Wheaton’s Way

The wonders of being young

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will no doubt be aware of the three young boys who created (and completed) the Kite for COVID challenge this week, raising thousands of dollars for charity.

What they accomplished was incredibly inspirational, and getting to know them really reminded me of the enthusiasm and energy we all have in our youth.

As they talked about swimming, kayaking, jumping and biking to prepare for the physically taxing task ahead, I thought of myself wheezing after a flight of stairs, or circling a parking lot for 10 minutes to find a space close to the supermarket. (I hate to admit it, but I have wedged my Ford Expedition into a tight area and squeezed myself out of the driver’s door – restricted by the car next to me – sometimes bruising a roll of … muscle in the process, rather than walk 15 more feet.)

When I was a kid, I could do handstands and cartwheels without thinking twice. What would that look like now? Let me not try and find out.

Another advantage of youth is being somewhat unfettered by the usual pros and cons that weigh heavy on the mind of any adult about to embark on a project or journey. For example, my mother told me that when I was about 5 years old, she walked into our kitchen to find me in roller skates, balanced precariously atop a three-legged stool, trying to reach a tin of biscuits on a high shelf. As a grown-up, I might have decided that the treats weren’t worth the danger (jury’s out), but as a child, I was focussed on my quarry and simply had to grab whatever was at hand to help me achieve my goal.

When we moved to Cayman in 1975, the hijinks continued. I spent a day telling Mum that I went out at night on my bicycle to pick her flowers. All a load of tosh, of course, which she knew, and therefore she completely indulged me when I told her I would be going out again that night.

“Oh, yes, that’s lovely,” and so forth.

Cut to a pitch-black night when a 7-year-old girl felt her bluff had been called, and so she got on her bicycle, rode up the neighbourhood drive and onto West Bay Road to find some flowers in three-foot visibility. Remember, this was well before lots of development in the area, so there weren’t many street lamps, and on that particular night, no moon either.

Mercifully, there was very little traffic as well, apart from one car that leaned on the horn when they made out a silhouette of a young girl on a bicycle with no light, squinting at the roadside for any sign of blooms.

After giving up fairly early, I grabbed a handful of weeds and made for home, only to see my father in his dressing gown running for the car to head out and find the would-be florist in the family.

A few years later, my mother came home and was going through her handbag, becoming more agitated with every minute. Turned out she had misplaced a $25 bill. To me, it sounded like the end of the world. I had to right this terrible wrong.

I had now been at school for long enough that I was familiar with sponsorship drives, so I got a piece of paper and drew up my own sponsorship sheet in pencil, and headed down Seven Mile Beach with purpose.

Every tourist and resident sitting on the sand got the benefit of my spiel. My mother had lost $25 and so could they please sponsor me to pull burrs off the beach? I was certain I was onto a winner. I’d seen sheets fill up for school initiatives, so surely I’d have the money in no time at all. Well, not a single person fell for it and not a penny did I raise. In desperation, I went to one of our neighbours to hopefully get the ball rolling. He was the principal of the high school where my mother taught at the time. Unfortunately, he was a real adult about it.

“If your mother says it’s OK, I’ll sponsor you,” he said.

I was stuck. I wanted the money, but I also wanted to surprise her. In the end, I decided to reveal my plan to her so we could start this campaign moving. Let’s just say she was a little mortified.

Perhaps not so embarrassed, however, as when I was sitting on the beach with her one day, and she said, “I would love a rum and coke right about now.”

Problem? Solved!

I made an excuse to go back to the house, and immediately started searching for the ingredients. Coke we had; rum, we didn’t. How could I fix this?

A-ha!

I headed to another neighbour – Patsy Healy. As she answered the door, she found me with a big smile on my face.

“Hi Mrs. Healy. Could I have a cup of rum for my mother?”

Kids. You gotta love ’em.

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