I was reminded the other day of an odd thing that my grade one teacher did on her students’ birthdays. We brought cupcakes in to share with the class. Next, though, we had to brush our teeth. The birthday child would return to class to swallow a colored tablet showing how well she’d done getting rid of the food particles.
I must be remembering this wrong, conflating two memories. Yet, I remember being excited to take the blue tablet and test my brushing skills. Thinking of my first grader today, I can imagine he too would be happy to brush his teeth and then either a) have done a great job or b) be able to gross out anyone nearby with the blue spots on his teeth.
Another thing I remember from the playground is getting the Paddy Whacks. Your classmates would all line up in a row and you would crawl between their legs as they each got a chance to spank you. You tried to go as fast as possible through the line-up hoping to avoid the slaps and (if you’d dressed up for your special day) to not ruin your nice clothes crawling on the ground.
Turns out I’m not the only person who was subjected to spanks for birthdays. There’s a longstanding tradition in some cultures of getting a slap for each year of age plus, plus “one to grow on; one to live on; one to eat on; one to be happy on; one to get married on” (Johnson, 1963, p. 14).
The reason we do this? To get the body softened up for burial! Just what you want to be preparing for on your birthday!
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