Like I told you last week, my mother and I lived at my great aunt and uncle’s farm for a few months when I was younger and I’m fairly certain my first tangible memory is of the green curtains in their living room being moved by a summer breeze. My cousins (2nd cousins) who were all older were often left with the distasteful task of babysitting me while my mother, as part of her “rent,” helped my great-aunt out in the garden. My great-great aunt Mimmy Sue was left home to “supervise,” but she was older than God, so mostly she sat on the front porch and broke beans while Bubba, Bubba, and Bubette devised new and improved ways to torture me.
They weren’t stupid children, so they were smart enough to wait a few weeks after their last ill-fated attempt at ending my life failed to let the swelling and bruising and my mother’s memory of the time her daughter fell through the ceiling because her cousins were assholes fade.
Lulled into a false sense of security because Bubette had given me an extra cookie even though she wasn’t supposed to I don’t remember being at all suspicious of the laughter that was coming from the living room. I think I was too busy trying to use my back teeth to take bites of the cookie as my front teeth and their sockets were incredibly sore. On account that I fell 20 feet and landed on my face. On account of my cousins being idiots. Plus my mother was coming in every 20 minutes or so to make sure I was still alive.
“When you’re finished with lunch,” Bubette said, “We’ll go color in the living room.”
She certainly knew her target because coloring was my raison d’etre. A pack of crayons and a pad of paper would keep me happy for hours. I readily agreed.
She sweetened the pot. “And if you’re really good, Bubba might play chase with you!” Chase being my favorite game because when played properly, with my mother, it always ended in me being swooped into her arms and smothered with kisses and tickles. So yeah, I was totally down with that.
I remember the anticipation, that wonderful thrill you get in your stomach right as the game starts, as all three of my cousins chased me around the room. I loved it and remember being physically unable to contain my joy – until one of them herded me onto the path between the sofa and the coffee table.
The feeling of toothpicks puncturing the soles of your feet? Guaranteed to wipe the smile off any face.
I’m not sure what they thought would happen other than it might be funny to see their hysterical baby cousin being held down by two adults so her mother could pull 3 embeded toothpicks from her baby’s chubby feet. I’m not even sure they thought beyond, “hey, let’s put toothpicks in the carpet and chase Rosie over them.” I do know that they were sent to the front porch to wait for their father, and I do know that it was the sound of their cries that ceased my own hysterical sobs. And I remember very clearly my mother taking me to the screen door and the two of us watching as my great-great aunt Mimmy Sue, the woman whom I could picture doing nothing but shelling beans, wore the three of them out.
Shortly after that my mother and I left the farm and moved in with her sister. Next Tuesday I’ll tell you how well that went.