Back in the 70s, when I was in elementary school, I lived next door to two brothers. The eldest brother was in my grade, and off and on over the years we were in the same class. The younger brother was a couple of years behind us in school.
We walked to school together in the mornings and back home again in the afternoons. It wasn’t really planned that way, but since we were next-door neighbors that’s how it went. So of course, we were constant companions in the evenings, weekends, and during the summer.
The brothers had a swingset in their backyard, so I spent most of my time playing all kinds of things with them there. When we were younger, we made mud pies and learned to skate together. When we were a little older, we ran, we skateboarded, we played kick the can, we climbed trees, we played tag, we played baseball in the street, and just all the typical things that kids in the 70s would have done.
At times, I would get jealous because they were boys and they could run faster than me and kick harder than me and just out-sport me in every way. I tried not to let it bother me, but I spent a lot of energy trying to win. I just wanted to win once in a while! Was that too much to ask?
I played so hard that I was constantly bumped, scratched, pushed down, and in one case even had to get stitches. But I never gave up on trying to keep up and go for the win. I even positioned myself to be on the winning team. If I couldn’t win individually then why not work to get the best team together possible?
I usually would start to get my team together at school or on the way home from school, too. If I left it up to picking teams right before a game started, then I was doomed, as the girl, to be the low pick.
So I found that building my team early would put me in a much better position. I would get as many teammates as I could during the day and then wait for the junior high students to come home to sure up my team. This way we would be ready to go right after dinner.
Sure, it didn’t always work out for me. You know, maybe some of the other kid had some other game going for the night, but I did my best to try and win!
All this takes me to the day in my life that a lie, all in the name of winning, came back to bite me. Chomp!
My neighbor got a new toy for his birthday, a pogo stick. I was so very excited because if he got a new pogo stick that meant I got a pogo stick. He wasn’t stingy with anything that he had and would let me play with all his stuff. But that usually meant that things got broken, and he usually took the blame.
Well, the day of his birthday, there was the brand new pogo stick. In all its glory. And as I said before, I was so excited for our new toy. But for the first time ever, he told me that I would not be able to play on the pogo stick. His dad said it was for him only. Wait! What?
As I stood there and eventually sat there and then stood there some more and watched him try to figure out how best to make the pogo stick go, I was thinking about how I surely could make that pogo stick work much better than he could. If I could only get the chance!
As the night wore on it was pretty evident that I was not going to get a chance on the pogo stick. So I decided that I was going to go in early and pout. And for the next few days when the pogo stick came out, I went in. Of course, I secretly watched his progress from the window.
As more time went by, and not much progress had happened on the pogo stick, I decided that it was time for me to come out and start to play again. I stayed in my own yard to try to keep my distance from the pogo stick.
But I really just couldn’t stand it any longer. I shimmied over to the fence and watched my neighbor try and try and try again on the pogo stick. I finally said, “My cousin is really good on the pogo stick. So good that he pogoed over his house!”.
I was met with taunts and laughter from all the neighbor boys that had gathered around to watch the pogo stick action. They said I was a liar because jumping over a house on a pogo stick was impossible. They wanted to know the name of my cousin. And if we had called Guinness World Book Records about his amazing pogo feat.
I was in too deep so I stayed with my story and gave them the name of my cousin, who was my age, but at a different school, so there would be no way they could know him. Then I tucked my tail between my legs and went inside.
I had to take a couple of days of ridicule before it finally died down. Eventually, my neighbor’s pogo stick stopped coming out and everything calmed down. At least so I thought.
It was months later, and Thanksgiving was being hosted at my house that year. Like other families in the neighborhood, cars were parked up and down the street, bumper-to-bumper with cars from family and friends.
After a beautiful meal, us kids went outside to play, and there were quadruple or more kids in the neighborhood that day. Kids from all over the city and out of state. It was kids everywhere.
Being kind of sluggish after a large meal, my cousins and I decided to climb and hang out in the big tree in my front yard. It didn’t take long before other kids started coming out and hanging out in their trees and walking up and down the street.
After a while a large group of kids had gathered in my front yard. We were talking and discussing if we should try to start a game, or not, when one of the neighborhood kids asked if my cousin, the one who jumped over the house with pogo stick, was there.
I was very quick to say, “Oh, no, he couldn’t make it today”. But unfortunately I had previously given them the name of a cousin and he did happen to be there. And neighbor kids are known to have memories like elephants. My number was up and they called me out.
I leaned over to my cousin and begged him to go along with the situation I got myself into. Luckily he agreed.
“So,” one kid said, “you’re the kid who jumped over his house on a pogo stick, huh?” I looked over at my cousin and gave him a pleading face. I was ruined if he didn’t back me up.
“Oh yeah,” he said, “I went clean over”. I was surprised how quickly the kids accepted his statement. They bombarded him with all kinds of questions and comments. My cousin was an instant celebrity!
Whew, I was saved! But then my nextdoor neighbor showed up with his pogo stick and said, “I can’t seem to get this thing to work. Show me!”
Ugh, I was ruined, and I was taking my poor cousin down with me. It’s funny how quickly situations change. I had no one to blame but myself.
But then, like an angel calling in the night, my aunt opened the front door and yelled for my cousin to come in and help pack up to go home. “Sorry dudes, my mom is calling. So maybe next time, I’ll bring my special gear and I’ll show you how it’s done.”
And with that the best pogo stick rider ever born became a legend. My cousin and the pogo came up from time to time, but the saga could never be confirmed or dispelled.