Storytime: My First Dance With Danger

Spring, 1988-1989

Over thirty years later and I can still remember that out-of-body experience. I can still see the fear in my eyes, my arms & legs pumping, and the set of headlights careening towards me.

I was four, maybe five, years of age. It was one of the rare times my father was off the road from his job as a long-haul driver enough to join the rest of his family for an extended family function. While I can’t remember what the exact moment of honor was, I remember being dressed in a button-down that matched my father’s, and I was proud to look like my elder namesake. Dad loaded all of us into the car and we were off to my great-grandmother’s.

My great-grandmother had raised my grandmother, and her eight siblings, on a farm in an area that surely meant something to someone, but was absolute desolation to the limited mind of a four-year-old. I watched the wind dance across the wheatfield as the wind blew from the car window. The agriculturally necessary stench of fertilizer made my nose crimp. The hot air of the strawberry spring made the little suit jacket I wore feel unnecessary and uncomfortable — little beads of sweat were forming in the hollow at the base of my throat.

When I say “farmhouse,” an image forms in most minds — that image is exactly what Grandma Ramsay’s house was like. That farmhouse was built on a foundation of work ethic, a living room where simple pleasures could be enjoyed, a dining room where many seats could be taken, and a kitchen untouched by time. The immortal legacy of that home, in my young mind, was the porch. Many times I’d seen my mother having a good chuckle with her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Across the road from the porch was a proud barn structure, where I’d seen wars of attrition take place on the platform of a game of pinochle. Cold Pepsi, masterfully strategized hands of playing cards, and groans of displeasure at losing cemented those memories for me.

That road, all fifteen or so feet wide of it, is where my life nearly ended.

That road would get maybe three cars along it in an hour — five if there was a funeral. Still, my parents weren’t stingy about the warnings. Look both ways, don’t play in the middle of the road, you’ll die — the usual. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I needed from the car, parked across the street from the house, but I needed it immediately. Without caution or concern, I took careless footsteps onto the pavement.

The first thing I heard was the siren’s warning of brakes screeching, then I saw the white car soaring towards me. Now, I’ve never been accused of being a brilliant child, but I think I started running away from the vehicle …like, down the street. I can still feel my little lungs burn from sucking in the air my body demanded. 

My survival instinct, may it live in infamy, must have taken over. The next thing I know, I’m safe across the street, leaning against my father’s car. Dad flew off the porch and across the street towards me, to make sure I was okay. Once I was certain there was no harm, my body dumped all of the life-saving adrenaline, and I puked where I stood. My ears rang, my legs felt like jello. I’m sure there were people talking around me, eyes casting stares of concern upon me, but I can’t recall noticing them.

I spent the next few minutes laying down in the back seat of Dad’s car, eventually, I recovered, but I never crossed the street carelessly again. I haven’t been to that house in Sinking Valley since I was eleven, or twelve, but the memory remains.

Thank you for joining me for this week’s storytime! I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!

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Songs Listened to While Writing This Blog

  1. The Clincher – Chevelle
  2. Save Yourself – Stabbing Westward
  3. Downfall – Trust Company
  4. Last Resort – Papa Roach

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