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Archive for August, 2012

There always comes a time when you’re at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service, and the conversation turns to childhood injuries. I don’t know how it happens, but it does. I’ll say to someone, “Hey, have you seen the new gift shop on 6th Street?” and the person next to me will say “Hey, I fell down on the sidewalk when I was six and sliced my knee open … see this scar?” Then someone else will add, “Hey, see THIS scar?” and they’ll show you where they had six stitches on their arm from getting a little too close to a rusty nail somewhere. It’s like the “You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine Scar Game.”

It is kind of fun, comparing scars. Except seeing other people’s scars makes me nervous. In fact, it makes me hurt. But talking about my own scars doesn’t bother me at all. Have I ever told you about the time my older sister, Tracy, and I were playing “Neighbor” one stormy night when I was four? Dad was at work on the graveyard shift, Mom was probably making Hot Dog Surprise in the kitchen and baby Coleen was fast asleep in her crib. So Tracy and I were playing “Neighbor” which is, one of us goes in the bedroom closet to play the neighbor, while the other plays the role of the other neighbor who will knock on the closet door to ask for a cup of sugar. It’s pretty exciting. Well, Tracy had me go in the closet so she could knock on the door, then I was supposed to open it all surprised, and she’d say “Hi Neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?” Well, that was the plan. Instead, as she closed me in the closet, I brilliantly stuck my finger in the door jam, and WHAM!! She heard my blood-curdling scream, whipped open the door and instead of a cup of sugar, she got a cup of blood–dripping down what used to be my finger. Only now my finger was in two pieces—the tip hanging on by a thread.

That’s probably my earliest memory–seems like your earliest memory is always something traumatic. Like getting lost, or chased by a dog, or getting your finger sliced in half in the door jam while playing “Neighbor.” Well, Mom wrapped my finger in a wet cloth and ran next door to grab the actual “Neighbor” to rush us to the hospital. See Dad had our fancy ’63 Grand Prix because he was at work. Most families didn’t have two cars back in the late ‘60s. Well, maybe yours did if you were fancy, but we didn’t have two cars until about 1970 when Dad got a cool light blue ’55 Ford truck. Anyway, our neighbor was the Pastor of the Church of Christ which was across the street from our house. His wife stayed with Tracy and Coleen while my Mom, the Pastor and me and my severed finger sprinted in his four-door sedan to the hospital.

Apparently poor Tracy thought she’d killed me—thought I’d die right there at the hospital emergency room. I remember that emergency room. Smelled like rubbing alcohol. There were old people in the beds next to me. Dad showed up and replaced Mom at my side. See, the emergency room doctor actually asked me (four years old) which parent I wanted to stay with me while they sewed up my finger. I said both. He said only one can stay. I thought about this real hard and decided my poor Mom shouldn’t have to witness the carnage of sewing my finger back on, so I excused her. And you can imagine how she felt.  If I saw that doctor today, I’d kick him straight in the ass. And my poor Dad. How did he survive that emergency room–we weren’t even allowed to talk about blood at the dinner table. Well, Dad kept me focused … every time my eyes wandered over to the insensitive doctor sewing my finger, Dad told me to look at him instead. Somehow I survived and made it home where Tracy covered me with hugs and kisses; relieved she wasn’t going to kid jail for killing me. I was happy because I had a fancy new syringe to show off. It was something the nurses gave me. I could fill it with water like a mini water gun. Good times.

Except for getting the stitches out. I had to go in a dimly lit room with a young intern who was going to cut those stitches off. I remember him sitting me up on the table and telling me he was “tying me to the stake.” Then he started prancing around in some weird Cowboys and Indians dance. Even at four I remember thinking, “What the bleep is this dumb-ass doing?” That hospital really should’ve done more background checks back then, me thinks.

So yeah, I have a one-inch diagonal scar on my finger to remember that night. I’ll show it to you if we’re ever together at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service.

