Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's Hard to Believe we Survived Childhood

What amazes me most about my memories of being a kid is that none of us died.

I lived next to a dead-end once, where all the neighborhood kids played. Where the street ended, the fields and trees began. It was great. We lived on one corner of the street and the Topazoglu's lived on the other corner. Turkish-Canadian family, good people. They had two kids, Greg and Leia.

We spent an alarming amount of our time building elaborate deathtraps out of scrap metal, jagged wood and crumbling concrete blocks. When these unholy constructs were complete, we amused ourselves by riding our bikes through them and trying not to die. They usually involved ramps and jumps, obstacles and traps. We were nuts.

Of course, every time we finished one of these shrines of evil, someone had to be the first to test it. You know, to see if it "worked". So we needed a brave, fearless test subject, willing to face the onslaught.

Little Greg Topazoglu was our answer to Chuck Yeager.

He would show up on his small orange bike and stare at the horror. We used every trick in the book to convince him that it was an honour to be the very first person to run the gauntlet, to experience the danger. He usually cried and said, "Leee-iaa! I'm scaaared." That didn't stop him though. Eventually we bullied, cajoled or bribed him into taking the first shot.

He was so determined, legs pumping madly, sweaty hands tight on the handlebars, barreling headlong into assured destruction. He'd hit the first ramp and it would be glorious, for about two seconds. Then it would go badly. He usually ended up smashing into, crashing against or flipping over some obstacle. He'd go down in a windmill of limbs and tires.

This was usually followed by an awful silence, during which we prayed, "Please God, let him not be dead. If he is, Mr. Topazoglu will kill us." Then the crying would begin and we'd all breathe a sigh of relief.

We'd adjust the obstacle course, making it less dangerous and then ride through it ourselves. It was grand. Little Greg Topazoglu was our hero, our crash test dummy, the human sacrifice, so that we might live to cause mayhem yet another day.

Thanks, Greg. It wouldn't have been half as fun without you.
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