One of my earliest babyhood memories is realizing that my head was so huge I couldn’t move it. From the shoulders up I felt like a small section of garden hose jammed into a bowling ball.
And I really yearned to move my head, too. I wanted to participate in the life I could hear happening just outside the room I was in: my mom in the kitchen passive-aggressively banging pots and pans, my dad virulently bitching about his job, my sister threateningly murmuring about how much she missed being an only child. I desperately wanted to be part of it all.
But, alas, I was at the mercy of my medicine ball head.
As I grew older, the size of my head did not to any significant degree alter its abnormal proportion to the rest of me. Consequently, as a Little Leagueer I had to purchase my hat the coach’s catalog. Not exactly unembarrassing.
Here’s about how it actually went one afternoon during my Little League team’s baseball practice:
COACH CRETIN: Shut-up now! It’s time to order uniforms. Shore, what size hat do you wear? Extra-extra large?
ME: I dunno, Coach. Sounds about right, I guess.
CC: Well, let’s make damn sure it is right. Parker there’s got an extra-large head, doncha’ Parker? Shore, try on Parker’s cap there. Jesus H. Christ. Look a’ that thing! You can barely get it to balance on yer head. What are we gonna do for a cap for you, Shore? Pin it on? Ya’ can’t wear that in the field. It’ll cut off the circulation in yer head. Give Parker back his hat before you stretch it all to hell. So whatta we supposed do for a hat for you, Shore?”
ME: I dunno, Coach.
CC: Well, crap. I guess we’ll just have to order ya’ a cap from the managers’ catalog, then. It’s gonna cost ya’ extra, though. Make sure you tell that to your mom, Shore. Make sure you tell your mom that your new cap’s gonna cost you more, on accounta ya’ got a head like a hot-air balloon. Don’t forget to tell her that, Shore. Tell her it’s gonna’ cost more money.
ME: Sure thing, Coach. I’ll tell her. Say, why you’re at it, you Nazi troglodyte, why don’t you also order my jock and cup through the managers catalog? My head’s not the only thing that’s adult-size, you miserable sack of wasted plasma.
The unbelievable thing is that there was a kid in my neighborhood with a head even larger than mine. What a planetary noggin this sadsack had. His head was like something you’d see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, taking out helicopters, terrifying children, slowly pin-balling between skyscrapers. Not at all helping this poor kid’s condition was that: 1. He had tiny facial features, so that his face seemed to have bloomed this outrageous roundness all around it; 2. His head was as perfectly spherical as the globe it could have been if Facelandia was a real place; and 3. His mom cut his thick blonde hair in a buzz-cut all around his head, so that his head appeared to be glowing with the power of its hugeness.
That poor guy. He was excellent to hang out with. Especially during the summer, when shade was always a great thing to have around.
Anyway, that’s one of my first memories: lying face up in my crib, staring at the ceiling, listening to my family beyond the half-open door, being helplessly oppressed by my bowling ball of a head.
And then all of a sudden, as I recall, my mother’s head was looming at me over the walls of my crib. Now that, I thought, was a head. And what enviable control she wielded over it. She moved her head around as easily as I spastically flapped my arms—and I excelled at spastic arm flapping.
And her hair! My mom had one of those 50’s bouffant helmets. Her hair looked to me unimaginably heavy. I remember being afraid that it was going to drop right off her head and smash me.
It’s a terrible thing to say, but as a baby I was always pretty afraid that my mom was going to kill me. She was a profoundly angry woman. At the moment that I’m recalling she was leaning over my crib looking at me; as she did, I realized that the best thing I could do to ensure her not killing me was to become as cute and lovable as possible.
“Goo-goo,” I said.
“Goo-goo!” I said, hoping.