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There’s nothing like a good road trip. Well, I’m talking about the kind where you grab your friends, some food, some party CD’s, lots of alcohol and take off for a fun destination. Road trips with young children, on the other hand, aren’t the same. I don’t know how my parents survived a trip in the car with the four of us. Oh, wait—we were well-behaved; for the most part. We knew my Dad would open a can of whoop ass if necessary. Of course he wasn’t the one who usually served up the whoop ass. That was Mom’s specialty. She could step out of our car gracefully at 15 MPH, open the back door on the right side of the wood-paneled station wagon, spank a few of us, then glide around to the left side, open that door and smack the rest of us; then trot back to her passenger door and hop in; that way we didn’t lose any time on our trip. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but I’m pretty certain she was the one who opened up the back door of that station wagon to serve up our spankings on the way to Utah one summer. I may have told you this story—after too many shenanigans in the back seat, Dad pulled over and Mom hopped out to deliver the whoop ass to us via the back door of that station wagon. A highway patrol pulled up to see what all the commotion was about, and asked my Mom, “What seems to be the problem here?” She replied (without stopping the whoop ass session), “I’m just disciplining my children, Officer.” To which he responded, “Carry on, Ma’am.” To which I said in my head, “Get that toothpick out of your mouth and call CPS, you beer-bellied bastard.” Well that’s what would happen today. Back in the ‘70s … not so much.

But really, how much could our parents take of “SHE’S TOUCHING ME!” and “ARE WE THERE YET?” and “I HAVE TO PEE!” and “I’M THIRSTY!” and “I HATE YOU!” … all of this accompanied by the constant sounds of us smacking each other with the seat belts we weren’t wearing.

Actually, Mom didn’t have to break out the whoop ass too often. For the most part, we were pretty well-behaved. We had plenty of food, drinks and fun to keep us occupied. This consisted of:

  • A metal cooler neatly packed with deviled egg sandwiches (or PBJ’s if we were lucky), a pound of green grapes and a few bottles of store-brand lemon-lime soda (or cola if we were lucky)
  • A grocery bag with one large bag of store-brand barbeque chips and some Styrofoam cups
  • If we were REALLY lucky, there’d be a stash of homemade brownies … or disgusting Neapolitan wafer cookies
  • Oh, and these:

A good ol’ game of Auto Bingo would last at least two hours; depending on where we were, it could be pretty hard to find the fruit stand, or the fountain. I wonder if kids these days play Auto Bingo on their smart phones? Nah, they’re probably too busy listening to music on their iPods, watching movies on their portable DVD players or killing zombies on their handheld Nintendos.

Once we were sick of Auto Bingo, we’d start playing Beaver, which is the old school version of Slug Bug. We’d yell out BEAVER every time we saw a Volkswagen Bug on the highway. But we didn’t punch each other like kids do in the current version of Slug Bug. Instead, we’d punch each other for other reasons—maybe because one of us looked at the other one too long. Oh eventually we’d settle down. We’d all try to figure out the best way to lie down. We no longer had my Dad’s ‘63 Pontiac Grand Prix once the Station Wagon came along, so we didn’t have a back window ledge to throw Melissa up on. She’d usually climb over the front seat to sleep on my Mom’s lap. If the back of the station wagon wasn’t piled with luggage, me and Coleen would climb back there and sleep. And of course, Tracy would stretch out on the back seat. Once we were asleep, my parents could change the radio station back to their oldies. Yeah, they let us listen to our rock station on road trips. We were pretty lucky.

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I’m pretty hungry right now. But I’m trying to hold out for dinner. I shouldn’t be sitting near the kitchen, because there are homemade brownies sitting on the counter. They keep looking at me. So I thought, hmmm, what could deter me from eating some crap and ruining my appetite before dinner? Ah, my trusty “The ABC of Casseroles Book.” Certainly one of the recipes will gross me out enough to lose these hunger pangs for awhile. So I started flipping through the pages, and there it was: Liver Casserole. Enough said. As if I wasn’t grossed out enough by the fancy poem on the previous page:

Eke? I guess that’s like “EEK!! A disgusting casserole!” Well, even though the title “Liver Casserole” did the trick, I just had to keep on reading. And I’m really sorry I did:

Liver, okra, lima beans, celery, green pepper … all on the list of foods I can’t stand. Well, I did eat deep-fried okra once, and it was okay. But it’s probably not okay drowned in bouillon and mixed with … gulp … apple jelly cubes. I need a chaser after reading that recipe. I think I’ll go watch an episode of “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern.

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