Yes, I confess.
By the time I was 3, I was hooked on the ol’ brew.
(And, apparently, I passed that on to my eldest. Though, I preferred a bottle)
Actually, I was more hooked on Dad…I was his toddlin’ sidekick in mighty whitey tights! Anything he did, I wanted to do. Anywhere he was, I wanted to be. Not so unusual for little girls to consider their Dads their first love and first superhero.
This is how the story goes…
Her father was a hard-working man; working 2, sometimes 3 jobs to make ends meet. And her Mother was not your ‘typical for the times’ housewife either.
Because, busy as she was, having had 4 kids in 5 years, she still held a full-time job outside the home.
But, this was also a time when families lived close together, daycare centers were non-existent, and family was relied upon to pitch in where they could. (Glad it was you, Gram)
But…let’s not forget the biggie…working on cars in the yard.
So anyway, this is how a toddlin’ sidekick to her Daddy’s Superman, gets her tights in a twist…
A typical weekend afternoon, circa 1963…
The boys tinkerin’ in the driveway with the women folk fixin’ victuals and watchin’ babies inside.
A regular tune ‘er up, tink’er up, smoke’em up, drink’em up, Sa’day afternoon.
Rev her up..sounds good!
Close her up…hit the dirt for a test run.
No need for cleanin’up, we’re comin’ right back.
Ya with me? Good.
The boys are gone.
The women are inside with (8 of the usual 9) the kids.
One smarty pants little toddler decided she missed her Daddy and went outside looking for him.
She calls for him.
She can’t see him.
But wait…there…in the driveway.
“What’s that?” she wonders in her terrible-three tiny little brain.
“Can it be?” she asks herself
“Why, I think it’s a Daddy bottle and ooooooh, he left it for me!” silently gigglin in delight she was
“I love a good Daddy bottle. It’s so much more yummy than my ucky ol’ boring one.” she hmmphs at the thought.
She looks around.
She listens keenly for any sound that would suggest Mommy was coming to take her Daddy bottle away.
“Yay” she thinks as she’s already on the move, toddlin’ toward that dark brown delight she knows is filled with liquid gold.
She stretches those short and chubbies just far enough to grab the neck of that father-forgotten treasure, tips it to her lips like the bottle pro she is…and chug-a-lugs.
That was the last thing I remember prior to waking up in the hospital God knows how much time later.
You see, the brew I knew and thought of as Dad’s liquid gold, was what I now call, liquid fire.
As was the custom then…and I’ve seen it again and again in the years since…these man-boys would use beer bottles as containers for gasoline when working on their carburetors. They were always plentiful, usually empty, so why buy a gas can when a beer bottle will do?
Exactly! Logic boys….logic!
The madness that followed can quite easily be imagined…and remember, this was an itsy bitsy town.
I don’t remember much of the ensuing chaos…but have heard the details often.
The boys returned to find my Mother holding me in a panic.
No other vehicle.
No hospital nor ambulance within 8 miles and 13 minutes (rural roads ya know).
And a non-breathing child turning colors no human should be.
Parents and me in the car.
Dad driving hell-bent for leather, Mom holding me.
My head out the window like a dog.
I do remember being told NOT to throw up.
I do remember having zero conscious thoughts at this time.
Arrive at the hospital alive, though I was told I didn’t take a single breath, as well as my Mother being told that it’s a miracle I didn’t vomit, for that would have been the end of my life as I knew it.
I do remember too, waking in a crib-bed with a top (?), like a cage, feeling trapped.
But, when I could, I remember looking out the window and seeing my Memere’s house and it made me feel better.
Now, all of us that are parents, know this irrefutable fact:
You CANNOT turn you back on a toddler
Even for a second.
Because one second is one second TOO LONG!
But…I think we can all agree…it happens.