I was a risk averse kid. I feel like it’s necessary to put that out there. As a kid my favourite things to do involved action figures or video games. Peril was my least favourite thing. Somehow in being a young boy I still found myself in situations possibly more perilous than I’d considered. I think of the old skate ramp at Northcote park. This thing was probably 3 metres or so at its maximum height, which is huge when you’re barely scraping over a single metre. We’d play on it unaccompanied all the time from age 6 or so. It wasn’t hugely steep, but we’d run up and down it until gravity and physics got the better of us and we lost our footing. We’d tumble occasionally and get bruises or scrapes. That was usually my tearful “I don’t want to play any more” sign. I’d walk away in a huff until my best friend would come to cheer me up. He’d sell me on stories of how high I’d gone and how awesome I was for daring fate like that. To this day that feels like pretty advanced de-escalation and emotional acuity for a 7 year old. Sometimes we’d try and latch on, pull ourselves up. Most of the time I could get my hands to grip and my buddy would pull me up. We’d then use it like a slide, which seemed like a great time until you realised it was constructed from decrepit wood with fading flaky paint. Zooming down on my bum one day the predictable happened and I felt a sharp pain in my cheek. Tears rolled down my other set of cheeks as pulled down my pants and got my friend to check it. I was bleeding. He told me there was a huge splinter sticking out of my bum. I ran around the neighbourhood with my pants down all the way to his house. His mum pulled it out and put a plaster on it.
It seems kind of funny now to imagine little kids running off to a dangerous location bordered by a marsh, close to the highway. Always replete with empty beer bottles, it was as dodgy a spot as I can imagine. It also seems totally anachronistic with today’s society. I coached 6 and 7 year olds in gymnastics and I can’t imagine letting them run amok like that without seriously fearing for their lives. Even when we got hurt, there was this underlying feeling that things would work out alright. They always did.
I recall being consumed by that exact same feeling one day while snowboarding. The same friend had taken me to a remote track and we got utterly lost. What was meant to be deep, soft snow gave way to large tracts of rocks. We couldn’t see where we were and had no concept of where we needed to be. Call it trust in my friend, call it inner reserves of something. While I was frightened that we might actually die, at the back of my mind there was this tiny seed of a thought, that things would work out okay because they always did. I’d get home, be warm by the fire and these worries would pass.
Because we were children, because children are dumb (it’s not their fault. They haven’t made enough mistakes to learn from them yet), we continued to do stupid shit. Looking at a Nerf blaster today, my mind was cast back to the time my brother and I were set with the task of putting up decorations for my mum’s birthday. We’d been armed with crepe paper and colourful card that we were to hang around the house. How, you ask? With staple guns. Because my brother was older, undoubtedly wiser and had faster neural connections than I did, his mind zoned in on the word “gun”. He went to my room and grabbed my plastic He-Man armour. A golden chest plate with straps along the back, it also came equipped with a sword and shield. He handed me the chest plate and a pair of glasses (for safety) while he equipped the shield and glasses of his own. I bet you know where this is going, right? Wrong. You’re missing the best part. He then climbed a ladder, counted down from 10 and we begun our staple gun fight. The air was thick with flimsy bits of metal. The ground was littered with our ammunition as staples lodged themselves in the curtains or were deflected by the power of our wise safety precautions (in particular, The Power of Greyskull). It was a riot. Wondrous fun fit for the whole family. That is until one of my shots went wild. My brother called off the game (while still atop a ladder. Even now I can’t get over how fucking insane and irresponsible it all was) and we checked on the shot. The prongs of the staple were stuck right through the lens. It was held from going through only by the strip holding the prongs together. Looking at the glasses, it would’ve been mere millimetres from potentially blinding him for life. A little bit shaken, we picked the staples out of the curtains, vacuumed the carpet and hid the glasses. Lesson learned. You can do dumb things, but for fuck’s sake you better take precautions first.
Besides, The Power of Greyskull had my back. It’s not like anything could’ve gone seriously wrong.