While not intended as a discourse on fear, that is unquestionably where this recollection must begin. As a very small child I was afraid of Sid & Arliss George. It warrants mention here, however, that at that age I was also afraid of chickens, deviled ham, and the color green. I’m proud to report that chickens no longer intimidate me; provided they’re packaged properly and well short of their suggested purchase date.
To be honest, my early reaction to Sid & Arliss wasn’t actually so much “Fear”, but rather a “Raging Healthy Respect”. My apprehension around Sid was natural and easily explained. Sid, like my father, seemed to possess a very quiet and reserved nature. In my limited experience it seemed that my father had little use for language except to orally assassinate pesky shoe salesmen. After witnessing one of those episodes I, quite frankly, didn’t wish to be the reason for either Dad, or Sid, to find it necessary to speak.
Arliss, on the other hand, was more verbal. Which is a bit like saying Michelangelo dabbled in oils. She always gave advance warning of her arrival; much like a rattler alerts its potential victim, preferring to avoid the altercation altogether, but attacking if need be. Of course, a rattler’s poison can also be used to save lives and I was relieved to find, in later years, that Arliss’s venom was of a more antidotal persuasion.
Throughout the many thousands of fragmented memories I carry of the George household, from peering at people through the grate in the floor of the upstairs hallway, to the perpetual jigsaw puzzle in the big room past the living room before you got to the kitchen (I don’t even know what that room was called), there remains one common thread in all of our activities.
Of Karen, Gayle and Vicki, Vicki was closest to my age as a child. Of course, they’re all several years older than I am now, but as children, no matter what game we set out to play, we always wound up playing house. Even when Gayle’s godfather, Emil, would visit in the fall and we had all taken several turns jumping in the leaves he had raked, before they were burned they always became dividers and walls for someone’s dream home. And though the oxygen and acetylene bottles in the back of Sid and Arliss’s plumbing supply store would start out as blockades to a fort, complete with ammo and bombs with which to disable the enemy, invariably, (deep breath) sometime during the afternoon they would transform themselves into a parlor and formal dining room where I would sit sipping imaginary tea at an empty refrigerator box which prior to becoming the dining room table had served me well as a tunnel to escape my pursuers (usually Vicki with a book of paper dolls and scissors. And it wasn’t the scissors that I feared. At that early stage of my development she could wreak more havoc on my manhood with the paper dolls).
As I look back I cannot fathom that sultans or kings could ever hope to live in houses as magnificent as those we created from a simple pile of leaves, some abandoned appliance containers, and our imaginations. But, I know for certain that my own home is made more splendid with my reminiscences of time spent in the George household.