Saturday, November 27, 2004

Wingding Explained

For reasons that defy explanation, Argotnaut's sister (the good Doctor Lizardo) has asked that I explain "Wingding*," an activity my siblings and I enjoyed when I was a kid. Well, who am I to resist the charms of a beautiful woman? I'm only human.

First, some background. I am one of five kids. We average about two years apart in age. I'm the second youngest. If you haven't met us Heckmans, it will be difficult for you to image the tumult of five Heckman kids, all between the ages of five and 15, gathered in one place. The noise level was akin to a thousand gas-powered leaf blowers blasting up the asses of a thousand ornery mastodons. (The carnage level was also roughly equivalent).

Anyway, the first floor of the house in which we grew up had a layout similar to a square...there was a sort of central core that contained the stairs to the second floor, as well as closets and the door to the basement. This created a natural racing circuit roughly 20 feet on a side; if one was so inclined, one could run around the central core over and over.

Thus, "Wingding" was born. All five kids would run this circuit one after the other. Understand, this was no game in the usual sense. There was no "winner" as such, as Wingding was not a race, but rather a cruel test of one's survival instincts and reflexes. The object, such as it was, was to sabotage the path of the person running behind you. Just about any obstacle was in play. For example, you might toss a throw rug or towel behind you so that your pursuer would wipe out on the hardwood floors like a drunken Mario Andretti taking a header at Le Mans. Dropping objects in the path -- magazines, toys, the occasional handful of jacks -- was par for the course. The coup de grace, however, was to fling open the door to a closet or to the basement so that the person flying blind around the corner would slam into it face first: FWAM! It was even better if the pursuers plowed into the face-planter as he or she stood stunned and immobilized, staring dazedly at the door as it vibrated from the impact.

Thus, we created own version of the chariot race in Ben Hur, with a nearly equivalent amount of sweat, bloodshed, flying bodies and scar tissue.

It goes without saying that Wingding was played only when our parents were away. It ended only when the final runner stopped running, either for reasons of exhaustion or through attrition. Finally we would hurriedly pick up the discarded tripping hazards, glue or otherwise camouflage broken furniture or decorative items, affix any necessary bandages and tell our parents when they got home that any broken crockery or knick-knacks "just, I don't know, fell off the shelf or something, I guess." I doubt if they were fooled.

Some of my siblings read this blog and I welcome their recollections of any particularly violent and/or hilarious episodes.

* Webster's Dictionary indicates that "wingding" is one word, although in this case, I think "Wing-Ding!!" with two or three exclamation points would be the appropriate spelling.


liz said...

For some reason, it sounds like a colorful holiday activity, although it would perforce be a non-holiday activity considering parental presence.

(I must agree with both the separation of the syllables and the capitalization.)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Devon:
This explanation is frightenly accurate. Luckily, our parents don't read this, although I'm sure nothing we did would surprise them.
However, my loving brother forgot one rather important detail in the "rules." We did this racing in our stocking feet. All the surfaces in our house were either linoleum in the kitchen portion of the "race course" or hardwood floors. Of course, there were throw rugs at strategic locations but they were dispensed with per my brother's description.
I also remember getting very hot and sweaty with all this runnning so we almost always had Wing-Ding!! in the wintertime.
Whenever I'm reminded (like now) of my childhood, I'm grateful to my parents for giving me such fabulous siblings.

Anonymous said...

As the oldest sibling I feel compelled to respond to this inquiry into this sacred (meaning our parents never knew) childhood right of passage (meaning if you survived you would pass into adulthood). While what my brother says is true (carnage and scar tissue included) I must also note the importance of what my sister Devon added. The game was played in stocking feet so the traction was minimal. For those physicists reading the coefficient of friction approx: (0-0.2). I can't in all truthfulness remember how it got started exactly. I do remember how it ended however. One night while racing madly around the course slipping and sliding like we were wearing really cheap hard sole leather shoes on a skating rink and dodging whatever flotsum and jetsom was laying about a funny thing happened. My sister Devon flung open the broom closet door just as our sister Saralen was coming around the corner. WHAM...THUD. The unmistakable sound of someone collapsing onto the floor while "out on their feet". She survived I am happy to say but the game was never quite the same after that. As I recall "stair surfing" took its place.I will let my brother explain this to the audience. I still can't believe our parents left us alone long enough to dream up these games. It was either neglect or a sinister plot to cut down on their overhead. To bad, it failed.

argotnaut said...

