BUBBLE GUM BLOWERS: Go for the glory
It's sad but true: the older we become, the more we tend to forget the peak moments of childhood.
Little League home runs, the first time we ever felt the hard little tugs of a fish biting on our line, spins on the Ferris wheel with grade school sweethearts, and a host of other things that seemed so important in pre-pubescent days fade in the memory as time passes.
It becomes harder and harder to bring those memories back into focus. You've really got to concentrate to do it. It takes willpower.
For reasons that will become apparent, I spent a whole hour yesterday trying to remember the biggest bubble I ever blew.
It was nearly hopeless. For the life of me, I couldn't recall a specific bubble on a specific day.
But I did remember several occasions when I worked a wad of Bazooka or Dubble Bubble round and round in my mouth, then flattened it against the back of my teeth, determined at the start to blow a bubble the size of a medicine ball.
I'd stick my tongue in the soft center of the gum, forming the beginning of the bubble, then I'd blow. I'd blow moderately hard at first, and as the globule increased in size I'd slow the airstream down.
The airstream had to be just right. Blowing big bubbles took a lot of finesse. It was a delicate operation.
This I remember, too: as I concentrated on blowing the biggest bubble ever, the world seemed to stop, and time stood still.
If there were other kids nearby, they all quit whatever they were doing and stared enraptured at the slowly expanding, pink-white orb.
The gum stretched ever thinner as the bubble grew larger and larger. The sphere became bigger than the lower part of my face, my chin, my mouth and the tip of my nose.
It grew even more, swelled beyond my cheekbones and the bridge of my nose. I blew ever so gently, increasing the diameter fractions of an inch at a time.
The bubble kept expanding. I knew that if there was such a thing as a world record bubble, I was on my way to blowing it.
And it never failed. Just when I thought I'd blown a bubble big enough to go down in history, some rotten little-so-and-so, usually my little sister, stuck a finger right in the middle of it.
The bubble went pip! as it burst. Its sticky ruins plastered themselves to my face. They formed a hideous membrane, stopping up my nostrils and making a goo of my eyebrows.
My peers laughed their heads off, the kid sister laughing hardest of all. (She always did have an irritating laugh. It sounded like the mating call of a Canada goose.)
Well, if ever I did blow a record setter, it would have gone unnoticed. Back then, nobody was keeping track.
They do keep track nowadays, however, and that's what moved me to write this column.
At 11 a.m. this Saturday, Wal-Mart stores everywhere, including your local outlet on Island Avenue, will host the fifth annual Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Contest.
The bubbles will be measured with a Dubble Bubble Bubble Meter, something we never had when I was a kid.
From the preliminary contest, six finalists will be identified to participate in the national finals in August.
Those six will compete for the grand prize of a $10,000 savings bond and a $5,000 donation in the winner's honor to the Children's Miracle Network.
Five runner-up prizes of $5,000 savings bonds and $1,000 donations to the Children's Miracle Network also will be awarded.
That's not to mention the glory. There's a lot of glory to be had here, for kids under 12. There's glory, and immortality.
I only wish they'd had this contest back in the day. I coulda been a contender.
Bill Rautenstrauch is The Observer's business editor.