Growing Up In Waterford, PA


My inner child and me
by the late Herb Walden

Fort LeBoeuf Class of 1956

One day last summer after one of many rain showers, I noticed some sizeable puddles on my lawn and driveway. You know what I did? I jumped in them! Yes sir, I jumped in them! Several times! And got wet way up past my waist which, by the way, is the measure of a good puddle-jump.

You're probably think that this is odd behavior for an old guy. Well, I can't really take full credit for it. My "Inner Child" was the one responsible. My Inner Child is between 5 and 10 years old, and he likes to come out and play once in a while.

Mostly our play times are fun, but sometimes things do go awry. You see, my Inner Child usually acts impulsively while I try to analyze the situation andavoid disaster. Usually.

For instance, a few days ago he wanted to climb the oak tree in my backyard. But I explained that at our age, we'd most likely fall and break a lot of things and maybe dislodge some internal organs. He said okay, but every time we walk under that tree, he looks at it longingly. I know he's going to try again, and I'm not sure I'll be able to talk him out of it. Sometimes it's hard to say "no" to a kid.

Take last winter for example. Early one morning I was about to take some bird seed out to the bird feeder. It had snowed overnight, (the first of the season), and there were about two inches on the ground.

All of a sudden, my Inner Child said, "Let's go barefoot to the feeder!"

I said I didn't think it was a good idea, He said he just wanted to see what it felt like. I told him he said the same thing every winter, but he insisted he couldn't remember the feeling of soft, fluffy snow on our feet. Besides, we were already barefoot, and this would save hunting up boots.

So I relented. The feeder is only a dozen steps from the door. We half-trotted out onto the porch and down the steps. When we hit the ground, both feet went out from under us, and we were airborne!

It was a classic fall! One of those kind often seen in cartoons where you're suspended horizontally in midair about four feet off the ground for what seems to be several minutes!

Then we crashed!

We laid in the snow for a little bit. Cautiously, I tried moving various body parts. Everything still worked. I got up, and we went on to the bird feeder. I was okay, but my Inner Child whimpered all the way.

We don't go barefoot in the snow much anymore.

Then there was the bicycle incident.

A while back, I was cleaning up my old bike, and my Inner Child suggested what we go for a ride. I said, "NO!" He said we'd just go down the road a little ways. I said, "NO!" I told him that our bike, being built in the 1940s, was made mostly of cast iron and concrete. Or so it seems. He said that never bothered him when he was my Outer Child. I explained that there's a lot more gravity now then there was back then.

We argued a bit more and then went for a ride. It took about a week for me to recover! Every direction I rode was uphill! People walking along the road were passing me! Even now, I'm getting leg cramps just thinking about it!

We don't ride my bike much anymore.

And then last summer came along.

We were wandering through the back field, my Inner Child and me, when we came upon a huge ant hill. He has always been fascinated by insects and suggested that we stop and watch the ants for a bit. There was quite a line of them coming and going, hauling little things that I couldn't make out.

Having observed where the ants were and were not, we sat down out of the way to watch the procession. Within a few minutes, a couple more-adventurous ants found us and were harmlessly exploring our shoes. We kept an eye on those ants, too.

All of a sudden, we were aware that some previously unnoticed ants had made an excursion up the leg of our shorts! Somewhere between 2 and 2000, I'd say. It was hard to tell. I suggest it was the former, but it felt like the latter! All I know for sure is they were sinking their fangs into parts of our anatomy not designed for fang-sinking!

Well, we got out of there in somewhat of a hurry. My Inner Child was saying some rather harsh things about ants! I would have cautioned him about his language, but I was busy disrobing and doing something that might have passed as an audition for "Riverdance"!

We don't watch ants much anymore.

Now another situation has arisen. I think this one is safe enough. You see, my Inner Child just said that he would like an extra-large dish of vanilla ice cream with way too much chocolate syrup on it. And a glass of root beer to top it off.

As I said before, sometimes it's hard to say "no" to a kid!

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