Hey kid, you losing your marbles?



Indulge me here  for a bit.

Yesterday was a day of shooting photos, but not for the blog.  The staff of the chancery, including your’s truly, spent the day on retreat at the Abbey of St. Walburga, home to a group of hardworking cloistered Benedictine nuns in northern Colorado.  I shot pictures of the staff during the retreat, but they don’t really count for this blog.  Today was filled with time-sensitive work that demanded my full attention, and I have not gotten the camera out of my bag.  No shots of any kind tonight.

Last night I came home quite tired, as prayer and retreats, while spiritually energizing, can be physically exhausting.  Sherry knew I wasn’t up to doing too much, so we walked to the basement to make some decisions about lightening our load, i.e., getting rid of some of the stuff we have accumulated over the last 36 years.

She pushed to the front an old army ammo box that I got from my brother when he was in the army in the early 60s.  She opened it up to find some 20 gauge shotgun shells, for a gun which I no longer own; a box of BBs for – hold on –  a BB gun; one of my Dad’s old fishing knives; a mold for making bullets for a black powder rifle; and a small brown paper bag.  Sherry asked what was in the bag, and I had no idea.  Opening it revealed a slice of my childhood that I thought was long gone.


This picture, taken on my phone, was my marble collection, or at least what is left of it, from my grade school days at St. John’s school in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I’m 58 years old, and I attended St. Johns between the ages of 6 and 14.  These are old.

There’s quite a variety of marbles here.  Cateyes, puries, and the coveted steelies.  There are also a few smaller blue marbles from an old Chinese Checkers game.  These were my pride and joy when I was 8 years old, and they went to school with me every day, where I would join my buddies on the playground and shoot marbles at recess and lunchtime.

The playground was essentially an asphalt parking lot. No playground equipment except the footballs and basketballs we brought from home, or the jump ropes the girls brought.  And the marbles.

When the bell rang for recess, we would run outside and gather in a small bunch, deciding where we were going to play and what we were going to play.  Some days what we played was pretty much marble golf, where we had to put the marble in a small hole in the asphalt.  The first player up used his thumb in a flipper motion to propel the marble towards the hole.  All the rules escape me now, but I do remember that the second player could use his marble to knock the first player’s marble out of range.  We took shots from our knees, with our faces against the blacktop, one eye closed for aiming while our tongues hung out the sides of our mouths.

Rolling little glass marbles along the rocky asphalt of the playground, banging into other glass and steel marbles, roughed up the surface of the marble pretty good.  A close look at the solid blue marble towards the bottom of the picture shows a pitted surface, as this was my go-to weapon of choice.  Sometimes, when we were feeling really large, we’d play for “keeps.”  If I won, I got to keep my opponent’s marbles.  That blue pitted purie (so called because it was just translucent glass, no cat eye) won a lot of marbles back in the day.  Hence, the pits.

One vivid memory of my marbles sticks with me to this day, and I have shared this many times over the years.  I walked to school every day, as did all five of my siblings over the years.  It was only six blocks, and I found it to be a great time to imagine all kinds of adventures, to stop at Vogel’s Bakery for a doughnut, or just to skip along to and from school.  One day I was returning to school after going home for lunch.  I had my marble bag in my hand and was concentrating on them, probably thinking about the next game.  Out of nowhere, the sidewalk rose up to catch my foot and I did a face-plant on the concrete.  The momentum of the fall forced the marble bag out of my hands and onto the ground, opening the bag and scattering the marbles all over the sidewalk.  An older boy was sitting on the steps of a house across the street and witnessed the whole thing.  While I was lying on ground assessing what had just happened, he yelled out “Hey kid! You losing your marbles?”

I’m laughing about that right now.  Funniest thing I ever heard, and I was only 8 years old.


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