My son, Lucas, recently reminded me of something from my own childhood. Though oddly, something has happened to a lot of these memories of being a kid since having kids. The perspective of parenthood can shed a really different, very bright light on memories.
My parents gave me a very free hand as a kid. Though now that I think of it, it may be more accurately described as a balance between “me taking” and “them giving” this freedom. You see! The past is shape-shifting even as I’m writing about it!
The Craft of “Potion” Making
Potions. That’s pretty much what I called any random combination of ingredients I was allowed (or not) to mix together, whether they were edible or not. I did this often enough that you could have called it a habit, but I prefer to use the word “hobby.” Don’t listen to city officials. They like to throw around the words “fire and poison hazard” like confetti and ass-xeroxes at an office party with an open bar.
Despite failure, I learned a lot from my Mad Science. Like the fact that you cannot discover a new, never-before-seen color by mixing paints or ink, and that all tests ultimately result in brownish black. Or how many minutes it takes for oil boiling on a stove to burst into a flamethrower gone wild. And that pouring water on it is NOT the way to deal with such a fire. Unless you actually want to double the size of the flame and spatter it like napalm.
When I was about 10, I decided that I would use my potion-craft to create the perfect cat food. I wish I could say it was because I wanted to solve world cat hunger. Alas, it was purely about achievement, with the prospect of fame and fortune. And because we had cats.
My strategy? If I was going to discover the PERFECT cat food, it would be probably something so crazy that no one would ever have even allowed themselves to think of trying it. Industrial-strength “outside the box” logic right there!
I asked my mom if I could use her baking gear and the oven. After a long pause and an equally long “Wwwwwhy?” she heard my answer and smiled diplomatically, giving me a meatloaf pan she was going to throw away. I wasn’t insulted. I couldn’t get in trouble if something went wrong. Win!
My recipe for the experiment consisted of bread chunks, vinegar, liquified cat kibble, vanilla extract, banana, bologna, green beans, milk and countless other ingredients. I wasn’t really thinking about what would taste good to a cat. I knew my experimental pet restaurant should be fairly safe with customers who not only didn’t mind licking their own assholes, but seemed to enjoy it. A lot. Daily. These things’ll eat anything, I thought, chuckling to myself at how easy this was going to be.
I pulled the mess out of the oven and let it cool. The stink of it must have instantly filled the entire house. After it had cooled, I cut a slab out of the loaf and plopped it onto the cat-food bowl. I climbed up to sit on a counter, it offered a clear view and safety from any ravenous cats bursting through a wall to get at my creation…
Realizing I might be affecting the experiment with my presence, I retreated to a far doorway and spied in the shadows for ten or fifteen minutes (nearly a billion years in child time).
I stormed off to my mom and explained my frustration…