The weather’s nice out today, which reminds me of my growin’ up times in Muskogee. My stepdad and mom built a house west of BFE, with all new stuff and rust-colored shaggy carpet. It was 1979 or so when we moved in, and I guess they didn’t think about me much when they built in the most remote area of Oklahoma they could find.
Kids weren’t plentiful in that area, which I credit for my special brand of … individuality, I guess you’d call it. I spent a lot of time by myself, entertaining myself, because my mom always seemed to be cranky about something and I could only help my stepdad on so many projects before he wanted to saw me in half.
I loved talking (and still do, which I know thrills my deskmates to no end) and my dad (who lived in Dallas, far, far away from my yakking) bought me a tape recorder with a microphone. I used to record my own news and variety shows, something I did well into my teen years. (I also used to type fake newspapers. I was doomed.) I got some good stuff on tape, and they’ve long since disintegrated, which is sad. I’d love to hear them again. I remember singing “Waiting Child,” the song about kids who need to be adopted, which was part of a segment the ABC affiliate here played to tug on those heartstrings. It worked. I was a liberal crying mess even at that age.
So my parents build this house, and a year into living there, the air conditioning goes out. Or we never really had one and they lied to me all those years. I’m not sure. I just know that the parents in that house didn’t fix it until right before I moved out for college. My mom said she didn’t like AC; I swear they were torturing me. To this day, I break out in hives at the idea of my AC going out.
So one sunny, beautiful day, I’m sitting in my windowsill, windows open to get some sort of draft in that stale steamy house, and I’m, of course, yammering on into my tape recorder, talking some sort of irreverent bullshit, rocking back and forth and having a big ol’ time. I remember singing at one point.
I leaned back too far, and the screen popped out, and all 42 pounds or so of me tumbled onto the rock flowerbed below. My legs dangled over the sides of the sill and my head landed square on a rock. I was writhing in pain and eventually crumpled completely out of the window, coming to rest in a patch of geraniums.
I was screaming my head off, and the ‘Rents ran in my bedroom, looking for me, and I was nowhere to be seen. I was really hurt, but got up on my knees to look into my bedroom, expecting arms reaching out to grab me. They were running around like they were late to work and they’d lost their keys. They were also looking in the ridiculous places you look when you’ve lost your keys. I remember my mom looking between the bunkbeds, like I’d somehow folded myself like a wallet and tucked myself between the beds. My stepdad was looking in my toybox, and yes, I could’ve fit there, but why would I be screaming? Finally, tearfully, I said in a little quiet voice, “I’m out here.”
They rushed to pull me in, and my mom scooped me up and I cried for a minute, then laughed about it, my usual way of dealing with my clumsiness. They laughed too, and it was one of those stories that still gets retold.
The hilarity didn’t stop there: The whole thing was caught on tape. Oh boy did my family have fun with that. They played back the tape in front of everybody (I don’t know who “everybody” entailed, I just remember being mortified) and even played the clip of me singing “Waiting Child” in my mournful 6-year-old voice.
I didn’t do anymore windowsill recording, and I was really quiet about all my recording, lest I be heard doing amateur traffic reports from my bedroom. My voice got all low and whispery, which is probably why I now have this deep Wolfman Jack voice now. Someday, I’ll upload a video of me doing my Barry White impression. It’s spot-on.