As a youngster, I loved school. My studies went well.
It was a place where I could shine...and shine I did!
The atmosphere was just what I needed.
There was so much to learn of the world and I revelled in it!
One particular incident comes to mind...
I’d been given one of those geography assignments that called
for a paper to be written …a snapshot of one country riddled with things
like total square miles, population, bounded by’s, etc.
Well! That didn’t sound very interesting!
Surely there was more of note.
There were none of the really colorful details that a real world citizen
would relish knowing.
Like, for instance, that the chief source of income of the tiny nation
of Andorra was smuggling.
Or that Egypt Road was to be found on Cape Breton Island..
Or that Tibetan women had several husbands and that the Doukhobor sect
of Manitoba worshipped in the nude.
What a world!!!
And of course, there were worlds within worlds to be discovered, as well!
All I knew was that there was lots to be uncovered in this world
and that I would never suffer from a lack of things to be fascinated by.
It was obvious I had to get busy!
So, when the aforementioned geography assignment was issued,
I tried for days to decide on a country.
I agonized over the list of nations, large and small, obscure and renowned.
Each new country was more compelling than the last.
I may as well have entered the portal of an M.C. Escher illustration.
I wandered through every figurative doorway I could find until finally,
I had to give up and choose them all.
And then, just for curiosity’s sake, I would draw special attention to all
the tiny nations that none of my classmates had heard of, such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, the aforementioned smuggler’s haven and the like.
I hurled myself into the project with characteristic determination.
I abandoned every friend, every childish pursuit while my work was undone.
Somehow, at the outset, I hadn’t fully realized how many countries there were in the whole wide world.
I grew terrified as the list grew longer and my deadline loomed.
I buried myself in encyclopedias and attacked the mountains of information they contained, always trying to move beyond the dull facts and ferret out
the outlandish, the peculiar, the mysterious.
The assignment was obviously spiraling out of control, but it seemed I had no choice but to conjure up enough energy to call it done.
To add to the mayhem, there was the additional component of making
a topographical map of your country. ( I think we made them out of salt and flour and warm water and painted them with food coloring )
I was figuring out how to recreate the world within the confines of my mom’s oven.
The world was flat in those days...
I know, because it took four of us to carry it in to the school.
I was not to be entrusted with that part in my exhausted state, but I remember mother-henning it to its final resting place.
I’m sure the last days were a blur and caused my mother no small concern.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, this was a harbinger of things to come…
I had experienced my first taste of the agony and exhilaration of attempting the ridiculous.
The die was cast.