“Stop!” I shouted.
My five-year-old neighbor flinched, then froze as she stared at me in confusion.
“Put that down and back away slowly!” We had been playing with her bubble machine in my front yard, and her legs and hands were gooey with the liquid soap. I had turned on the hose to wash her off, but before I could turn the faucet off, she grabbed the hose and, horror of horrors, bent over to take a drink. Mercifully, before the poison liquid could reach her lips, I had gotten her attention (actually, I think I freaked her out) and she dropped the hose.
I think back to my early years in Connecticut when we used to drink from the hose on a regular basis, my brother and I, as well as the neighbor kids. We’d squirt each other, take a drink, squirt each other some more, take another drink. Many of us actually put our mouths on the vile thing. We had no idea that we were making mush out of our brains from the deadly lead that might have leached into the water from the hose. Thankfully, I’ve read about that danger in my adult years as well as many others that I never thought about growing up. It’s a wonder that any of us are still alive.
When I was growing up, we lived half a mile from the beach and would walk there nearly every day. My mother made sure we were armed with a hefty supply of Coppertone (was there any other suntan lotion when we were growing up in the ’50’s and ’60’s?), but as a teenager, I remember bringing baby oil and iodine to encourage a golden tan. Mind you, I am as fair as they come with hardly an ounce of melanin in my body, but I kept trying to tan instead of just freckle. My brother and I would blister every summer, then take turns peeling each other’s back to see who could get the biggest piece of dead skin in one single piece. I went to the dermatologist last week for the first time since I was a teenager, sure I must be riddled with skin cancer after all those early years of abuse, but I had not one suspicious spot. How is that possible?
In April, when I was visiting my daughter, I made cookies with my granddaughters (okay, so my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. I really thought that was sugar, not salt), and the girls wanted to lick the spoon and the bowl. When I said they couldn’t because I had used raw eggs in the batter, my daughter laughed and said, “Mom, you used to let us lick the spoon all the time when we were growing up.” That was before I knew of the dangers of raw eggs. I was ignorant then; now I’ve no excuse.
We rode bikes without helmets, rode in cars without seat belts, had dime-store turtles for pets until we found them weeks later shriveled up behind the couch after they’d escaped, never knowing they carried salmonella, played with mercury, watching it roll around like magic, and countless other things that we now know are potentially harmful or fatal. I’m afraid to read another article that will reinforce what terrible parents I had or we were, letting our kids do so many dangerous things. In their and our defense, we never knew any better.
And now I heed every cautionary statement. That’s why I was a little shaken this past weekend when I went to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for my niece’s bridal shower. My sister-in-law, her sister, and I had just picked up a fruit arrangement from Edible Arrangements. It was a large arrangement of fruit assembled to look like a floral bouquet. The car was packed to the gills with presents and food we were taking to the shower. The only spot to put the arrangement was on my lap on the passenger side in front. As we were driving to the shower, I started reading the cardboard tray into which the fruit had been placed: “For safety sake, place the arrangement away from passengers, preferably in the trunk. Never place it on someone’s lap. The arrangement contains many sharp skewers that, in the event of an accident, could seriously injure someone.” Yikes! I thought. If the airbag goes off, I’m a gonner!