11-year-old me on why ancient man steered clear of Office Depot


Word is we had a lunar eclipse down our way early this morning. The event offered me an opportunity to recall how utterly obtuse I was 40 years or so ago.

Last night, as I dropped my girls off at their mother’s house, we discussed the eclipse. They explained how they were considering getting up around 5 a.m. to view the unusual celestial occurrence. They had a basic understanding of what caused the event and were excited to see it.

As I drove home, I recalled that when I was the age of my youngest daughter, 11, I not only didn’t understand what an eclipse was, I was utterly unfamiliar with the word. As evidence, I can recall the first time I heard about the concept of an eclipse.

My mother was attempting to explain that people can be afraid of that which they do not understand and was describing how ancient societies were often very superstitious and fearful of rare phenomena. Among things that confused and frightened prehistoric people, she explained, were eclipses.

As I was unacquainted with the word, and not a particularly bright 11-year old, my ears only caught the second part of the word, “clips,” and my mind immediately wandered to “paper clips.”

With an ignorant arrogance not unknown among 11-year-old boys, I immediately thought, “Wow, what a bunch of morons – afraid of paper clips! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Mind you, I wasn’t confident enough in this anthropological assessment to voice this view to my mother; I simply sat there in smug, silent awe that a group of people could be afraid of office supplies.

Sure, paper clips could be exasperating when they got all looped together, and they could cause some really agony if the end of one got under a fingernail, but any society that was afraid of paper clips must have been a pretty pathetic one, I reasoned.

Looking back, I don’t know at what point I finally learned what an eclipse actually was, or at what point I realized what it was my mother had been talking about, but some years later I made the connection that I’d been off base – way off base.

Needless to say, my girls – who are a bit wiser and certainly more intuitive than their father was at their age – always get a chuckle out of that story. And there’s certainly no shortage of similar tales for me to regale them with. I guess that’s one of the few benefits of having been a dense kid.

(Top: Lunar eclipse seen earlier this year. Not pictured: Paper clip.)

8 thoughts on “11-year-old me on why ancient man steered clear of Office Depot

  1. so funny and i think our kids love it when when we share our weak points, it makes us more human and they can feel better about their own challenges. )

  2. As the late blooming father of a 10 year old boy, I feel your pain (and the joys that go with the job). I dread the day when he realizes I am not the fount of all wisdom and the coolest guy he knows.

    • I am reminded of Mark Twain, who once wrote:“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

      Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing and that bond will always be there.

  3. Late bloomer! I have another word in mind but I won’t say it here. Forgive me, CBC, but having read your posts here for several months, I am having difficulty reconciling you with your 11 year old Rosanna Rosannadanna self.

    My dad used to say to me something along the lines of the Mark Twain quote. “I know I’m appallingly stupid now, but you are going to be astonished at how smart I am when you are in your 20s.”

    • I appreciate your kind words, Onoir, but I was amazingly dense at times – and still can be.

      My love of learning may have always been there but early on it was more focused on baseball and fishing rather than more erudite pursuits. I still love baseball and fishing but have a more balanced life today. 😉

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