Trampolines are a subtle way for parents to try and kill their children. “He accidentally launched off the side and compressed his spine” is easier to deal with than “I accidentally threw the little shit off the roof” I guess. But somehow, almost invariably, the kids with trampolines were the ones you wanted to hang out with as a wee tot.
Before living in Troy, one of my best friends in New Meadows had an enormous rectangular one (in addition to a SNES and an RV that we used as a fort- fuck, that kid was awesome), and it was always a matter of begging my mom to be able to play on it. As long as somebody was watching. Not that we needed supervision- Christ, I was five, maybe six years old. Practically an adult. So we’d bounce up and down, getting ridiculously high (stop giggling), and accidentally steal each others’ bounces. On a side note, I always found that damned terrifying- here you are, being innocently thrown up and down on this rubbery material, you land, and then fucking LAUNCH high enough to see your mom in your house five miles away yelling “you’ll break your legs on the way down!”. Here I am, 21 years old, and I still don’t understand the physics of that. Probably why I’m a film major.
Anyways, despite the fact that I loved hanging out with that kid, that trampoline was a big deal in itself when ever I went over to his house. So when we moved to Troy, I gravitated towards a neighbor who had all of the same cool shit.
I remember the first time I saw the Ramondellis- 250 Hummingbird Lane was a freshly tree-decapitated plot of dirt with a massive hole in the center. They (I’m not sure who “they” were, only that in later years it became obvious that “they” suck at building basements) were just starting to do the concrete for the basement, and I was standing in the backyard (though it was still just a bunch of entertainingly malleable dirt/clay). It was cloudy I think. Anyways, from up the back hill come these two unfamiliar big kids that my brother apparently knew, but I didn’t. Jeni and Griffin. They had left Shan below (typical game of “let’s see if we can get rid of the little one”), and a few minutes later he appeared.
Shan was a douche. I like him fine now, but not everybody is a little ball of sunshine as a child (myself obviously included). But we were neighbors and I was new, so a friendship was “encouraged” (after all, the only other person my age in the neighborhood was Jordan, and wimmins were gross). And it was ok, because he had cool stuff like a console and, yep, a motherfucking trampoline.
So we hung out occasionally. That’s how I came to know Rich, as “Shan’s dad”. A large man (at least when you’re seven years old), a scary man (when he yelled at Shan), and a man with a hammock.
Trampolines. One summer day we were bouncing- typical day really (if only fucking around on a trampoline were a common activity for adults). Something happened that caused me to swear. Like most kids by the age of six, I had a full vocabulary of swear words (as much as parents will try to pretend it’s not possible, sorry, we were all swearing at recess by kindergarten) so it wasn’t a huge shock to Shan or myself. But just to be a dick, as his dad walked by, this happened:
“Oh and Dad, Chris is swearing.”
Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no, he’s gonna tell my mom.
There’s a fretted brow and look of dismay.
Rich: “How old are you Chris?”
He shook head, then went back inside.
No parents were informed.
I figured he was an alright dad at this point.
Flash forward to Junior High: One of those bullshit days where we don’t get P.E. and are forced into Health stuff in the library (Health: where, prior to broadband, all adolescents got exposed to childbirth, successfully killing masturbatory needs for a week). We walked out of the doors by the library- you know, the ones that take you through the last little vestiges of Jr. High lockers, the half lockers stacked on top of each other where those unfortunate souls with last names at the end of the alphabet are relegated to. Nowhere near as cool as a locker in the hallway.
Anyways, it’s myself and Matt Etienne. He’s on about something, I forget what, and I probably wasn’t paying attention anyways. Mr. Ramondelli was though:
“You talking to yourself Matt?”
“Hey you know what Matt, that’s ok. You know, some of the best conversations you’ll ever have in life will be with yourself.”
That quote has stuck with me as clearly as the day he said it (at least six years ago). It was just… True. Even before he said it and certainly to this day, I’ve always been able to figure things out better (or just amuse myself) via self-discussion. I guess it was just refreshing to hear an adult say that.
So what’s the point of all these trampolines and swearing and schizophrenia-in-denial anecdotes? Childhood. Growing up. Troy, MT. These are the things that Mr. Ramondelli has been and always will be inextricably linked to for me and, I believe, for most of the kids that grew up with me.
Living in a town of one thousand people means that you see the same faces almost daily for the duration of your stay there. For me, Mr. Ramondelli was “there” for 13 years of my life. Around the neighborhood, at school, at the store where I worked- and the fact that he no longer is, well, it could be sad and I’m sure it is for a lot of people. But for me… It serves as a catalyst to all sorts of great memories I hadn’t thought about in years: Line-driving a softball at him in P.E. and getting that “holy shit” look in return, busting out the scoreboard with a kickball and wondering if he was gonna flog me, watching him try to deal with Kenny (“my dog eats popcorn”, “…That’s great Kenny”), having to do those hilariously-bad plays in World History (solely for his amusement, I’m convinced), his curiously wandering into Mr. Jones’s class when he was bored across the hall, and just that enthusiastic voice that no one who ever hears it will be able to forget.
The next generation of Troy kids will be missing out.