My mother gave me a gift the other day.
Or DID she?
I’m starting to think she might have a bit more of a sadistic sense of humor than I ever gave her credit for.
I mean, think of one of your greatest childhood traumas. Now imagine your mother giving you a kitchen towel with the source of that trauma emblazoned on it; Like that creepy clown from the circus that gave you nightmares, or a photo of the bad perm that had everyone calling you “poodlehead” for a month.
Of course, we all can laugh about it, now that it’s 35 years in the past, right? We should be able to, because in all honesty, it’s hilarious. And awful. But mostly hilarious.
Let me introduce you to the source of my greatest childhood trauma- The Pussy Willow.
Yes, I’m serious. Don’t let this furry ball of cuteness deceive you- it’s a menace.
See that sweet little circa 1979 me? All innocent and naïve? Keep that face in mind when you hear the tale I am about to tell.
I’m the youngest in my family. The baby. As a child I loved the attention that brought. I’m not gonna lie. I was a bit like Parker in that I just thought the world revolved around me.
The problem with this, besides the obvious issues of narcissism, selfishness, and desire to be the center of attention, was that I didn’t like to share the spotlight, but I wasn’t the only child in the house. My sister Shannon would have been about 12 when this event occurred, my sister Colleen about 9. I was 6.
One day I came home from school to discover Colleen snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, some tea, and a book. She wasn’t feeling well, I believe she might have had an ear infection.
I was jealous of the day off from school, I was jealous of the pampering, and I was jealous of the attention. Also, I think part of it was that I wanted to be like her. She had something cool and different going on, and I wanted in on that action.
I noticed that my mom had set a vase of pussy willows next to Colleen on the coffee table. I also noticed that she appeared to have something fuzzy in her ears. What I didn’t know, was that the fuzzy things in her ears were cotton balls. There were no cotton balls on the coffee table. All there was, was a vase of pussy willow branches.
You see where I’m going with this.
I broke a couple of pussy willow seeds off and headed for my mother’s bathroom. I placed one furry seed in each ear. It didn’t look right. I pushed it in further to get the same look as my sister’s had, but still it didn’t look right. I tried to pull one out, but it wouldn’t come. I tried to pull the other out, and managed only to push it further into my ear.
I knew I had a problem. And I knew I was going to be in big trouble.
I have blacked out the confession to my mother. I know she tried several different methods of extraction, to no avail. She called the doctor’s office and made me an appointment.
My mom doesn’t drive, and my dad worked, so we had to take the bus into town for the doctor’s appointment. The doctor attempted to remove the pussy willows, but was only able to get one of them out. The other was so deeply embedded it was going to start sprouting in the spring if we didn’t get it out of there. (I hear ear wax can work as a fertilizer. That might be a wives’ tale)
The doctor referred us to a specialist, probably an ENT in the town over.
For a few days I walked around with a pussy willow seed in my ear. I was starting to wonder if anyone would ever be able to get it out.
We rode for what seemed like forever on the bus to the clinic. The doctor and nurse both gave me reproving looks when they heard the story.
The decision was made that the only way to get the pussy willow out was to lube up the ear, chop the seed up and suck it out. This did not sound like a good plan to me, but I had lost my right to an opinion when I shoved a pussy willow down to my eardrum.
I will never, for as long as I live, forget the sound of that pussy willow being sucked out, the feeling of him rooting around with that tube in my ear, the smell of ear wax and humiliation permeating the air.
When he finished, he gave me the standard, “Don’t ever shove a pussy willow in your ear again” talk. I don’t know why he thought that was necessary.
I’m not sure when the story became funny. As with most silly childhood traumas, time and distance gives perspective. But it did, it joined the ranks of “the Burgundy Cherry ice cream incident,” the “missing pack of cough drops” incident, and the “Katie fell off the edge at Deception Pass!” debacle.
A few years ago our church in Socal, Rock Harbor, did a series on the Sabbath and what it means to truly “Sabbath.” The suggestion was that they would do the same service two weeks in a row, and we were to choose one to attend, and the other to “Sabbath.”
I announced to my family that we would be participating, and we made plans to spend the day together. I did a lot of prep work leading up to that Sunday. As the mother of 4, the concept of a day of resting is a foreign one, and trying to figure out how to fill the needs of my family while still being able to rest myself was daunting. I bought stuff to make easy sandwiches for lunch, I made a breakfast casserole the night before so that all I had to do was pop it in the oven in the morning. I was going to rest and relax, dammit!
We chose to play board games, although I can’t for the life of me remember what we could have played that accommodated the ages of my children who were ranging in age from baby to middle school.
I do, however, remember very clearly when someone noticed that Zoe was making funny sounds with her nose. She couldn’t have been much more than 3. She kept acting like she needed to blow her nose. I suggested she get a tissue. Jeff decided it was worth a closer look.
There was something up there.
There was something shoved far up into her nose.
He grabbed a flashlight and shined it up, and shouted some sort of non-Sabbath-friendly expletive. It was a nut. Not a peanut. Not a cashew or an almond. A nut. A metal nut, as in “nut and bolt” and it was almost to her sinus cavity.
My husband decided the best thing was to take her upstairs and attempt to get it out without everyone hovering around. After quite a very long time of delicately maneuvering tweezers around in her nose, and applying pressure from the outside to push it down, he eventually was able to get the chunk of metal out.
Any idea of relaxation had gone out the window by that time.
Of course, Zoe was so young, she probably doesn’t even remember, and certainly wouldn’t be offended if I gave her a dish towel with this on the front:
These things happen. Kids shove things where they don’t belong. If you can’t laugh about stuff like this as a parent, you won’t ever survive.
Will I ever have a vase of pussy willows on display in my house? Probably not. Will I ever be able to look at pussy willows without shuddering and hearing the faint sucking and slurping of a vacuum tube? No. Can I hang a pussy willow dish towel in my kitchen for the Spring and a good laugh? Sure I can.
When she handed it to me she giggled and said, “I couldn’t not.”
I don’t blame her. If I were her, I couldn’t not, either.