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A myth understanding

by | May 9, 2024 | Opinion

In the South, we believed with all of our hearts what we were told when we were children.

Even if it was wrong.

In the 1960s, the RCA color console TV my family had on Beech Street in Ashdown, Arkansas, could make you go blind.

It could if you believed what our mom told us.

Mom: “Scoot back from that television. If you sit too close, it’ll make your eyes stick on blurry, and eventually, you’ll go blind.”

Me: “Really? Cool.”

Never mind the fact that I was watching the Three Stooges and learning how to poke my sister and cousins in the eyes using just two fingers on one hand.

But the, “You’ll go blind if you sit too close to the TV,” story was cool enough that you just had to believe it. So, we scooted back from the television.

Until mom left the room.

Other things we were told as kids that turned out to be less-than-reliable information included, “Don’t swallow your gum. It’ll stay in your stomach forever.”

Now, information like this gives you new goals when you’re a youngster. I mean, thoughts of the size of a wad of gum lead to questions of how many of those wads it’ll take to completely fill your stomach.

I had no thoughts about why that was a bad idea, just thoughts of how many of those wads of gum I could consume, and whether I could swallow more than my sibling or best buddies.

These are the things that occupy your mind while you’re lying in bed at night. While your mom’s in the other room wondering whether you’ll be an astronaut or whether the TV blindness will set in before then.

Of course, every smart kid knew that if you started to lose your vision from sitting too close to Moe, Larry, and Curly, all you had to do was eat carrots.

Lots of carrots.

If you listened to what your mom told you, even half the time, you’d hear the bit about carrots. Eat a lot of them and your vision would improve.

So, logic would dictate that if you ate a whole, whole, lot of them, you’d have super vision. Even better than Superman. That gave you some comfort that at least one of your out-of-line behaviors could be reversed.

Now, maybe mom knew that gum did not stay in your stomach forever, but the truth about knuckle cracking causing your fingers to get stuck in place may not have been as transparently obvious.

Mom: “After you back away from the television, stop swallowing your gum, and finish those three bags of carrots, I want you to quit cracking your knuckles. Your fingers will lock in place and you’ll never be able to bend them again.”

Me: “Really? Cool.”

Mom: “I’m serious. And, on top of that, you’ll get arthritis in your knuckles.”

Me: “Then what?”

Mom: “Your fingers will lock in place and you’ll never be able to bend them again.”

Me: “How does that happen two times?”

Dad: “Don’t argue with your mom, or I’ll send you into next week.”

It was at this point that I had confirmation that time travel was possible.

Sure, I’d seen it in the movies, but to actually have a family member claim they could control the actual fabric of time, and my position in it, was impressive.

Turned out, dad’s comment had nothing to do with time travel at all. I shouldn’t have asked for clarification.

Asking dad for clarification may not have been advisable, but listening intently to his claims was. Because often, his claims had to do with animals or insects.

Dad: “The average person swallows 10 bugs a year. Seven of those are spiders.”

Me: “Really? Cool.”

I did ask for clarification on how I could swallow 10 bugs a year, with seven of those being spiders, and not notice it.

Dad: “Because they crawl into your mouth when it’s open at night.”

Me: “Really? Not cool.”

 This information presented a problem. How does one make sure your mouth is not open when you’re sleeping?

I considered Scotch Tape. But a brief experiment showed that as good as that tape seemed to work on Christmas presents and other items in the Scotch Tape TV ads, the sweat and oils from your skin prevented it from holding your mouth closed.

My conclusion was that I was going to be eating 10 bugs a year, with seven of them being spiders.

I just hoped that spiders like gum and carrots.

Another thing I was told as a kid was that your tongue had different sections on it for specific tastes. In other words, there was a section for sweet, one for salty, one for bitter, one for spicy, etcetera, etcetera.

Another reason to lie awake at night had to do with not waiting for pizza to cool off before you took a bite. After I burned the roof of my mouth into oblivion, I moved the pizza to my tongue, which also suffered damage. My hope was that I’d burned off the part of my tongue that tasted bitter, and maybe that’s the spot where the spiders would hit when they crawled into my mouth. No loss that way.

When you grow up and find out that a lot of what you were told as a kid isn’t true, it’s disheartening.

Next thing you know, someone will tell me that quicksand isn’t nearly the risk that the Tarzan movies made it out to be.

Enjoying this column? Want to read more like this? Support your local community newspaper, subscribe to The Princeton Herald today!

By John Moore | thecountrywriter.com

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