It was dangerous to know my mom.
Cautionary tales about the sad ends of young women in her acquaintance littered my childhood.
We could not play with balloons.
She knew a girl who inhaled a bit of popped balloon and died.
We were ordered not to pick pimples.
She knew a girl who picked a pimple on her nose and died.
Dishes had to be washed in water so hot our fingernails shriveled.
Mom knew a girl who ate off a dirty dish, got salmonella and died.
Guess what happened to the girl mom knew who went on a hayride?
No balloons dance through my childhood memories (not that my steam-sopped fingernails could have poked a hole in one anyway), and I still believe touching a blemish on one’s face will lead to immediate blood poisoning and certain death.
And though I spend every hayride with my head swiveling fore and aft, to and fro, on the alert for approaching danger, I trust my dishwasher and Cascade to protect me from dirty-dish diseases.
But one sad end has affected my life as a vehicular passenger.
I still can’t stick my hand out the car window to enjoy fresh breezes wafting between my fingers.
My mind’s eye recalls the visual I always conjured up for the story of
The Girl who Stuck her Arm out the Train Window.
This story and the stupid girl who engendered the story stole from my childhood the clean joy of air pressure suspending my arm out the window in a state of wobbling, wind-forced bliss.
Even now as I inch my fingers out the window my mind’s eye recounts the story:
I picture the Girl waving her arm merrily out her window, oblivious of the train hurtling toward her on the next track. As it zips past– WHOOSH!– it takes her arm right along with it.
I picture the Girl, no longer able to wave because her arm is being borne in style by a fast-moving passenger train heading the opposite direction.
I picture the look of utter surprise on her face.
I do not picture any blood. My mind’s eye never conjures up gore.
My mind’s eye never bothers to question how the heck long the girl’s arm was.
My mind’s eye simply does the job my mother always meant it to do.
It yells, “Don’t stick your arm out the window because Mom knew a girl who...”