My parents were baffled.
Aside from being headstrong and unresponsive to discipline, they said that I was a sweet kid. For the most part, I did what I was told. More often than not, my irrepressible boyishness made them laugh, most of the time in disbelief. For example, I taught myself how to tie my shoes when I was three years old. My grandfather gave me Luna moth cocoon, and even though my parents said it was empty, I knew better. There was no hole in it! Moths have to chew their way out. So, I put it in a shoebox, and sure enough, a large powdery green moth with fuzzy antennae and tails on its wings hatched a week or two later. I trapped my sisters in their rooms by tying doors together across the hall. I built treehouses. I ordered the largest knife I’d ever seen from an ad in Boy’s Life. The pommel, which had a compass in it, unscrewed from handle. Inside was a survival kit including matches, fish hooks, fishing line, and a whistle. I tore up my face sledding off a three-foot high culvert a week before school pictures. What could they do but laugh?
One night, they got a call from my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Bunny Ward. I’d been saying some naughty words at school.
Neither one of my parents has ever used profanity, except when repeating a story and only then with their voices lowered and no small discomfort. They wondered where on earth I’d learned the words that Mrs. Ward herself refused to say. She must have spelled them. I can’t imagine my 1st teacher saying, “Austin dropped the f-bomb in class today.”
They sat me down and asked me about it.
Of course, I had no idea what those words meant. I was just rhyming.
I told my parents that I was just plugging words into the Banana Fo Fana rhyme. For example, who knew that what came out when I used the name Mitch, a boy in my class, offended some people. I was big into cartoons at the time and had no clue that silly, innocuous Donald Duck, when riding aboard the ship Fo Fana, could become the mother of all cusswords. We always knew he had it in him.
“Duck duck bo buck banana fana fo—[_ _ _ _]—me my mo much…Duck.”
My parents were relieved that I didn’t know what I was saying. They probably told me that if I needed to rhyme at school, I should do so in my head.
Apparently, somewhere in between building a block tower, learning to read, and nap time, I was cussing out the other kids without even knowing it.
I was destined for greatness.