Friday Flashback: Reading is Fundamental
When my sisters and I were young, my mother left us in the capable hands of my Grandma Molly and my Grandpa Nick. Nick and Molly’s house was a wonderland for small children and the property it sat on provided access to things that small children dream of including a large yard, a huge and abundant garden, a murky and mysterious pond, a horse stable, a potting shed laced with cobwebs, an old chicken coop and, the Pièce de résistance; my Uncle Donny’s old abandoned car. The car in which my older sister attempted to teach me how to drive at the tender age of six or seven. Luckily for the citizens of our small town, the car didn’t actually run and our lessons were confined to our imaginations but still; I like to think that I learned something.
One lesson I learned at my grandmother’s house came the hard way; always read the labels. The reason that I found this lesson to be invaluable will be made clear to you momentarily.
The summer that I was four or five, while staying at Grandma Molly’s house, my sisters and I decided to raid the garden for strawberries and fresh peas. Molly was already in the garden, outfitted in her customary gardening garb; my Uncle Ronnie’s old military jacket, a large sunbonnet circa Little House on the Prairie, olive green coveralls and heavy gardening gloves. Although the summer days got hot, my Grandmother knew a thing or two about protecting her skin from the sun and especially, from the rabid mosquito population that lived in her garden.
Since we lacked the accoutrements of the master gardener, we were forbidden from entering the garden without being liberally doused with mosquito repellant and, that day, my older sister took it upon herself to apply the spray.
Unfortunately (for me), she wasn’t the greatest reader in her second grade class and she mistook a can of Easy-Off oven cleaner for the can of OFF! Bug spray, a mistake that I discovered by virtue of being first in line to be sprayed.
In case you ever wondered what Easy-Off oven spray does to human skin, let me enlighten you; it burns. Like a somebitch. And, much like the baked-on detritus of the ovens it was meant to clean, Easy-Off melts your skin which could get pretty ugly if, by a stroke of luck, your grandmother doesn’t hear you shrieking like a wounded banshee in time to get your ass into a tub full of vinegar and water which stops the chemical process wherein all your leg hair is being incinerated as you watch.
For the record, my older sister was horrified by her blunder. Or so she said. I had my suspicions, after all; this was the same sister who told me I was abandoned by gypsies, locked me in the potting shed with all the spiders who made those lovely, lacy cobwebs and who stole the candy from my Halloween pumpkin every year.
And, while I do have to admit that the incident left me unscarred physically and, might have actually made it unnecessary to shave my legs as often as most women (the makers of Nair might want to look into the chemical composition of Easy-Off when reformulating their product); it did leave me scarred emotionally, I mean, I came to in a tub that smelled like a douche.
So, my point in all this? A leetle more attention paid in reading class could have spared me the indignity.
Because, literacy is our friend.