A brief list of things I did not understand when I was a kid

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By BEN R. WILLIAMS

When I was a kid, I once saw my grandpa and my cousin Jerry hanging out in the old shed and drinking from a Mason jar full of clear liquid. When they took a sip, they shuddered. I was a stealthy child and they didn’t see me approach until it was too late. When I asked them what they were drinking, my grandpa told me they were drinking “mineral water.” I didn’t ask for any, and for years after, I thought mineral water tasted terrible.

When I was a kid, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would tell them I wanted to be a mad scientist. In retrospect, I regret not pursuing this dream, but while my willingness to descend into madness was there, my math skills were not. I probably could have created some great unholy abominations, though.

When I was a kid, I noticed that life jackets were usually bright orange or bright yellow. I didn’t realize that they allowed you to float, so I assumed that the bright colors just made it easier to recover your body if you fell in the lake. I was often nervous on boats.

When I was a kid, my grandpa was telling me a story about his experiences fighting on the European front in World War II. When he got to a certain point in the story, he told me that he shouldn’t go on because it would be too much for me. At the time, I assumed he saw a flying saucer in France and he didn’t want to tell me about it because he knew I was afraid of being abducted by aliens.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of being abducted by aliens. Now I’m afraid I won’t be.

When I was a kid and my dad was getting ready for work, he sometimes talked about having to deal with “miscellaneous docket” at the courthouse. I always thought he was saying “Ms. Elanias Docket,” and I assumed she was some troubled lady who was perpetually on the wrong side of the law.

When I was a kid, I thought that the 1990 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie was good.

When I was a kid, I heard something about how the poet Sylvia Plath had taken her own life by “sticking her head in the oven.” I didn’t know anything about gas ovens and carbon monoxide poisoning, so I just assumed she turned the heat on high and stuck her head in there until it was cooked like a honey-baked ham. This struck me as a pretty hardcore way to go out.

When I was a kid, I assumed that when you turned 21, a switch flipped in your brain and you suddenly became an Adult. You instantly knew how to do taxes and book a flight and you started enjoying the opera. I later realized I was wildly incorrect on all fronts.

When I was a kid, I knew that Santa’s elves made all the toys for Santa, and since I usually asked for a video game for Christmas, it made sense that the elves also programmed video games. It logically followed, then, that I could ask Santa for a bespoke video game. This led me to ask for a copy of Super Mario Bros. 4 for Christmas, a video game which did not actually exist. As you might imagine, this created quite the challenge for my parents.

When I was a kid, my grandpa was watching a show about World War II on PBS. There was a scene with a bunch of marching Nazis. My grandpa told me that those were the people he fought in the war and they took his leg. The TV didn’t get great reception and I was about five years old and didn’t understand who the Nazis were, so for some reason, I thought they were pirates. It made sense to me that pirates would have stolen my grandpa’s leg, since so many of them had peg legs and they were probably looking for replacement legs.

When I was a kid, I thought that the older people got, the wiser they became. This is probably the most embarrassing one.