Monday, March 12, 2007

Across the Universe.

Recently, I discovered that certain childhood memories or experiences are not all universal. Now I suppose this ought to be an obvious statement, but I find that I am genuinely distressed by the very notion. This was so shocking to me, in fact, that hours later, my mind was still reeling from the thought.

I have always assumed that everything that I grew up with fell under the umbrella of the quintessential American upbringing - from Disney afternoons, to En Vogue, to most Asian parents being engineers. Of course this is all shaken the moment one enters college, when you meet people from different areas, different backgrounds. Notions of naivete come and go with the floating of your childhood.

Appalled at my ignorance in light of today's egalitarian society, I decided to investigate this gross miscalculation and trace it back to its roots. Where did I go wrong?

Oversight #1: I forgot that not all of my friends grew up in the States.

This applies to those seemingly assimiliated friends who are dead ringers for native sons and daughters of the U.S. of A. Much of the 80's and early 90's culture that I would reference would, for example, be lost on my friend Jeff, who grew up as an island boy on Papua New Guinea, swimming with the sea turtles and wearing garments constructed with leaves (joking). And references to certain fads (pogs) or trendy snacks (Raven's Revenge) would result in a blank stare from Jon, my brother from another mother, whose childhood memories hail from Moscow, where he was dodging neo-Nazis (not joking) and growing up with ex-pats and the Russian elite. Lesson learned: never make assumptions.

Oversight #2: I forgot that location is everything.

So not everyone goes to Outdoor Science Camp, and (gasp!) there are actually those who have attended indoor schools. I always wondered what that would be like. Weather and area-specific natural disasters have a lot to do with it. I have found that as rainy days are pretty universal, so is Heads Up 7-Up. There apparently weren't annual visits from the Yogi Bear Earthquake Mobile, which for those lucky 4th and 5th graders, would simulate 6.5 on the Richter scale and teach the proper responses to a natural disaster (though how a thin plank of wood loosely referred to as a desk can shield one from a crashing ceiling still remains a mystery). And while Southern California never allowed me the opportunity to go sledding or experience the thrill of having a day of school called off, I just have to think positively and consistently remind myself: Earthquake Mobile! Earthquake Mobile!

I had a conversation with a friend recently. And as I was explaining how I had bought a bunch of records and was in search of a record player, I had mentioned that I was the proud owner of one Peter and the Wolf album. To which the response was a quizzical 'huh?'. So appalled was I, that I proceeded to survey my cousin, roommates, friends and co-workers on whether or not they were familiar with the Prokofieff's classical narrative. Fact (insert simultaneous Dwight Schrute hand motion here): Every school goes to the theater to watch the story of the boy (Peter) and the antagonist (the wolf) unfold, and how the wolf eats the friend bird, represented by the piccolo. That's just how it goes. And while I'm not sure what kind of twisted childhood these people must have led - "..You mean the boy who cried wolf, right?" - I, clearly, was the normal one.


al said...

i've always wondered what it would be like to go to an outdoor school. whenever i'd watch clueless, i thought that outdoor schools were the coolest spoiled southern californians....'s quite possible that i did go to see peter and the wolf but didn't know enough english at the time to know what was going on.

Navin said...

wow you guys had earthquake simulators... that is so cool. outdoor schools... so jealous.

always thought pogs were a universal thing...guess not!