Golden Earring (A Flashback)
There were many a time I could have easily given my Mother stroke when I was a youngster. It’s bad enough that I lied to beloved nuns about her giving birth to a phantom baby that kept us up all night or that I ran amok half naked all over the neighborhood (and by neighborhood I mean our sprawling front and back yard, maybe through the wooded path) but the day I got my ears pierced was what you might call a humdinger.
It was one of those glorious sunny summer days where me and my Mother piled into the car with First Niece buckled safely in the backseat and First Sister ‘n’ Law, otherwise known as Lead Foot, at the rudder. First Sister ‘n’ Law’s driving style = bat out of hell. My poor Mother, who has never developed a stomach for rapidity, always held on for dear life, her own feet practically pushing right through the floor. It may as well have been a Flintstone car! We four were out and about doing the traditional weekly errands – groceries at the Capitol on Portland Street (which always meant a new Archie comic for yours truly), Pop Shoppe refills in behind Penhorn Mall (which was always a coo because I got to pick out the flavors once my Mother’s colas were acquired and secured in the take-home crate), a quick lunch (probably at the Wooclo lunch counter with an orange Jell-O and a dollop of whipped cream for dessert), and then we hauled ass to Cole Harbour. First Niece had an appointment to get her ears pierced. Something her little heart begged for until Bookend Brother and First Sister ‘n’ Law grew tired of her nagging and relented.
My Mother opted to stay in the car for a rest and a cigarette while we three were in the salon. First Niece skipped through the front door and proudly announced she was there to get her ears pierced. The Very Nice Lady welcomed us and led First Niece to her station where she climbed up into the big chair, into the kiddie booster seat, and steadied herself while the strong scent of barbicide and hairspray invaded my airway. The Very Nice Lady let First Niece pick out which pair of studs she wanted. Easy peasy. The Very Nice Lady, for lack of a better phrase, loaded her gun while she imparted easy cleaning techniques to First Sister ‘n’ Law. First Niece sat patiently waiting while the adults above her talked amongst themselves. I watched her carefully watching the gun. I had a feeling in my gut. It wasn’t the Jell-O. You just know when something is about to go awry. Even at that age, my instincts were razor sharp. And then, the shit hitteth the fan. The Very Nice Lady pointed her weird gun at First Niece’s left lobe and pulled the trigger. The caterwauling that ensued set First Sister ‘n’ Law sideways. First Niece went into full meltdown mode. First Sister ‘n’ Law lost her marbles. I watched the whole frenzied scene in disbelief. First Niece held onto her face like she’d been shot JFK style, flat out scream-refusing to get the other ear done. First Sister ‘n’ Law’s voice went up higher than my Alvin and the Chipmunks record. She was that exasperated at First Niece’s revolt she stormed out of the salon, got in the car, slammed the door, and cried to my Mother about how unhinged her child was. So yeah, it was just me, First Niece who writhed and wailed worse than Linda Blair in the ‘Exorcist’, and The Very Nice Lady who hadn’t moved a muscle or taken a breath since she shot the pretty gold jewelry into my kin. She attempted to try and convince First Niece to brave the other ear now that her Mother had gone outside. First Niece wasn’t having any of it. She sassed The Very Nice Lady in such a way her mouth should have been washed out with soap. And, that’s where I come in. To save the day. I made my way to stand in front of First Niece and gently consoled her. I told her that everything would be okay and that one more ear and she’d be done. She pouted and folded her arms tight up under her chin like a defensive pretzel, “I am NOT doing it! I won’t!” Sigh. She was stubborn nut to crack. I had to think quick on my feet. “How about if I get mine done and to show you that it’s not so bad?” Her face softened, she nodded. I lifted her down from the chair and sat in. The Very Nice Lady, grateful for my interception, showed me all the pretty gold studs. I picked out my birthstone, turquoise for December. She loaded her gun and took aim at my ear. First Niece stood close holding my hand. I jumped a tiny bit in the chair when The Very Nice Lady pulled the trigger. First Niece squeezed my hand in terror. It hurt like a mother but instead of reacting I smiled down to her, “One ear down, one more to go! And when you get your other ear done, we’ll match!” I saw her eye twinkle through her tears. She nodded. The Very Nice Lady shot me on the other side, and I was done. I didn’t bat an eye even though I wanted to curse a blue streak. It was enough for First Niece to get back up in the chair to brave the other ear, “Hold my hand!” I held her hand until both of her ears were successfully pieced. At that exact moment, a much calmer First Sister ‘n’ Law re-entered the salon. First Niece ran over to her and proudly displayed both ears. It was jubilant news to her ears. First Sister ‘n’ Law was taken to the cash to pay but didn’t have enough money with her to pay for mine. I ran out to the car, sidled up to my Mother in the passenger seat, exposed my ears, “I got my ears pierced!” Consider for a moment that she had just spent all that time trying to calm First Sister ‘n’ Law down, who was in bat shit hysterics, only to have me waltz up, hand out, looking for money she didn’t have to pay for my ingenuity, “Jeeeeeesus Christ, child! I don’t have money for this today! Suffering Moses!” She rifled through her purse and came up with the amount after scrounging for the change. I didn’t want my ears pierced, there was no plan or desire, but my word, someone had to take control of the situation.
First Niece and I had another similar experience when we were a little older. There was a meningitis outbreak. There was a mandatory vaccination taking place at my high school. First Sister ‘n’ Law, aka Lead Foot, sped us there for our needles. I am not a fan of needles. I wasn’t then, I’m not now. While lined up in the gymnasium, First Niece knotted her arms up like that same kind of pretzel lamenting she didn’t think she could go through with it. First Sister ‘n’ Law told her not to be so foolish and that a needle prick was worth not getting sick and dying. On cue, I volunteered to go first to show her it was no big thing. She entered the triage tent area with me. I sat dutifully on a metal stool, rolled up my sleeve, and smiled at her. She half smiled back even though she was quaking in her converse. The nurse manning our station had stepped out before I sat down so when she bound in, a large German woman in white, I was a little taken aback. She was stern and silent when I sheepishly mentioned I was little afraid of needles. She ignored my comment, snapped on rubber gloves, loaded up the vaccine and aimed toward my bicep. I took a deep breath and flashed a fake brave smile at First Niece who was ashen watching me. Nazi Nurse, instead of moderately injecting me like a sane health professional, jabbed me instead like a serial kille. Blood spurted everywhere from my arm, a violent spray that soiled her uniform and sullied the floor. First Niece shrieked. The sound that came out of her flashed me right back to the salon.
I’ve been thinking of these little memories for some time, so I thought it was time to write it down. A nice addition to the creative non-fiction project.