My parents, Bob and Rose, were not risk takers, nor were they negligent or absent parents. Weary? Sure. By the time I was born in 1958, they had been “parenting” for 19 years. Yikes. Nonetheless, they hadn’t completely checked out. Yet…
Perhaps it was a bygone age when the dangers were yet unknown. But, really, did they need a scientific study? Or just a think-about what made sense?
So why was I permitted to do the following:
Envision summertime in suburban Chicago, circa 1968…to hell with the Vietnam War. Tonight the MOSQUITO SPRAYING TRUCK was comin’ through! Gather all ye children and run after the truck, lost in the fog, breathing in the insecticide. Ahhhh. What fun! The smell was noxious. Sure I coughed. But the fun of frolicking in the cloud!!
Let’s switch seasons. What could be more fun than Dad tying the toboggan to the bumper of his car and pulling us around in a snowstorm?
Or perhaps venturing out with the toboggan to Jensen’s slides? Gosh the sliding was the half of it. Just climbing the rickety stairs was terror enough. Then the slide down, wondering whether we’d actually get down in one piece, and if so, whether we’d slide into the Des Plaines river. The tantalizing tandem risk of brain injury v. drowning was uppermost in our minds. Or maybe it would just be a broken limb. I don’t think I ever visited Jensen’s slides on a day where the paramedics didn’t also drop in.
How about Foster beach? The bus rides were “safe enough,” and my Dad always advised never diving into a lake, and yes, both parents advised sunscreen. So how was it that I bussed to the beach in June, lathered up my Irish skin with baby oil (because Coppertone WAS the reason I didn’t tan), then dove into Lake Michigan off the pier, daring the submerged rocks to paralyze me with a neck injury? Okay, maybe that was me. My parents had dispensed the cautions. But did they think I’d obey them? I was the kid who not once, but twice, jumped out our split-level second story because I thought I could fly. To my Dad’s credit, when I returned from Foster beach, aglow with sunburn + Noxzema I had purchased on my walk home, he glanced up from the dinner table and said, “I thought you were smarter than that.” As I puked my way over the next 24 hours, I wondered the same myself.
But let’s talk about home front –1330 Castle Drive. Split level with garage door. Heavy 1960s-era garage door. No separate entry. To make good time, one had to stand at the kitchen entry to the garage, press the close button, and take off at a full run to duck under the descending garage door to avoid the few minutes time delay of closing the garage door and trudging to the driveway from another the back or front. All — including Bob and Rose — agreed this time-saving venture was totally worth the risk of being crushed by the garage door.
What about the youth group trips to Wauconda? Sure Bob and Rose had no idea that we all piled on the wooden float, then rocked and rocked until it flipped, trapping us underneath. Heck, I was a good swimmer, so the panic when I rose and encountered the flip side of the float with my head and couldn’t breathe was but a nuisance. Best to swim to the side and try to surface again.
My Mom told me her Mom let her row a boat in Lake Michigan rationalizing she was a “good swimmer.” She was appalled yet, in hindsight, my folks arrived at similar assurances.
Which leads me to wonder what my kids will reflect on….Why did I let them do that I shouldn’t have??
Perhaps that is better to know post-death?