I am a facebook junkie. I admit it. No reason not to really, since people I have never laid eyes on see the things I say. I post random thoughts at random times and forget, more often than not, to change the filter that goes from my brain to my mouth; or in this case, my fingers.
Often, things that other people say or do remind me of events of my own life. Tonight was one of those times. As it happened this time, it was something I said that brought the old-but-not-forgotten memory into focus and I was taken back, decades, to a time in my childhood.
I was six years old. Ok, maybe I was five or even seven; it has been so long ago that the age has escaped me, but the clarity of the memory has not. I write this, not to remind my beautiful, wonderful Aunt Nell of the error of her ways (though to a kid, the error was heinous), but to relive a priceless, however painful, moment in time.
She was like a mystery wrapped in an enigma, was my Aunt Nell. She was beautiful, knew famous people and likely, most importantly even, owned a portable tape recorder and brought presents in her multi-colored bag. She and my Uncle Ford lived in Pennsylvania which, to a kid growing up in the back country, tobacco-farming, cow-milking, chicken-raising, hog-slopping, corn-hoeing, bean-picking, mule-plowing area of Southwest Virginia, could just have well been Ireland or Italy or France.
Or Gate City.
All I knew for certain was that it was hours away and trips there, with Grandaddy in the back seat with me and later, my little sister, was never a joy.
And yet, I digress.
As I said, I was a kid, the age remaining undetermined, and was on the cusp of pulling a tooth. Even as a little girl, the very thought of blood in my mouth made me sick to my stomach. So obviously, pulling a tooth was right up there with being staked to an anthill.
They, she and Uncle Ford, came to visit, along with the snazzy clothes, tape recorder and gifts that I could never resist hinting about.
That drove my mother crazy … the hinting, not the presents … but I knew she would bring me something and the suspense nearly gave me a coronary.
How embarrassing that would have been at five, or six or whatever.
And so, I digress again. This was supposed to be a story about an event that has, for obvious reasons, stuck with me for nearly forty years.
The loose tooth.
So, Aunt Nell, or as we in the family call her, Aunt Neldie, had the bright idea that she could pluck that tooth right out of my mouth, painlessly and with little to no bloodshed.
I, being a gullible child, went along with it.
She was, after all, the well-respected, visit-anticipated, living in another country, Aunt Nell.
I let her, against my inner voice’s urging, tie a string to my tooth.
Then I watched in barely contained horror as she tied the other end of the string to a doorknob.
Then I stood, idly by, as she proceeded to slam the door with the strength of a Sumo wrestler.
Or Batman, even.
This being the same door holding the string tied to my tooth.
It should have worked, she said.
I don’t understand it, she said.
Don’t cry (as if!), she said.
Come back, she said.
At least I think she said these things.
I had disentangled myself from the doorknob at this point and was stalking up the hill towards the smokehouse.
I’ll explain a smokehouse some other time, but it isn’t where you go to smoke, unless you were my cousin. It’s where he went to smoke unless he wanted to be skinned by my mamaw.
As I was stalking off, I was crying. I hadn’t yet learned to say curse words or I would have been cursing, which would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap. For real. I made it to the top of the hill, the house still in view when I stopped.
There at the top of the hill was the mule that everyone called Old Beck. She was a gentle creature, but I, as a child (and even into my teens and twenties – and let’s just be truthful here, my thirties) was an avowed chicken.
I was afraid of everything. Bugs, airplanes, grass, bees, water, dark, oxygen.
Even sweet-natured-if-stubborn-to-a-fault Old Beck.
It would be much simpler to say what I wasn’t afraid of.
I wasn’t afraid of dirt.
Unless there were bugs or worms in it.
At any rate, I found myself too chicken to actually run away as I had originally planned and went back to the house where the offense had occurred.
While it wasn’t funny at the time, it has been a constant source of amusement over the years.
I forgave Aunt Neldie, because otherwise, she wouldn’t have given me the present she brought or let me play with her tape recorder.
But I didn’t forget it.
Some things just stick with you, ya know?