I spotted this gang of rascals in Thailand: they were singing and laughing, seemingly carefree. The sight reminded me of the ‘kiddie gangs’ I was in as a child. I grew up in the countryside (a fact that I found less convenient when I was a little older and became increasingly interested in the ‘real world’ that I suspected was taking place in the big city) and was lucky to have had a rather carefree childhood. Having read some of your life stories, I was reminded of the privileged circumstances in which I grew up.
Adventures in the Wild
We had plenty of opportunities to create our own little adventures out ‘in the wild’. Retrospectively, it was a real blessing that TV in 1980s Europe sucked big time: no chance of getting stuck in front of it and transforming into a junior couch potato. 😉 We were mostly out and about in our free time, and pretty creative in keeping ourselves entertained. Most of the time we pretended to be detectives, always on the prowl and hoping to detect unresolved mysteries in our sleepy neighborhood. As elementary school kids, our fantasy was boundless, inspired by the children’s books we consumed like popcorn. Given that there were – naturally – not a whole lot of mysteries to resolve (let alone crimes occurring) in our rural community, we created our own.
I recall one particular experiment was a litmus test to identify neighbors with ‘criminal potential’. My sister and I prepared a wallet with a couple of small bills to which we attached a nearly invisible fishing line. We placed the wallet on the sidewalk in front of my parent’s garden, while hiding behind the hedge, holding onto the line. We wanted to find out who’d pocket the wallet and, thereby, manifest ‘criminal potential’. As detectives we were, of course, keen on discovering those who were prone to commit more significant crimes in the future. We were quite innocent back then, so the theft of a car, for instance, would have counted as an unimaginable crime.
The ‘Lawn Gnome’
We had, in particular, one grumpy-looking neighbor in mind. He lived across the street. He used to scare off our cat when she dared to trespass into his ‘impeccable’ yard that had been completely paved over – a horticultural tragedy. And the cat would not linger there for long: given the utter absence of any kind of green and life, she only transited. In our puerile world, chasing our cat was as close to a crime as it got, and led us to mistrust the ‘lawn gnome’. We were almost certain that he would be the first to pocket our wallet.
Unfortunately, the ‘lawn gnome’ never walked by. Once, an elderly lady bowed to collect the wallet, and looked rather astonished when it – as if by an invisible hand – was pulled into hedge. We quickly realized that she was no ‘criminal’, but one of the locality’s old ladies who would have brought the wallet to the neighborhood’s lost-and-found. Until this episode, we were so keen and had not grasped the weakness of our experiment…. So we then decided to take a hiatus from our detective jobs, and moved onto other, carefree adventures.