I grew up on a Naval Base in Port Hueneme, California. I have always remembered the kid who lived downstairs from us in our Navy housing. I don’t remember his name, my brain has a rejection device against names that usually starts around 5 years after you’ve left my life. But, if you’ve impacted my being in any fashion, you will live on with me forever.
The kid downstairs stayed with me because he was a prolific dirt eater. He ate dirt with gusto, like one eats homemade macaroni & cheese. You know, that head down, single-minded, “OMG, this shit is gooooood” type of gusto. I’d also imagine part of his gusto was due to the fact that within moments of hand shoveling in his first dirt wad, his mom would bellow out the window, “GET THAT DIRT OUTTA YOUR MOUTH!!!” He’d jump up, mouth ringed with dirt, brush his dirty hands onto his pants, and dejectedly go inside.
One time he was sitting outside gobbling up dirt, probably playing an internal game of, “Beat the Clock“, the clock being his mom hollering out the window at him. I sat down next to him. I watched him eat dirt for a bit. The fact that he had an audience didn’t curb his enthusiasm one bit. There was no shame in this kid’s game. In hindsight, I envy his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. Oh, that we all didn’t care what others think of us.
Anyway, back to the dirt patch. Never one to like feeling as if I’m missing out on something tasty, I reached down and grabbed a tiny bit of dirt in my little hand and I ate it. I immediately spit it out, trying valiantly to wipe it off my tongue with the sleeve of my shirt. I did not like dirt. This kid looked over at me, mouth tinged with dirt and kind of shrugged. I always remember the look he gave me, sorta like, “Eh, more for me.”
I often think about that kid and wonder if he’s still a dirt eater. I’m sure as with most things we did with relish as kids, he now must shamefully do it on the down low. I hope he still enjoys it, even secretly. I firmly believe we must all dig up happiness wherever we can find it.