Childhood Stupidity

Illustration by Mary Shepard

Childhood summers are a melange of bountiful confectionaries, endless days, countless friends, and absolute freedom. The combination of parental obliviousness and overactive imaginations creates a summer ripe for adventure.

Armed with this freedom and joie de vivre, children view each day as an opportunity to engage in the impossible. Impulsivity, blind faith and utter stupidity runs rampant as logic and reasoning lie dormant.

My moment of stupidity, my pièce de résistance, began with a pink umbrella and a windy day.


Speaking up to make its presence known, the wind first tempted me with its gentle whisper, then lured me in with its whistle, and finally hooked me as it crescendoed into a blustery display of intrigue.

Running outside to test its intentions, I turned to face the wind head on and leaned into its arms, trusting it would catch me and gently set me upright. I was not disappointed. With the wind’s permission, the time was perfect. Now, all I needed was my umbrella.

Racing back into the house with the door slamming behind me, I rushed past my younger sister who was glued to the television and my mom who, as usual, was lost in her book. Neither glanced up.

Frantically, I rummaged through my closet in search of my umbrella. I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. One thing after another was tossed behind me. I fought the urge to renew my interest in items that had long since been forgotten. As the pile on the outside of the closet grew bigger than the pile on the inside of the closet, I started to panic. What if the wind was getting tired of waiting for me? What if I can’t find my umbrella? 

“Mom, where is my umbrella? You know, the pink one I bought at Disney World.” It had to be the pink umbrella. No other would serve as a substitute. This umbrella contained magic, and magic was what I needed.

I could tell by my mother’s wordless, “I don’t know”, she was not paying attention to the question, nor was she recognizing the urgency of my inquiry. Exasperated, I turned back to the closet, continuing to sift through its contents.

Resignation was nearing, when suddenly, hiding in the corner, peeking out from under a fallen shirt, I caught a glimpse of pink. The umbrella! I snatched it up and raced back outside. Once again, I tested the wind’s intentions, and once again, I was not disappointed as it nudged me upright giving me permission to carry on.

As I headed for the toolshed out back, I contemplated running back to the house to don the necessary accoutrements to ensure my success. After all, I wasn’t sure if it was the person, the clothing, the umbrella or the wind that held the magic. I had the wind and the umbrella, but what if I was overlooking subtle, yet essential components?

My wonderings were put to rest as fast they popped into my head, for the simple reasons that I did not own a pair of black lace-up boots, an English nanny dress, a velveteen hat, nor a carpetbag. The wind and the umbrella were going to have to suffice.

Scrambling up to the roof of the toolshed. I readied myself. Walking carefully to the edge of the roof, I popped open the umbrella, held it high above my head and casually stepped off.

Plummeting towards the earth’s surface, I was reminded of Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole, “Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end!” 

It dawned on me, as I was falling, that I had been duped by the schoolyard bully – catching my attention with his whisper and then luring me in with his blustery temptation, knowing full well the end result.

Down, down, down.” With an uppercut, the bully collapsed my umbrella and was now throwing a combination of punches to secure his success. Slapping my cheeks, bobbing and weaving around me as he threw his jabs and crosses.

Down, down, down.” Mom is going to kill me for breaking the umbrella. Michelle will finally get her own room and won’t have to sneak my clothes anymore. 

“Down, down, down.” Maybe there’s a reason one doesn’t spy people flying about with umbrellas.

“Down, down, down…When suddenly, thump! thump! down [I] came upon a heap of [lumber].” Like a cat, I landed on my feet – good news. The bad news – there was a rusty nail sticking up through the two-by-four resulting in much screaming and general carrying on as I pulled my foot off the nail and hopped towards the house, wailing. 

“What were you thinking?” followed by, “That was stupid,” stumbled from my mother’s lips as she doctored and consoled me. Pain wasn’t the only thing I had to endure on the way to the doctor’s to get my tetanus shot – an awful lot of tisk-tisking had to be tolerated as well my little sister’s laughter at my stupidity and general joy over the fact I had to get a shot.

Hurling an evil glare at my sister, I settled in for the drive and wondered how Mary Poppins would have turned this crisis into a positive one.

I was certainly in need of one of her spoonfuls of sugar. Of course, in the most delightful way!


On that day my childhood dream of flying was laid to rest – another notch in the loss of innocence – dulling my imagination.

I would like to say that my stupidity was also laid to rest as logic and reasoning replaced it, but really it just lay dormant until the next opportunity to engage in the impossible arose.

Some never learn.