Good Lord, I Was a Spastic Child

This past weekend I learned a little about myself as a child. However, I didn’t gain this wisdom through reflection or reading, but through the bane of The Home Movie. The unforgiving eye of the Camcorder magnetically inscribed my youthful eccentricity on video, in the hands of my father. And, in spite of what my brother claims, I was by far the weirdest person on tape. However, it wasn’t because I said anything particularly odd for a young child, or because I hit my dad in the crotch with a wiffle ball bat in a Funniest Home Videos kind of way (I never have). No, it’s because I, apparently, was incapable of being still.

I’m not sure whether it was the camera, a glandular issue (Alisa would probably claim the latter), or both, but my main tenet of childhood seemed to be:

Always have one or fewer limbs on the ground at any given moment. More is bad. If at all possible, perform any action with the maximum percentage of one’s body, preferably with as much leaping and acrobatic contortion as possible.

I showed more promise of being a dancer than anyone in my family, and at the same time showed that I couldn’t possibly have handled the constraints of what is formally known as ’dancing’. I almost certainly had/have some form of. . . whatever it is that makes you run around like a tweaker.


My movements through my environment involved a kind of visually stochastic locomotion that consisted of a kind of twirling arc, starting from my low*, (sometimes crouched or sitting) position, which sailed upwards (often using a piece of my environment or another person as leverage, but not always) in a corkscrew-ish spin (in case I got bored during my one second flight) and then involved a landing which brought me down to the ground in my entirety and sometimes ended with a roll to dispel all of the energy I generated in the leap. During these epic launches, my limbs would be flailing and tracing crazy arabesques in the air, which seemed very functional at the time. The part that threw me the most is that I appear to have never stopped doing this at any time.

I suppose this shouldn’t have surprised me, since I’ve always done goofy, spry tricks. As a teenager, for a brief stretch, my trick was my ability to hurdle (from side-to-side, not end-to-end) a stationary mid-size car using only one hand as a safety. Earlier in life it was cafeteria tables. I skateboarded and loved to climb. I had near-endless endurance and really enjoyed sports like soccer (until everyone around me started focusing on winning more than having fun). I’ve always liked physical activities (Ironic, given I spend most of my time in front of a computer, reading, and watching movies.).

Now I focus most of my energy in my movements on being as energy and motion efficient as possible. I’m not sure if this is a sign of age, of laziness, or some sort of compulsion I developed. I’ll often try a few different orders and methods to do some simple task I need to do many times until I figure out the one I like, and then I perform that action in almost the exact same way every time. It’s not an obsessive compulsion, where I get irrationally frustrated or I have to re-do it the exact same way if I can’t do it the ‘right’ way the first time. But, I’ve always thought it easier to figure out how to do something well and then not have to think about it every time. I suppose it’s also partially an anxiety about appearance, which strikes me a markedly ‘adult’ quality.

In spite of that, to seeing myself behaving in that naïve and unabashed manner only children can display was a disorienting, embarrassing, and touching experience. It reminded me that I should get out and play more. I miss that.

*I was, like, 2 feet tall when I was a kid. In fifth grade I had a first grade friend who stood as tall as I did and probably weighed more than I did, too.

2 replies on “Good Lord, I Was a Spastic Child”

  1. I think the reason why nobody has commented on this post for a while is that I don’t think this post produced quite the effect you intended. In short, it was scarier and more disturbing than it was funny.

  2. I love you, spastic or not.

    The best thing about the video was seeing 25 year old Chris pop up every once in while from the youthful face of 11 year old Chris.

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