For those of you who have been following my Libya adventures, we left off with the family living in a trailer on Wheelus Air Force Base. I found a picture of the kitchen area, pictured at left. It’s not exactly what I remembered, but in my defense I was only 8 or 9. I just remember how small it was. And this picture certainly shows that to good measure.
Anyway, my mother left us for several weeks, and came back skinny and with a baby sister, as you can see by all of us lined up in a row. Now there were six of us living in this little space. How my parents managed it is beyond me, as I had met my match with two kids in a decent sized house with a yard. This wasn’t even as big as a one bedroom apartment. However they did it, they managed and we were generally a happy bunch.
Despite the fact I’m in a skirt above, I was not a girly girl. I was a tomboy through and through, climbing trees, riding my bike, etc. Back in those days, girls had to wear dresses or skirts to school. In fact–although I know this will seriously date me–it was that way in the states until midway through junior high.
It was because of my tomboy ways that I had my two run-ins with doctors–one of which scarred me for life.
I’m not sure which happened first, but for this story we’ll say it was the tree incident. I liked climbing trees. I liked swinging from the branches and jumping off. I used to spend hours in the tree, and over time I became friends with a neighbor of ours, a nice man, who said he would teach me how to do gymnastic dismounts from the largest branch. It was fun.
One day, I was practicing the dismounts when I missed landing on my feet, instead crumpling to the ground, trying to break my fall with my hands. I nearly blacked out from pain that shot up through my hands. Crying, I got up and headed for the trailer, but I discovered that neither one of my hands would work, so I couldn’t open up the door. I ended up using my elbow to pound against the door until my mother came to open it.
After a visit to the doctor, it was determined I had broken my left wrist, and sprained the right one. I left with both arms in slings. The right one didn’t stay in a sling long (a girl has to eat and do other things like climb up to the top bunk to go to bed), but for as long as my mother could make me over the next couple of weeks, I wore slings on both arms. Eventually, everything healed, and I got the cast off.
As for the second incident, I mentioned before that I was a tomboy. I have always felt more comfortable in the company of boys than girls, and I was always more than ready to join in boys’ games. I don’t remember how everything began, but I remembered I was riding my bike through the trailer park being chased by a boy. They put gravel down on walkways and the streets to make it easier to get around, but having loose gravel also made it imperative to be careful. I was riding over one strip that was like a natural bridge, with a ditch on each side, when I lost control of the bike and went flying, skidding through the gravel face and hands first.
I seemed to be bleeding everywhere: hands, elbows, knees, but mostly on my face. There was a gash in my upper lip that was bleeding profusely.
I’m not sure whether someone helped me home, or I walked home crying, but the end result is that we had to go to the doctor to see to all my cuts. That’s when I was told I would need to get a couple of stitches in my upper lip.
I’m sure they numbed the area, then made recline in a chair and placed a cloth over my face. The cloth had a round hole in it, which they situated above the area to be stitched. Now, I think they used the cloth to keep me from seeing what was happening, but if they really wanted to prevent that, they should have covered my eyes with a blindfold. Their second mistake was telling me not to look–which of course I immediately did. So I stared in horror as the doctor took what looked like an upholstery hook, punched it through one flap of skin, then through the other, and stitched me up. They were lucky I didn’t scream bloody murder the whole time, but I think I was afraid if I moved, he would miss or something.
From that day forward, I have been afraid of needles. Which is a terrible thing when you’re a mother and are trying to set a good example for your kids so they won’t be afraid. But that’s why we’re mothers; we suck it up and do what we have to. (Not that fathers don’t do that, too. I’ve never been one of those, so I don’t know.)
Needless to say, 1968 was an eventful year for me–between getting a new German sister, my string of injuries, and The Spear Gun Incident. But that’s for another day.
Categories: Random Thoughts