Our birth stories. Jake, the first, was NINE POUNDS and took his sweet time – 20 hours of hard labor for my poor, tiny mom. My parents insist that right after Corinne was born she stopped crying, lifted her head, and took a good long look around the room. Annie wasn't breathing, and since she was born in a German hospital my terrified parents couldn’t discern what the doctors and nurses were yelling about. And I came squirting out unexpectedly. As the story goes, the doctor leapt across the room and caught me by an ankle before I hit the ground. That story comes from a father who is prone to great exaggeration, so believe half of it (maybe less).
How Annie and I used to catch garter snakes and store them out in the garage in an old toaster oven.
That time Annie accidentally decapitated one of the toaster snakes. She was trying to make it slither by stooping over, gripping the head, and dragging in a snakey motion as she walked. Then she stepped on its tail. The end.
MOHAMMAD. We were both five and our dads worked together. Mohammad’s mom was learning English, so my mom helped out by watching their demon son while she attended class. He was the most toxic, feral, hellborn child I have ever encountered in my life. He antagonized me relentlessly; mimicking, undermining, pulling hair. He tortured the kitten that his parents gave him. One night, when his family had us over for dinner, I was playing with one of his older sister’s Popples and in a jealous fit Mohammad tore it out of my grip. I tried to hold on, but when he’d finally wrested it from me all that was left in my hands was a dismembered Popple ear. No one had noticed, so I stashed it in my pocket and when all the rest of the kids thundered off to dinner, I hung back, glanced left, glanced right, then stuffed the ear back into the hole and scampered away.
That time Jake lost a salamander in the house. A week later it scared the life out of my mom when it came crawling out from under the piano, completely covered in dust bunnies.
How I thought that football players in a huddle were praying.
How we used to gauge our ages by where we’d lived at the time (I still do, and I’m sure my siblings do too. Instead of saying, “When I was 10,” I say, “In Virginia….”). Anyway, we were once teasing 6 year old Annie about something silly she’d done a year before and she replied defensively, “That was in Kansas!” [translation: “It’s been forever, let it go already!”] but immediately continued on in dawning realization, “This IS Kansas!”
That time I was glinting my new watch off the face of a long-suffering fellow Pizza Hut customer. I didn’t realize what it was like on his end, blinding light in his eyes and all. After what must have been several minutes of me staring intensely at the guy and wriggling my wrist in an attempt to individually circle all of his facial features, my brother Jake noticed what was going on and grabbed my arm to stop me.
That time there was a volcanic eruption. My dad called my mom in a panic from work, telling her that Mt. Spurr 80 miles west of Anchorage had erupted and that the entire city would be covered in ash within hours. Our garage was full of boxes, so we frantically worked to rearrange it all so that the vehicles could fit inside (I used “we” loosely there). Over the next couple of days the entire city became blanketed in a half-inch of ash that lingered for months. My sisters and I would play “school” in the street by drawing out assignments in the silt with our index fingers – NERDS! (Here’s a link to more information about the eruption.)
That time I got blown across the schoolyard in Alaska. People never believe this story but I promise it’s true. My parka caught a gust and became a sail. I had to duck and roll to avoid the rapidly approaching fence. I was scared to go outside for a year.
That time A) I was 14, B) my parents were out of the country, C) Corinne was away for the night with friends, and D) a hospital an hour away called to say that Annie was there and to please have an adult call for more details. I had an emotional breakdown on the spot. Corinne didn’t have a cell and hadn’t left me a number where I could reach her. My parents were in the bowels of the Costa Rican rainforest. After a few minutes of reverse dry heaving I had the sudden inspired thought to check CallWave, an online messaging service from back when teenagers being on the internet tied up phone lines and caused dads to be very angry. My parents paid like 5 bucks a month and people could leave a message instead of just getting a busy signal. It just so happened that CallWave started us on a free trial upgrade to caller ID that exact same day, and that Corinne had called from her friend’s cell as they drove away from the house, and that I had happened to be online when she called, so I had a number where I could reach my sister. Turns out Annie’s horse had taken a tumble and she’d hit her (helmeted) head on a rock. The concussion wasn’t severe, but enough that Corinne and I had to take turns waking her up every hour during the night to make sure she wasn’t… I don’t know, dead? Unconscious? My favorite part of this story comes from Annie’s friend’s version of the events. After the fall, Annie insisted that she was okay, but just to be safe she led her horse back to the trailer instead of riding. She was acting strange, though, and her friend knew something was definitely wrong when Annie stopped her horse to pull some half-buried, broken, garbage sunglasses out of the sandy path. “Are these yours?” Annie asked. “They’re not mine…are they yours?” Lucia replied apprehensively. Annie looked distraught as she struggled to remember, then defeatedly replied, “I don’t know.”
How my mom is the most caring, patient mom on earth except in the following five situations: when nail clippers are borrowed and not returned to their rightful place, when in close proximity to a Gum Chewer, when dress-ups are left on the floor, when her face is being touched, when asked how long to microwave a food item.