As wonderful as my babysitter’s magical garden was, it clearly wasn’t up to OSHA standards.* But then I grew up in an era when kids were expected to fall out of trees, stub their toes, fall off their bikes, and acquire a colorful array of stitches. It was how one prepared for adulthood.
Assuming one made it to adulthood.
Most of my early mishaps were harmless-ish. Take the Attack of the Giant Spider, for example. No, it wasn’t a 1950s creature feature. It was a garden spider, whose size probably only exceeded that of a skyscraper in my 4-year-old mind.
Frieda’s Field was a jungle waiting to be explored–and it contained wild animals! Including the LSEF (Largest Spider Ever Found). I ran into her—literally—when I pushed through a taller-than-me cluster of weeds, causing her to trampoline from her giant web…
Onto my nose.
We stared in shock at one another. And then she lifted a leg, and began walking up my nose. That was it. I ran screaming to the kitchen door. Within seconds, Frieda-the-Fearless had smacked the LSEF from my face and off into the ozone. How Frieda faced such a beast bare-handed I’ll never know!
Some dangers were of the purely sensory type. It seemed only fair I should occasionally bring home an offering from the hunt. So I was delighted when I stumbled upon the LEEF (Largest Egg Ever Found)! No, Frieda didn’t have any ostriches, but she did have chickens—and geese. There it was in Frieda’s Field, a massive, mottled beauty just waiting to be eaten! I was so excited, I ran to the house with it.
I dropped the egg. Which would have been bad enough if it had been edible. But it wasn’t. It was green. Like Dr. Seuss Green. And it smelled like what I imagined Hell smells like. Until then, I’d never experienced evil in its pure form. Every pore of my body wanted to die.
The last straw came when I was hanging around in Frieda’s house. The Tompkins Hacienda had an ancient heating system made up of, well, basically giant toasters behind metal grills. When they were on, the grills could heat a whole room. They were roughly the temperature of the Sun. But they were set in the walls and easy enough to avoid. Except one. It was on the floor of a long hallway that was perfect for racing in.
So naturally I stepped on it. Result? All the bottom of my foot needed was a scoop of butter and a splash of maple syrup—it was a perfect waffle. It hurt like that rotten egg had smelled. But the pain eventually went away, and so did the beautiful waffle tattoo.
I was getting older and getting bored-er. The magic of playing alone was wearing thin. What I needed was a friend.
A human friend.
My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.
*Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Spider photo: Maggie Wilson Author.
Egg photo: Apartment Therapy