Thursday, April 26, 2007

Childhood Memories

I discovered Sea Monkeys via comic books, as did many before me and even some after me. I did not exactly experience the golden age of comics. My friends and brothers didn't read them and in the seventies all the ads seemed horribly out of date. This anachronistic quality may have been what I liked best. The comic books were my time machine to an era of x-ray specs, Captain O greeting cards that I could sell to earn prizes and best of all, instant pets called sea monkeys. And I didn't care if some of the things were scams. I loved them anyway. If they could fool me, I could in turn fool my friends with my tricks from an ancient, forgotten civilization.

My mom did not want me having sea monkeys. First she explained that they didn't look like the pictures. I told her that I knew, of course, that they didn't look like the pictures, but um, how much did they not look like the pictures? Did they have tails? Could they grab things?

Mom said they were just bugs. This did not dissuade me. Next she argued that our neighbor Robbie had had sea monkeys and they were TOO successful, having babies all the time. She described a Trouble with Tribbles scenario with Robbie's mom having to get more and more tanks. This wasn't a good strategy for mom to take. I loved the idea of these things breeding out of control. It sounded like a cottage industry to me. I'd sell amazing live pet sea monkeys. And Robbie was, to my young mind, the coolest kid around. If he'd had amazing pet sea monkeys than they were most definitely the thing to have. I wasn't giving up.

My uncle Joe gave me my first tropical aquarium around this time (another hobby that would last me the rest of my life.) Maybe the adults thought this would distract me from my sea monkey mania. No way. Fish were cool and all, but they didn't exist in a state of suspended animation and come back instantly when water was added. They weren't born with one eye only to develop two additional eyes later, becoming three eyed freaks and then eventually lose the third eye that they started with. And they weren't tiny. The tank did not distract me for long.

When Sea Monkeys appeared in our local toy store mom just had to give up. Actually holding the little tank with the magical packets inside sent my need to create life into overdrive. I got my first set of Instant Life.

The next, ultimately insurmountable obstacle was the frequently inconvenient fact that I have four brothers. The three who are older than me made fun of my sea monkeys endlessly, so sure were they that I'd been scammed.

Never mind them. Bottled water wasn't yet available at every corner store like it is today so I boiled some water and left it to cool overnight. I rushed to school, through school and back home, my thoughts forever on the new pets I would have in mere minutes. I poured in my water, added my water purifier and... waited some more. Another day of being preoccupied with dreams of aquatic simians and then, the big moment. I added Packet #2! I stirred, and...
well, um, not much was going on. But I'd read the book, I knew they'd be hard to see. I moved the tank next to a lamp, made myself comfortable and after long minutes of scanning the tank, I finally saw a tiny white dot moving in an erratic pattern. Once I focused on this little dot, I was able to see more, many more.

I was ecstatic. I tore through the house sharing the news the way a new father might. And my brothers looked at my tank of water, called me a moron and went about their business. I did manage to convince my little brother James to take a better look, but peer pressure got the best of him and he insisted he saw nothing, which may very well have been the case.

I followed the instructions in the book carefully and my little pets grew. My siblings continued pretending I was imagining the little critters swimming around in my plastic tank with it's magnifying bubbles. My grandmother was visiting and she told me I'd been scammed and that my tank had bits of paper floating around in it. This started the teasing all over again. So, I enjoyed by myself the sea monkeys doing "Tricks" when taken from the dark into the light. I read the tiny book that came with them over and over and I jumped for joy when I actually saw my pets mating. New babies would be on the way!

Each of my brothers came around eventually, but only in private. I'd be approached, they'd check out my tank and later that same night it would all be denied and I'd again be accused of raising small pieces of paper. I didn't let it bother me. I was too excited at the prospect of Sea Monkey babies.

I rushed home every day to check on my pets, squinting and putting the tank on the sunny windowsill, watching for babies. And then, one day, I came home to find my tank very, very green. Packet #3, Sea Monkey Growth Food sat, almost empty, next to it. My little brother had apparently decided to help me raise my little bits of paper. He never admitted to it, and I never forgave him, until yesterday, but I'm not telling him that.


Brian said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I wish I could remember my first tank. I did grow up in the 70s (born in 1967) so I remember the ads very well. I was a comic book fanatic. I don't remember when I got my first tank but I do recall the blue/white owners' manual and the yellow feeding spoon. Great memories!

KLJ said...

I absolutely loved that owner's manual, reading it time and time again.