In days long past, people knew, by the time a child was around five or six, whether or not the kid had all its marbles in the right places. Imagine, continuing the marble thread, the normal ones’ brains looked like a neatly set up game of Chinese checkers. Each marble precisely placed in its appointed spot. And such a child followed the rules, did what they were told.
Remember that old game, Mouse Trap? The one that looked like a Rube Goldberg contraption? (If you haven’t heard of him, Google him. So much fun.) Levers, flippers, scoops, and raceways had marbles flying everywhere. The child whose brain did that didn’t fit in very well. They disobeyed and explored forbidden places and thoughts. Were they geniuses or just idiots?
Depending on the village culture, the ones with the flying marbles didn’t fit in. If they were simple-minded, but could be relied upon to complete easy tasks, they were trained to do so. If they were a danger to others, too much of a burden, or just scared the townspeople because of their differences, they were disappeared.
Yup. You heard me. Oh, no one spoke about it. There are veiled references to such things in historical records, but stories survived about disabled or deformed newborns being left out in the woods for the wolves. Babies with problems were bad omens. Whacky behavior was a sign of stupidity. A child who couldn’t speak made it to the age of six, but constantly pointed at the sky and screamed. Along came a period of non-stop rain that killed all the crops, and subsequently, most the animals. Poor kid got blamed as being an evil spirit who brought the disaster. Yeah, he didn’t survive. That was from an arcane entry in a church record.
Seems barbaric, doesn’t it? Ah, but it turns out, during most of human history, we’ve rejected anyone who was differently abled. More modern times brought ways of locking away the disabled-from-birth kids, but they were still out of sight.
Unless, of course, you were rich or powerful. It’s the same old story. People haven’t changed. If you were a member of what my one son calls the lucky sperm club, your chances of survival were way better.
Okay, okay. I get it. So far, this is so not funny. See, I’m here to make sure you realize how good you’ve got it. It all makes me especially happy that my siblings and I were born in the twentieth century. I hate to think of how those middle ages villagers would have treated my siblings and me. We exhibited some pretty dopey behavior, and we weren’t rich. So . . .
We had a neighbor, who, I’m quite sure, wanted all six of us taken away somewhere. Anywhere. Had she been the head of an ancient village, my siblings and I would’ve been disappeared, for sure. Her children behaved with decorum. They didn’t roll in the mud. They didn’t race bicycles downhill with no hands. They never fell out of trees. We were loud and boisterous. We made messy mud and leaf sandwiches in our pretend deli on the side porch and tried to sell them. Once, after witnessing my brother chasing my screaming sister around the yard—he was attempting to hit a bee, that had apparently decided it loved her, by whipping a rope at her as they ran—our neighbor ranted at my mother but good about her disgraceful progeny.
That brother is now a Ph.D. So, I wonder how many children, how many incredibly smart people, were discarded on the cutting-room floor of human history? I have to believe those villagers of old would’ve definitely left us in the woods.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.