You see, growing up in my neighborhood in Homewood (which is a suburb of Birmingham), Alabama – this was a normal daily ritual played out by parents and kids everywhere. You could forget about having one of your friends impersonating you when responding to their call because, almost magically it seemed, each parent knew if it was their kid’s voice or not. But what made this particular day different from the rest, were a set of circumstances now set in motion…that could never be reversed.
It was around 1974 and I was 9 years old. I had a very big imagination which never failed to keep me entertained, even when no one else was around. I didn’t have an imaginary friend, per say, but the dreams and ideas that came into my mind felt like one. For name’s sake we will call this powerful force – My Shadow. It didn’t matter where I went or what was going on, my shadow was always with me, taking even the smallest and most insignificant of things and turning them into grand adventures yet to be had! Yes, my shadow and I had already had many quests, but today I would come face to face with finding out that my shadow could get me into some kind of trouble!
Let me back up a bit and tell you the whole story:
I LOVED television. In my opinion it was one of the greatest things invented – second only to a kickball or skateboard. I had an entire lineup of television that I watched, all of which provided us with endless hours of imagination and enjoyment. A couple of my all time favorite shows included: Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Oh but for the countless hours I tried to make things happen by wiggling my nose, making up spells or crossing my arms and bowing my head forward quickly with eyes closed, like they did. But it was to no avail – I never made one thing move, or disappear or turn into a dog. But then a new show came out and to my shadow and I, it appeared to offer the first REAL possibility of actually bringing out of the TV something cool and making it happen!
Yep, once a week you could be certain to find me sitting in our living room, glued to the television set and waiting for one of my most favorite shows to begin – The Six Million Dollar Man! That show could light me and my shadow up for a whole week of thrilling ventures until it would again be time to watch the next show! There were a few reasons that I liked it so much and they were: (1) I had had a crush on Lee Majors (I always had a crush on someone) (2) He had abilities that the average person didn’t have because he was bionic and (3) Due to this, he got to have incredible exploits! For the first time I realized that THIS was actually possible! ~ It was also at this moment that my shadow began working diligently on a solution.
Arriving to school it was one of my favorite days – hearing test day. I loved it so much because on the days of testing kids would be in and out of the room all day, so rather than our regular work we got to do fun things like art. My maiden name, Tackett, always meant that I was one of the last people to go for testing, which was perfectly fine with me; it just meant more time to play. On this day however, it also allowed more time for my shadow to continue seeking out the perfect solution to make us bionic so that we could begin the exciting journey we so desperately wanted to go on. And then it happened, a fully formed idea was born…it was the perfect solution!
“Rebecca Tackett,” the woman at the door called, “come on honey, it’s your turn to get tested.” My heart was just about to pound out of my chest with the insurmountable level of adrenaline caused by the anticipation of pulling off the greatest plan my shadow had EVER come up with ~ fake the hearing test! You see, my shadow remembered something that day that I had forgotten all about: a devise that could transform my life from that of a normal, run-of-the-mill kid into that of a super kid with incredible powers. It was a devise called a hearing aid. How could I have overlooked this potential the previous year? I laughed at the oversight and chalked it up to the immaturity of a third grader. Now I was mere minutes away from becoming…BIONIC! All that stood before me was the challenge of pulling off the greatest dramatic role of my entire life.
The upcoming challenge, although daunting, wasn’t such a hard task in my mind. I mean I had a track record of rather enthralling theatrical performances to include: running a fever (with the actual spike in temperature); stomach aches; nausea (vomit included) and of course the creme de la crème ~ the self induced asthma attack. So although hearing loss was uncharted territory, I quickly deduced that it would only require a fine balance of just enough hearing loss so as to obtain the “bionic ear,” but not so much that I would have to go to a special school or anything.
I entered the room and was seated inside the booth. The man performing the testing instructed me to put the head phones on my head and that every time I heard a beep, to raise my hand into the air so as to indicate which ear I was hearing the sound in. “Easy enough,” I thought to myself. Initially there were extremely faint sounds going back and forth between my left and right ears – all of which my shadow and I knew to ignore; so I simply stared blankly at the wall. Gradually the sound increased as I continued to sit and stare. We realized that for this to be authentic it would be imperative to not appear too bad off. So with the next beep (which was in my right ear), I tilted my head ever so slightly to the right – as to indicate straining to capture what I thought I might have heard. The sound continued to get louder and I then began to lift my arm, but to add that extra splash of drama, on some of the beeps I would begin to raise my arm…hesitate…then raise it the rest of the way. I felt my performance to be nothing short of utter genius!
When the test was over the man was very kind, gave me a sucker and I was escorted back to my classroom. I was filled with jubilation because the at long last the adventure had begun! Soon after this my mom took me to a hearing specialist – to which my shadow and I put on the same performance, but now with even more confidence. I could just feel how close I was to obtaining that magical bionic hearing. My shadow and I lay in the bed endless hours thinking of all the ways it could be used. For instance, I could hear what my mom and dad said, even if the doors were shut. I could hear what the teacher and principle was saying when I was in trouble for something. We could even crawl up into a tall tree and perhaps hear blocks or even MILES away! The exhilaration was unbearable!
One day my mom sat me down and explained to me that I was going to have to go into the hospital so that they could perhaps find what was causing my problems. OH – this was just too good to be true!! I was admitted and all the tests were run. I was then released to come home – my parents awaiting the outcome and I was awaiting the bionic ear. This brings me back to the beginning of my story; on that day when my mom yelled out for me, I was about a block away. She had called me out of habit and I had answered out of habit. Slowly she of course coming to the shocking realization that my hearing was not impaired and with every step home, I was overcome with the realization that my cover had just been blown. Approaching the yard I saw my mother…Funny the things you remember; I didn’t even know a face could get that red or that so MANY veins even existed in the face.
Well, needless to say, you can probably figure out what happened next. Let’s just say my mom wasn’t a subscriber to the new line of thinking where parents didn’t discipline their kids. It turned out my mom had a bionic arm! I on the other hand found myself, when all was said an done, in my room, just me and my shadow with all hopes of bionic hearing gone and realizing that perhaps I had taken things a bit too far.
As I lay on my bed that night I thought, “Next time it’ll be different.” As a recovering alcoholic of course, the next time rarely changed, but usually ended up to be an adventure of some sort! My shadow has been tamed a good bit, but I can honestly say that given enough room and left unchecked, who knows what could happen!
© 2011-2013 Rebecca Balko