vertical scrolling one-plane-versus-a-million-enemies type of game. I was never that good at those games, and still am not today, but I remember even then enjoying watching other people play, demonstrating skills that I would secretly be jealous of.

Now this is a little out of order chronologically, but I want to take care of everything I remember about this particular child, but around 5th grade or so I was really into Magic the Gathering, the card game; more on that later. This friend didn’t play, but he had a lot of baseball cards. At some point I became tired of playing Magic, again, more on that later, but for some reason all of a sudden really wanted baseball cards. I remember offering him a deal: all my Magic cards for as many baseball cards as I can wrap up with rubber bands. He agreed, and I spent an entire evening sitting on his carpet, wrapping up neat piles of baseball cards with rubber bands. He was busy doing something else, watching TV I think, so he didn’t notice that by the time I was finished, I had wrapped up all of his baseball cards. He was a little angry at that actually, but I reminded him of the deal and he got over it.

In the trees in between the buildings of the small apartment complex we lived in were lots of different kinds of snails. One time, we found a derelict old plastic rodent cage, the kind one would use to house small hamsters and such, and decided to use it as a snail cage. We ran out to the trees and started looking and it didn’t take long before we found a fine specimen of snail to put in our cage. We filled it also with some twigs, leaves, and a bit of dirt, and were quite proud of ourselves for having created such a perfect little habitat for the snail. We brought it in and set it like a trophy on top of a bookshelf, then busied ourselves with other things. Hours later, we decided to come back and check on our catch, only to find that the cage was empty. Apparently, the cage was so decrepit that it had been punctured in certain places and allowed the snail to escape; in our excitement we neglected to thoroughly examine our find. All along the wall right around the cage were trails of slime where the snail had ran off, trails running the entire height of the bookshelf even before disappearing somewhere in the carpet. We searched for quite a long time but never found the snail again. Even after the escape incident. I remember being paranoid about slime trails on the walls and started seeing them everywhere, constantly on edge and worried that I might accidentally step or sit on a snail; the thought disgusted me. This is the first time I remember being afraid of slimy little things like snails.

There was another friend who lived a little further away but was nonetheless within walking distance of that first apartment. I think they were people my father had met while at Caltech. They also had a son, just around my age, and I also spent some afternoons there when my parents were away. I spent most of the time I was there wandering the grounds of Caltech since they were just across the street. I remember that the large circular fountains were rarely turned on, all the water having dried up, and that I’d climb up into it and play in the dried leaves that stuck to the bottom of the fountain bowl. I remember fishing for crayfish in the large rectangular lily ponds, poking at them with a stick until they were just angry enough to grab on with their claws then pulling them out and getting a real kick out of the splash they made when they let go and fell back into the water. I remember afternoons spent eating deep fried fish that the boy’s mother would make, whole, tiny fish, fried golden and delicious.

That’s all that I remember about these two, though I think years later when I was a teenager I ran into both of them at least once again and completely did not recognize them.

A note:

It’s going to get more and more difficult keeping things in chronological order from now on, especially since I’ve somehow decided to structure this thematically as well as chronologically. I find it easier to group memories together because I can then be sure I didn’t miss one. It’s also a kind of “getting out of the way” type of mechanism so that I can move on to other, more detailed memories; these early ones are still quite fragmentary.

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