Mom still likes to tell stories about me as a child. In fact, this became good sport for my children at family gatherings: “Hey, Granny! Tell us more stupid things that Mom did when she was little!” Being dragged around the neighborhood by my long pigtails. My early toilet-training mishaps. Slipping into a frigid mountain stream while on vacation in New Hampshire.
Or the perennial favorite about my susceptibility to the power of a dare. Family camping trip. i was about four years old, my next older sister, T, was six. We were bored out of our fucking skulls, and had hooked up with some other dirt-encrusted children at the campground. The game of the evening was running in a circle around the fire pit, still smouldering from the cooking fires of the day. We were chanting like Indians, wrapped up in some make-believe experience that only we understood at the time.
My sister stopped. She looked at me and said “I dare you to run through the coals”. Although the memory is quite vague, apparently i didn’t hesitate to run through the fire pit barefoot. It’s a little blurry.
The next memory i have of the incident is my Mom putting salves and gauze bandages on my blistered, crispy feet – wondering out loud if it required a trip to an emergency room. Dad was across the camp site, screaming at T for instigating my injury. What i’ll never forget? T, defending her honor, screaming back at my father “But I didn’t think she was that stupid!”
You can certainly understand why my children never tire of this tale. Nor does my sister, T.
Somewhere around the same era, i remember another conversation. Oft repeated by my mother through the years. Mom was talking about all of us, growing up, getting married someday, and having families of our own. i told her in no uncertain terms “i’m not going to get married. i’m going to stay with you and Dad and take care of you. Someone will need to do that, won’t they?”
As we grew older, she’d often bring this up whenever talk turned toward her twilight years. She’d also complain about having to eat cold dog food from a can when she became an old lady. After awhile, i finally started joking with her, saying “No way, Momma! i’ll come back and heat up that dog food for you!”
Fast forward a few decades…. DQ, the niece next door, got most of the combat duty – as well as some financial benefits in the process. Me? i’m mostly phoning it in…. but unfortunately i’m still just as susceptible to a juicy dare.