A FEW DAYS AGO I walked into “the second room on the left”, ushered by a young woman who told me to remove my shirt. Then she left.
Thirty-six minutes later another young woman came in, accompanied by the first. She ran her hands over my face, shoulders, arms and pointed out the obvious, “You grew up in the days before sunscreen.” More of a statement than a question.
“But I wear it now!” quickly springing to my own defense.
“Thirty, I think.”
“Throw it in the trash and buy some Eighty-Five minimum and reapply every hour.”
“Every hour! That stuff’s expensive.”
“So is skin cancer.”
“I HAVE SKIN CANCER?!”
Then she blasted liquid nitrogen on several spots atop my bald head, gave me a coupon for $2 Off a tube of approved sunscreen, and ushered me to the money lady.
In the headlines, again, “Don’t Eat Raw Cookie Dough.”
When school was in session the rules were clear and ever present. (at least back in the good-ol’ days.) No talking, no gum-chewing, stay in line, color inside the lines, no wise-cracking, don’t walk up the down staircase, etc.
Summer’s rules were different (back then). No swimming until the temperature is at least 80. Only one on the diving board at a time. Wait 30 minutes before going in the pool. Don’t pee in the pool. No horseplay. Don’t run. Quit popping your brother with the towel.
The summer’s of my youth were pretty much spent at the pool. (I have scars from nitrogen burns to prove it.) My Aunt Betty belonged to a church that not only permitted “mixed bathing”, they apparently encouraged it. There was a pool at their church, so she would take us swimming there most every day. I loved it.
For a few days each summer we would go to visit our maternal grandmother’s house. The rules were few there, but the ones she had were strictly enforced. She would whip the backsides of your bare legs raw with a switch she made you cut yourself from the old elm tree in her front yard.
We were allowed to roam freely in her hometown of Okmulgee, Oklahoma. She would give us enough money to see a matinee or buy some candy at the Kress Five and Dime.
Adventures there were sweet. I remember asking her if it was true that if you put a penny on the railroad tracks the train would smash it flat. She confirmed it would. On our next trip to downtown she gave us a penny with instructions to “stay away from those tracks.” A train will indeed smash a penny flat.
You never, ever got sick at Nan’s house. The first time you mentioned to her that you weren’t feeling well she would ask, “Do you think you need to have your throat swabbed with iodine or do you need a good enema.” “I’m feeling fine now, thank you.”
Many of her rules made practical sense (as opposed to some of the rules at school like: Boys must keep their shirttails tucked in.) (Nevermind that that rule ended in a preposition—a rule breaking a rule.) Not far from her house was an overgrown lot, that we imagined to be a forest for adventures. “Don’t go in those woods,” she would warn, “You’ll get a chigger on your wigger.” No one wants that.
Here we are at the season for Independence Day which of course means Fireworks. The Summer Rule Book has a chapter dedicated to this topic. Most every rule comes with a horror story to reinforce it. For example, we apparently had a distant uncle that chose to hold a roman candle in his hand while it shot firey balls into the summer sky. Well, it back-fired (or maybe he was holding it backward), anyway, the ball of fire hit him in the belly and he apparently had the scar to prove it. So we were taught to hold no fireworks in our hands, and as it turns out we were also to no longer put them inside frogs.
So, have fun this holiday, but be safe with the fireworks, wear sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. Don’t eat raw cookie dough or warm potato salad, and don’t go in those woods.