Thursday, December 9, 2010

Toilet Paper and Tornadoes

It was the coolest thing, ever.

I took the toilet paper, layered it into the sink, turned on the water, and it disintegrated like cotton candy meeting moisture. Amazing. Most things like this were amazing when I was six years old. Just to make sure; I needed to try it again. And again...and, yeah, one more time.... Yep. Toilet paper turns to mush in water. Exceptional. And very, very interesting...

But suddenly I was faced with the dilemma of a wad of mush in the bottom of the sink....of course I knew that my parents would maim me or worse if they knew what I'd been doing. I needed to destroy the evidence. Using my actual hands to muck out the sink and throw the whole lot into the toilet did not even enter my mind. Besides, then I would have to touch it, and that would just I thought to myself that if you can flush toilet paper down a toilet....surely you could flush it down a drain. And I did, with the help of a lot of water, and my fingers, gingerly poking and encouraging the clump to go down the hole from time to time. After right properly disposing of the...evidence...I shut off the water, flicked the switch on the light, closed the door to the only bathroom in the house and forgot entirely about my adventure.

Until...My father came home from work. Of course the first place he went, after a rather long drive home from the hospital where he was employed, was the bathroom. Of course when he attempted to wash his hands, there was a problem. Of course there was hollering involved. Of course I didn't have a clue why...I was innocently watching tv, after all...what was that adult's problem, now? Sheesh, it was always something. I paid little heed until I saw his shadow towering over me in the afternoon light. I was lying on the floor in front of the tv and suddenly felt very vulnerable.

Here is the part where I get to admit what a good actress I am....with no small amount of shame...When it became apparent what the issue was, I froze in fear. Pain was a given; when Father gave a spanking, all of his frustrations with his marriage, fellow employees, his receding hairline, and the bullies that picked on him in grade school went straight to our backsides. So when questioned; I lied. He then went after Lauren, who was eight and just laughed at the question, saying, "Why on earth would I do a stupid thing like that?" So then Father turned to Hildy, who was four. The interrogation began. She denied it, but he didn't buy it. Confused, he went back to me. Think light bulb hanging from the ceiling in a small room; very similar set was tough, but I once again got away with it; he believed I didn't do it. Relentless, he went back to my utter astonishment...confessed! I guess Father had worn her down, and she figured he wouldn't leave her alone until she coughed up the goods, real or imagined.

Father came into the room where I was watching tv and actually... apologized to me...this was unprecedented for him, an apology of any sort was unheard of. Lie or no lie, that was the most uncanny part of the whole thing. I still remember how great it felt to see him humble for a change. He said he wanted to make it up to me and told me in a moment he would bring me to the five and dime for a Slushie. This was getting apology AND my favorite, a Slushie? Incredible.

It didn't feel so incredible when Father turned on his heel to hunt down Hildy. This was something I was not anticipating...that she would take the 'hit' for me...I guess Father's frustrations had to go somewhere....just why there?... I heard her cries from the room down the hall as he spanked her. I felt terrible. I cried, too. But I didn't feel terrible enough to confess; after hearing my sister's spanking I was truly terrified. If I confessed then; well, it would have been really, really bad. I kept silent.

My slushie that night was the worst one I'd ever had. It was disgusting...just like, I thought... me.

I let eight long years go by before I said anything. I was fourteen. We were huddled in the family car in the middle of a tornado and the wind was screaming and rocking the car. Nothing puts the fear of God into you quite like a good tornado. My mother suggested that we sing hymns to calm us. In between hymns I cleared my throat and announced to my family that I WAS THE ONE WHO PUT THE TOILET PAPER IN THE SINK WHEN I WAS SIX. The car went silent. Followed by thunderous....laughter.....

"You're such a dork!" Lauren said, and she punched me on the arm.

"I don't even recall that," Father said, perhaps not being able to sort one Federal Offense from the other.

But Hildy was quiet for a moment, until she said, very softly, "I remember that."

I turned to her, weeping, and apologized with all my heart. The others were too busy laughing to even catch the exchange, so we had the moment to ourselves. I've apologized repeatedly since that night in the car.

Knowing what I know now, I would've taken that spanking a dozen times over so that my sister wouldn't have suffered. Far better, I've learned, to have it be me than her. And the guilt I carried in my heart over that one incident was some heavy guilt, indeed. And so not worth it.

And to my dear sister, who took the blows for me....thank you. You didn't deserve it. There's not enough chocolate in the world to repay you. Love ya, Sis.

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