I have had plenty of not-so-graceful moments in my life. I had a spell my freshman year of college that every time I saw this one girl Lonni I fell down. I’m not sure why she caused me to fall, but I’m blaming the fact that she was tall and statuesque and somehow altered my gravitational pull.
One of my least-fine hours came when I was 4 or 5… I’m hoping more toward 4, because the older I was when this thing happened, the closer I am to being full loony.
My stepdad’s folks, whom I called Nanny and Papa, were wonderful people who lived in the sticks of south-central Oklahoma (Healdton, for you Okies) and they’d come to the Big City of Muskogee to our house every now and again. They always packed their own coffee (Sanka!) and have these adorable 1960s style suitcases that I loved.
During one of their visits, which were rare, we went to the county dump. I’m not sure why we’d take my Papa, a World War II vet who was in the third wave at Normandy, a fine man who worked for Mobil Oil and sang Hank Williams to me, to the dump. Not to mention my Nanny — who cut all the peanuts out of Snickers bars for me (I don’t like nuts in chocolate now, and I certainly didn’t then), who gave me Honeycomb and grape juice every morning and always had snack-size Milky Ways in the freezer and made the absolute best biscuits I’ve ever tasted – why would we take dear Nanny to the dump?
We must’ve been looking for something, doing a bit of salvaging. My stepdad and Papa, as well as my mother, were builders who knew how to do everything. Papa was a carpenter and also knew machinery, and my stepdad was an electrician in the Navy who taught me and mom, and especially my brother Nick, how to do stuff we had no business doing.
Anyway, this fine Saturday morning we went to the dump. I remember being in awe of all the shit piled up everywhere. My mother, being the germaphobe that she was, of course instructed me not to touch anything. You think I listened? Of course not! I’m surprised I didn’t lick everything. I was a weird kid.
Which brings me to my point: I guess they should’ve fed me before taking me to the dump. I remember being hungry, and I remember I was wearing a cute top and wishing I could roll around in the dirt, but instead being restricted from rolling, or we wouldn’t go eat afterward.
Well, they should’ve packed a snack. Because I saw a pack of ketchup from McDonald’s at the dump – on the ground, amid all the trash — and I picked it up and tore it open with my teeth and sucked all the ketchup out.
Yes, I did this. Yes, I realize I shouldn’t be admitting it. But I live to entertain you, and I’m sure every one of you did something dumb like this as a kid. Maybe not THIS dumb, but hugely stupid nonetheless.
My mom, God rest her soul, wanted to lay down and die that moment. She yanked my arm and slapped the packet out of my hand. My stepdad, the Master of Germaphobes, got this revolted look on his face. I remember starting to feel guilty and stupid.
My Nanny and Papa? They laughed, probably more at the parents than me. They knew I’d survive, that it was something all stupid kids do. But I’ll never forget that look of shame and revulsion on my folks’ faces.
And they didn’t let me forget it, either. I’m pretty sure we went home without going out to eat after that, and that was the saddest moment ever.