There are things that happen to us as children that seem queer at the time. Many of these things that we experience, we write off as lack of experience and move on. I have forgotten more bizarre childhood experiences than I remember because of this. Once in a great while, there will be a circumstance that pulls one of these long-forgotten memories to the surface, and I have the opportunity to review such situations from an adult standpoint.
When I was growing up, my parents worked to keep the romance alive between the two of them. They made it a point to not let anyone or anything come between the two of them. It is fairly common for children to try to pit their parents against each other so they can get away with things. My brother an I were no exception to this. My parents however, would never fall for this ploy, but instead stood as a concrete unit against my shenanigans. They would have a weekly date night to keep the romance alive. Even when we had very little as a family, and could not afford the finer things in life, my parents budgeted to afford certain bare necessities. There was always a roof over my head, clothes on my back, nutritious food to eat, white-label beer for Mom and Dad to drink on occasion, and date night for Mom and Dad. Many times, my brother and I would stay with grandparents while my parents went out. Other times, they would hire a babysitter. Keep in mind that these are early childhood memories, and I can’t remember a single name of a babysitter. Only situations.
Babysitters come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The biggest problem with them – and with anyone for that matter – is that they are imperfect people. This is also the biggest source of entertainment concerning them. There was one babysitter that was as sweet as honey in front of my parents, but as the car would clear the driveway, she magically transformed into the Evil Bitch From Hell. I swear, you could see the black clouds form over her head, and the fire sparking in her eyes. My brother and I were good kids, but high-spirited, as boys should be. When it was just the three of us, she would scream the entire evening. “SHUT THE HELL UP!!!” “GO TO BED NOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWW!!!” in shrill screeching tones that would send cold shivers and goosebumps down the spine of harpies and banshees alike. She would scream about how she was going to tell our parents EXACTLY how BAD we were behaving. But, when Mom and Dad came home, she would coo to them about how well behaved we were, and how she always loved coming, and how she was looking forward to next time, in tones that would lull even the sirens to sleep.
Fast-forward twenty-five years. One morning several days ago, my son was in the bathroom, and I was in the adjoining bedroom. He was brushing his teeth, and I was loading my daily gear into my pockets. I heard a clatter that sounded remarkably like toothbrushes striking the tile behind the toilet – approximately where the plunger resides. I came around the corner to investigate to find him placing my toothbrush back on the medicine cabinet where I keep it. I asked him if he had knocked my toothbrush down on the floor, and he hesitantly admitted to it. I told him that it was not a really big deal, but anytime something like that happened, he needed to report it immediately, that accidents happen, and to please be more careful moving forward. Jenni pulled the heads off of all three toothbrushes and soaked them in rubbing alcohol until the next day. No biggie.
Then, I had the emergence of a very bizarre memory. One babysitter that my parents hired for a while was a very sweet girl. She was fun to be around, she played games with us, she was gentle, and generally seemed to enjoy the babysitting gig. She would come over, and we would play cards or a board game. Then, we would eat dinner, and all three wash dishes. Side note – kids need to learn to do dishes and find that it can be pleasant. After we did dishes, my brother and I would get changed for bed, and brush our teeth. This particular babysitter would come to the bathroom with us and brush her teeth too. Sometimes she would use Mom’s toothbrush, and other times she would use Dad’s. If she felt like she needed to get her teeth really clean, she would use both.
Did you catch that? At the time, it struck me as odd that she was using my parent’s toothbrushes. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. At that age, we don’t have enough personal boundaries for me to have been able to identify that it was a massive violation of privacy and personal space for her to be “borrowing” my parent’s TOOTHBRUSHES, but at any rate, it didn’t seem quite right to me. When I asked her if that was okay, she would sweetly explain that she had forgotten her toothbrush, and that she would clean them after we were in bed. That explanation seemed reasonable enough to me, and that memory was filed away in the dark corner of my brain along with all of the other insignificant childhood memories. –that is until my son knocked my toothbrush into the e coli zone where the toilet plunger lives.
I guess that just goes to show what a remarkable and strange piece of hardware the human brain is. Mom and Dad, if you read this I’m sorry. If it had struck me as significant at the time, I would have told you. I can’t even tell you the girl’s name. If her germs were going to kill you, I imagine they would have by now, if that makes you feel any better. I wonder what other weird memories I’ve got rattling around in here…