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James R. Stout

Skip It. Skip it Good

            The old saying, “It’s the little things that mean a lot” came to mind this morning as I set in my easy chair and watched the birds outside my window. But the birds had nothing to do with a memory that I enjoyed perusing. It was in 1961 and I was 6-years-old. We lived in the south portion of Houston at the time. The area had at one time been a small town known as Genoa. My sister Debbie was in 4th grade and my sister Barbara was in 6th grade at Genoa Elementary. It was an old school building already. I would end up going to 1st grade there, but we moved three weeks shy of the end of my 1st grade year. What I remember best about that school was there were some giant old oak trees behind the school. My 1st grade teacher would occasionally take us out to all sit under one of those trees while she read a story to us. I must admit that this was the only thing that she did as a teacher that was endearing. She was otherwise a very difficult and apparently angry teacher. But that’s for another day.

            The little thing that I remembered this morning happened that fall. My mother took us down to the school where they were giving children the sugar cube vaccine of Dr. Laban’s live virus for polio. It was a big deal as far as parents were concerned. I remember standing in a long line on the circular drive in the front of the school waiting our turn. For my sister Debbie, it was a Godsend to not have to get a vaccine via a shot. She had a fear of needles that bordered the insane! After waiting for some time our turn came. In a very small paper cup, the sugar cube was awaiting us. I remember popping that cube in my mouth, chewing it up, and then a seemingly very little thing came next. But it wasn’t little to me at the time.

            My mother stopped to visit with a neighbor lady and while she visited, I noticed a couple of kids skipping down the circular drive. I had been very envious of my sister’s ability to skip and I just wasn’t able to get the hang of it try as I might. But on that day, I watched as these kids were skipping and I determined myself to conquer skipping. Mom continued to visit, and I was very proud of my brand-new pair of tennis (we called them “tenny”) shoes. Surely these new shoes would help me learn to skip. I started to give it a try and suddenly I was skipping down that circular drive, turning around while skipping, and heading back the way I came. I could skip! I even got cocky about it by skipping as high off the ground as I could. I remember yelling at my mother as I skipped past her, “MOM! I’m skipping!” I have no doubt that the other people who heard my declaration thought something along the lines of, “Poor half-wit kid. Well, at least he’s good at something.

            To her credit, my mother turned and watched as I proudly beamed with joy while skipping down the drive and she said, “That’s good, Randy.” For the next couple of weeks, I skipped everywhere. The sheer joy of skipping down the sidewalk was magical to me. Well, like most things, skipping yielded its place in my life to other achievements.  Things like being tall enough to get my own glass out of the cabinet or reading a Little Golden Book without anyone else to help. I might add that skipping made a very brief return to glory when I was 17-years-old. It was really just a cameo appearance for skipping. My pal, Lonny Schonfeld, and I were in Memorial City Mall one day and after partaking in an Orange Julius we somehow thought that it would be amusing to skip down the mall singing “We’re off to see the wizard”. Again, other people probably thought that we were either on drugs or perhaps possessing a low IQ. But we didn’t care. It just felt good to skip and to enjoy life with a great big grin and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nearly 60 years later I’m wishing that I could skip like that again. As Frank sang, “That’s Life”.

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