Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Husband: Larry the Lemur

My wife has been literally too tired to blog for over a week now, so I’m going to step in in her absence and give you all what you really want: a random story from my childhood. I apologize in advance, because this pregnancy blog post has seemingly nothing to do with pregnancy until the very end...although having a kid sure makes you think about your childhood an awful lot, and that’s where most of this is coming from.

This particular story actually involves another story which was written by a 10-year-old, bowl-cut version of my current self. As with most 10-year-olds, I had spent the previous seven years of my life fine-tuning my Saturday morning routine. By age 10, I had it down to the second. For the other six days of the week, I may have been a typically messy and hyper kid, but on Saturday mornings, I was a fine-tuned machine.

7:46 a.m. – Wake up, literally leap out of bed, sprint down the hall to the stairs and take 3 steps at a time to get down to the kitchen. Did this with total disregard to the fact that I was wearing nothing but tighty-whities. Maybe by age 10, my parents had instilled enough sense in me to at least put a shirt on, but I can’t really remember.
7:46 a.m. (6 seconds later) – Pour first bowl of sugar lumps cereal for pre-breakfast meal. Preferably Apple Jacks...Froot Loops, Honeycomb and Corn Pops would also suffice, but were always met with a slight twinge of disappointment. Frosted Flakes were a major fail, and Cheerios…ugh. No self-respecting kid would be caught eating any cereal that was less than 65% sugar.
7:52 a.m. – After downing first bowl of cereal, tip bowl up and savor the sweet, sugary, lukewarm goodness that is the milk dregs of cereal.
7:53 a.m. – Pour second bowl of cereal. Not too full because it had to make it back up the stairs to the cartoon sanctuary that was the bonus room.
7:55 a.m. Turn on the TV. Watch the end of whatever crappy cartoon they ran that early in the morning (Pippi Longstocking was sheer torture, even for 2 minutes). Usually my brother Zack joined me at some point, but I can’t quite recall when (see below).
8:00 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Pure cartoon-filled, sugar-high-enhanced bliss for any 10-year-old (or 6-year-old in the case of Zack). At one point in my life, the morning started out with SilverHawks, which is one of the most underrated cartoons of ALL-TIME. Always SilverHawks until they canceled it (one of the saddest Saturdays of my life). Then it was on to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Ghostbusters, Masters of the Universe (He-Man to everyone else in the world), G.I. Joe, and other lesser heralded favorites such as C.O.P.S., Camp Candy and Captain N: The Game Master. 
He-Man should have used the Power of Grayskull to
remove the last six words of his show's title.
None of this has anything to do with what I originally started writing about, except this: TV execs are brilliant. They knew that for those three hours every Saturday, television sets had the attention of every kid in America. I can attest because I don’t remember ANYTHING about Saturday mornings except the cartoons. I can go on for hours listing my favorites. Can I tell you what my parents did every morning? No. What time my brother got up? No. When and if I ever put on pants? No.

I am now convinced that during a typical 30-minute cartoon spot, only about 12 minutes of that was actual cartoon. The rest was filled with toy commercials, ads for other shows (which always looked epic) and station identification disguised as other cartoons (tell me you don’t remember these).

At some point, they started sneaking in educational shorts during commercials. THEY TRIED TO TEACH KIDS ON A SATURDAY. It worked. I was helpless. Blindsided. Never saw it coming. I will never forget the first time I saw the 2-minute spot telling me about the magical land of Madagascar and the fascinating, but endangered monkeys that lived there: ring-tailed lemurs. 

Raccoon + Monkey = Awesome.

Yes, it seemed like the premise of yet another poorly scripted, even more poorly dialogued cartoon. But it was real. Lemurs were AWESOME. I became obsessed. My goal in life from ages 10-12 was to either own a lemur or move to Madagascar and save them from the forest fires that were ravaging their homeland.

This, 700 words later, brings me to the point.

The cereal-fueled, cartoon-zombified 10-year-old that you’ve just come to know won a writing contest. The biggest writing contest that Springfield Elementary School had to offer. I still have the trophy and the original manuscript. Entries from the entire fifth grade were voted on by other fifth graders in Mr. Schantz’ 5-6 class. Had the teachers been in charge of the contest, they probably would have chosen something with a little more…“substance.”

Remember how I said I was obsessed with lemurs? Guess what I wrote about. Below you will find my essay, entitled Larry the Lemur. It may not have a plot, a conclusion, paragraphs or “any coherent theme,” but it does have one of the greatest characters of all-time.

Larry The Lemur
By Chris Cook
Mrs. Eager
Fifth Grade

A wild animal I would like to have
as a pet would be a ring-tailed lemur.
I would name him Larry the Lemur.
He would swing from lamp to lamp,
jump out the window, and land in a tree,
but he would be trained to come
back. He would eat fruit, meat, spagetiO’s
and drink orange juice. He would live in
my room in a box with a matress
and a little comforter. He would wake me
up in the morning by jumping around in my
room listening to rock music, and watching
MTV. I would teach him how to do
Math, spelling, Wordly Wise, science and
health so he could do my homework
for me. At the end of the day, we
would sit down, eat spagetiO’s, drink orange
juice and watch “The Simpsons.”

Thank my parents for saving this.

I probably wrote that in four minutes. I didn't quite meet the one-page limit, so I used the extra space to draw a picture of a couch. That's where Larry and I would sit every afternoon to catch up over a steaming bowl of Spaghetti-O’s (Mrs. Eager actually took points off because I didn’t spell that right. Twice.).

Sadly, fifth grade was the last year my illustrations counted toward the page limit.

Why in the hell did I tell you all of this? Because with the help of my wife/co-author, I have tapped into the part of my brain where Larry the Lemur once lived. Since we got our dog Oscar four years ago, we have come up with a ton of stories about him that we’ve started writing down so we can share them with little Susan/Charlie. Seriously, we have at least 20. Oscar has friends. They go on adventures. He learns lessons.

Since we’ll be telling these to a kid, we can be as goofy as we want. It’s very, very fun to do together. Some of you are undoubtedly sitting there thinking how weird it is that two grown people sit around and make up stories about their dog. Well, to you people, I say this: if I was worried about people thinking I was weird for wanting a lemur when I was 10 years old, I wouldn’t have this sweet trophy.

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