I was just thinking what a wonderfully Darwinian game it sounds like.

Now, aren't you people supposed to be talking us into spawning? This doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Devon:
Oh, I don't know about that, Argotnaut. Personally, I believe we showed a lot of imagination. That's the trouble with today's youth -- they can't entertain themselves in creative and memorable ways using just their wits and sharp household implements. As for the spawning part -- just think what a combination you and Frinkenstein could create with your joint creativity, general nuttiness, and flair for the unusual.
And, trust me, you haven't heard ALL the childhood stories. Here's a teaser: Ask Frinkenstein about hide and seek and how he and our older brother would "climb" up the walls in the upstairs hallway until they were in the shadows near the ceiling and then drop on us unsuspecting sisters like spiders.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Devon:
To the good Doctor Lizardo: Aren't you glad you asked?!

Andrew said...

My sister Devon recalls another design feature (or in this case, design flaw) of our childhood home. As I mentioned, the house's central core contained the stairs to the second floor. This created a kind of canyon about four feet wide. If a person were both crazily inventive and also an idiot (a group which includes all Heckmans, my brother and I especially) you could put your left hand and foot on one wall and your right hand and foot on the other wall and shimmy straight up. There was no light in the stairway so the shadows were complete. Steve and I would often wedge ourselves ten feet above the stairs and drop on unsuspecting sisters. Now that I think about it, it was quite acrobatic (and insanely stupid). How did we not break ankles, arms and heads? Oh wait. We did.

As for "stair surfing," I'm afraid I don't remember this, so Steve will have to fill everyone in. Although I wouldn't put it past him to have actually used one of us younger sibilings as a surfboard and "rode" us down the flight of stairs. He is after all, the same brother who would shove my face in the lawn out front and cry "Eat grass piggy piggy!" Ah, childhood memories, how they return in a warm flood despite years of therapy.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Devon.
Stair surfing may have been before your time, little brother. It ended rather upruptly when our Grandma Fern (Dad's mother) carpeted the stairs. Yes, a little white-haired old lady came over and installed the stair rods (are there STILL such things?) and a carpet runner under them as a gift for our Mom. But I digress, [insert snide comment here]-- before the wooden stairs had carpet applied, they were great for "surfing." As I recall, it worked like this: We would place a large stuffed animal at the top of the stairs and ride it down to the bottom on the slick wood. One slight problem with this was that the wall came up rather upruptly at the bottom so you had to make sure you didn't crash and burn at the end of the ride. Now, if you were REALLY talented (like Steve) you could STAND on the stuffed animal while going down the stairs. The stairway was enclosed so that wasn't so dangerous, but the walls were painted with this sandpapery like substance, so if you scraped any body parts, you'd have a severe case of "road rash."
Note to Frinkenstein: I don't recall any broken bones -- concussions, yes; breakage, no.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Steve: I actually used a pillow to "surf" down the stairs. It provided a wider base and when the pillow case material was stretched taut it was quite slick and a faster ride. I only remember trying to stand up once.Trust me when I say that you can't hang ten and "stair surf".Yes, it may have been before Andy's time. To bad, he would have been good at it. Required dementia and all.I didn't recall Grandma Fern's part in the carpetting. Thanks Dev. The climbing the walls skill was ever so much fun,especially,the dropping from above like spiders on our female siblings.I didn't think a human could scream that loud(about a 110Db's I figure). I might add that we never did this when our father worked night shift. (see childhood rule against suicide). While we are still on inside games does anyone remember the "Queen and her and throne"? (outside games begin with the river or the sandpiles). To Argonaut: if you think this deters spawning wait until you hear about the sandpiles! To the good Dr. Lizardo: bring your pad and pencil and get ready for a Pulitzer Prize case history! We have not yet begun to have no regard for our own livelyhood.

Anonymous said...

Post by Devon:
Yes, I remember the Queen and her Throne, mostly because I was the Queen [insert snide comment here].
It amazes me to this day that between the fabulously forbidden sandpiles and river that we never suffered any serious, lasting injuries or death.
Frinkenstein: remember the Flying Linguinis?