At ease in my comfortable lounge chair I was recalling childhood events nearly buried in the dim past. My thoughts paused in their backward journey to a time when I was about four years old and had two unusual companions, Baba and Kikel. As you may gather by their odd names, they were not the usual young children in the neighborhood. Thinking about these companions and subsequently having read some children’s literature, I concluded that they were trolls. Both companions, being small and quick, were adept at concealing themselves from both my parents.
Though I often spoke about them and even referred to them by name, Mom and Dad never believed they were other than two imaginary playmates, a common illusion, they said, of very young boys. Neither of my parents believed my accounts of first-hand experience with the two companions whom I saw, to whom I talked and with whom I played.
Baba was gentle and well mannered. Always at my right hand he advised, even scolded me if necessary, when I did not behave in a right and proper way. If Mom would say to me, “That’s a good boy.” after I had done something that pleased her, I would accept the compliment with a “Thank you.” Then later I would quietly thank Baba for his guidance in the matter. Following Baba’s advice enabled me to be calm and at ease, and often bored.
Quite the opposite from Baba was Kikel. He continually urged me to be more assertive, to be creative and take chances, to be aggressive and find out how far I could go without getting caught. Kikel’s advice was exciting and led me into many exciting adventures. Should an adventure turn to misadventure, I’d confess, “Kikel made me do it!” He was willing to take the credit. Neither Mom nor Dad, though, was ever of a mind to pay attention to the real culprit. Not Kikel but I received such discipline as was judged appropriate to the particular misadventure.
A long remembered adventure turned misadventure was that of the peach tree incident. In the backyard of the house on Seventh Street in which my family and I lived were three cherry trees for which I developed a strong dislike. From one of the trees, Dad would take a small, single branch and use it for a switch when he decided the occasion demanded it. Applied to my bare legs, gently, he claimed, it stung. Though I managed to avoid crying out, tears nevertheless came to my eyes. The application hurt. Neither my Dad nor I were ever happy over such occasions. Kikel never came to my side to console me even though he was to blame for the actions leading to my discomfort. These remarks about the cherry tree switches explain the role one such switch played in the peach tree incident.
Adjoining the backyard of the house in which I lived was the backyard of Charlie Jones, our once friendly neighbor. In the middle of his backyard was a great peach tree. At the time of which I write, the tree was in full bloom, loaded with the most beautiful and appetizing peaches you could imagine. I could not help lusting, if a four-year-old can lust, after some of those peaches. Dad had anticipated my desire and warned me that to climb the fence separating our yards, enter Charlie’s yard, and steal a peach would result in application of the cherry tree switch. Furthermore, he would forbid me to ever again enter Charlie’s backyard.
Baba counseled me, “Jack do what your Dad said. If you just ask Charlie Jones for a peach, I bet that he’ll be happy to give you one. Besides, that’s the right thing to do.”
Kikel, however, had a more adventurous suggestion, “In the evening when it starts gettin’ dark,” he said, “ climb over the fence while your folks and Charlie are in their houses. Then, carefully lookin’ about, quietly tip-toe to the peach tree and pick not one but two of those tasty-lookin’ peaches.
“Then what do I do?” I asked, as though I didn’t know. Kikel obliged by continuing, “Havin’ the two peaches in your hands, turn and run to the fence and climb over it as quick as you can back to your own back yard.” “Why two peaches?” I asked. “Let me finish.” said Kiel. “ Then sit down and share the peaches with me. They’ll really taste good. Stolen peaches, ‘specially when shared secretly, always taste better than them what is just given you.”
Taking Kikel’s advice, I did like he said: climbed over the fence, picked not one, but two peaches, and climbed back over the fence. What Kikel didn’t tell me was that Dad would be there to greet me! What happened then was very unpleasant. Dad applied a cherry-tree-switch, this time vigorously. Then he made me eat one of the peaches. The one with the worm in it he let me throw away. The one I had to eat was mushy, over-ripe and left a bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t keep it down.
Later that week, Charlie put a mean old dog, named Fang, in his backyard to discourage further intrusions to his peach tree. I never was able to make friends with Fang. Neither Baba nor Kikel had any interest in doing so.
One year later, Mom took me to kindergarten and a new vista opened before me. After the first week of school, Baba and Kikel just left me. I have a feeling, though, that while they may not return, I’ll hear about them.