The highlight of my eighth year of life came when I spent the night at my friend Andy’s house with our other friend Jason and played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The three of us were already fast friends, spending the better part of school recess playing explorer, daring other kids to eat honeysuckle (which turned out not to be worthy of a dare, but plain awesome), and recapping the previous day’s episodes of Duck Tales and Rescue Rangers. Our most memorable recess antic, though, had to be the four-foot-deep pit we dug the previous spring semester along a chain-link fence on the far end of the playground. All three of us were able to lay down side-by-side in it when it was complete. And we only used sticks to dig it out. Yeah, the ladies would be all over the three of us in the coming years, no doubt.
At Andy’s house, his mom gave us the living room for our overnight adventure. Jason and I had been dropped off by our parents after getting out of school, done for the week. We each threw down our sleeping bags and flipped on the television to watch our two favorite cartoons, the aforementioned Duck Talesand Rescue Rangers. At least they were my two favorites. Andy and Jason, though, they were growing up. They were into bigger kid stuff already, namely the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And so, after Duck Tales, they wanted to go outside and play TMNT. The only problem was, my parents didn’t allow me to watch the adventures of the four crime-fighting chelonians. I wasn’t permitted to call my favorite Turtle (Let’s be honest, it would have been Leonardo because he wore a blue mask, and we all know blue is the best color). Thus, I couldn’t contribute to discussions of why turtles loved pizza (probably for the same reason Garfield loved lasagna or Alf devoured cats, right?) or why a rat trained the four Turtles in ninjitsu. And I certainly couldn’t play TNMT because the whole reason I wasn’t allowed to watch the show was because it was violent. Filled with it, my parents said. The only thing they feared worse than their kids becoming violent humans from watching violent cartoons was maybe the fear of the occult. (You think fundamental Christians are kooky now?) And on top of the swords and martial arts, the Turtles were brats with nasty attitudes. The same reason why Bart Simpson would later be banned in our house as well.
Outside, the giant oaks in Andy’s yard were dropping red, orange and yellow leaves with purpose. On this last day of September, the Kansas City air was crisp—not a hint of the brutal winter to come. A perfect afternoon for chasing each other around with plastic Ninja Sais wearing homemade masks Andy’s mom made him. After some light persuading, I looked around and didn’t see my parents, knew my friends weren’t rats (No offense, Master Splinter) and figured, what’s the big deal?
We ran all over that yard all afternoon yelling COWABUNGA! over and over with me having no idea what it meant, but loving every second of it. We wore ourselves out.
A couple hours later, darkness came and three skinny eight-year-olds flopped onto the concrete front porch, sucking air and loving life. Convinced we would all be friends for the rest of our lives. Andy’s mom called to us from inside the house, said the pizza was ready, so come in for dinner. My friends’ eyes lit up realizing she had afforded them perfect symmetry to stay in character throughout dinner. As we sat around the table, sucking in slices of pepperoni, Andy and Jason continued as Michelangelo and Raphael. That’s when a tinge of panic set in. I had succumbed to temptation. My parents would somehow find out and I’d be banned from playing with my friends, I just knew it. Oh well, I thought, biting into my second slice. At least I would get to watch my first episode of TMNT the next morning.
Curtis Ippolito is a writer in San Diego, California. He still hasn’t seen more than that one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even though he keeps 13 different species of turtles(none of which are mutated that he knows of).