Well, this is how it went.
We were still living in the house in Utah and I was attending first grade. We had a lot of students enrolled in the school now, as the neighborhood was growing rapidly. They had moved us several times, to different schools, as they tried to figure out how to deal with the growing population of children coming in. I still remember one such grade school that was right on the edge of a big ravine. (It probably was very small, but when you are in first grade, things like that are ENORMOUS!) I don't remember the name of the grade school, as we were, literally, moved to three different schools that year. I also don't remember what the classroom looked like or the lunchroom, but I DO remember one thing about that school.
There was a rumor around the school that passed down even to us little first graders. The rumor was this: There was a crazy wild man that lived in the ravine, and he would take children and.....well, we didn't know what he would do with them. We never got that far.
In our minds, the crazy, wild man was scary enough!
So, we used to stand on the edge of the ravine at recess and look down in----daring one another to go in. It was one of those times that your heart is beating a hundred times per minute. And you would swear that you could see someone down there watching you.
But, of course, I digress.
That is not where my encounter with death was.
No, no. It happened much closer to home-----or rather, in my home.
The reason that I mention all of the aforementioned drama....is that because of this fact of not having room in our schools, they decided to have a "double" school day. In other words, some students went really early in the morning and were out by noon. Then some of the students went after lunch and were going home in the dark at 5:00. I don't know if they used the same teachers. I don't think so. But this is where I have to begin my tale, as it goes along with the memory of coming home in the dark.
The time was Halloween. It got dark early, so we had to wear silver armbands that were reflectors, so cars could see us as we walked home from the bus stop. I remember this so distinctly as it was rather strange walking from the bus stop in the dark. We had had our Halloween parties that day and I was in high spirits, even though my stomach had little flutters in it, as I still had thoughts of wild crazy men in my mind, and there we were, my sister and I, walking in the dark!
We had to walk about two blocks----even though there weren't really blocks----being in the country like we were. Since I was feeling a bit nervous and excited at the same time, I asked my sister if we could stop and take some of our candy out to eat on the way. I reached into my Halloween sack, and grabbed the biggest thing there.
They were big, red wax lips, the kind that you wear in your mouth and then you chew them----the taste is sweet and the texture is rather like chewing a piece of soft rubber. It was delightful to a young child like me. So, I decided to take a big bite of it, knowing that it would last me the rest of the walk home.
We got home, and I was chewy merrily, very content that we had made it home in one piece and no wild and scary man had grabbed us. My Mom told us to take off our jackets, wash our hands and work on our homework. Then she noticed that I was chewing something.
"What are you chewing?" she said. "Its almost time for dinner! I hope that you haven't spoiled it." Janene and I looked guiltily at each other. We probably should have WAITED to eat some of our Halloween candy, but we were kids, right? But, of course, my sister being such a good girl, she told Mom that we had only each had one piece of our Halloween candy from our parties at school.
At that point, she asked to see our decorated paper bags---and then told us that she was going to keep our candy so it wasn't a temptation. We promptly gave them to her, chattering as we did about our parties and the different events of the day, as Halloween was coming that weekend, so we were excited.
Well, as she opened up my bag and pulled out the half eaten wax lips.
(Of course, I think that she dramatically put her hand to her lips and gasped, but I'm not really sure that is what she did.)
But she was upset, that was for sure. She asked me if I had eaten some of the wax lips. Of course, I still had some in my mouth, and there was a half eaten one in her hands.
I was CAUGHT! But, then again I didn't understand why anything was still that wrong.
Well, she proceeded to tell me that they had found out that people were dying from cancer gotten from a certain red dye that was found in-----yes, you guessed it, WAX LIPS!!
She was so UPSET! She made me spit out the remainder that I had in my mouth, and wash it out. I remember being very upset myself, and was crying for getting into trouble.
After that, her words haunted me.
I mean, I was very young and in my mind, the dreadful deed that I had done had sealed my fate.
I just knew that I had "cancer" and that I was to die from it. I never thought of asking exactly when or how I was to die, but I thought that it was inevitable. I was doomed.
I am sure that you are amazed that I was so naive. But I was a child, and we weren't really told about much of anything. So, I drew my own conclusions.
So, every night as I went to sleep, I would wonder if this was the night that I would, well, perish.
And then I would wake up and as I went through my day, I wondered if this would be the day when I would get sick. Of course, I had already been so sick with my rheumatic fever, so I knew what it was like to be sick----and I figured that "cancer" would probably make me sick like that.
But I just wondered in my own child-like mind how long it would be before I died. I don't remember feeling scared, just kind of matter of fact. I had eaten the wax lips and this was my
punishment. I don't really think that I understood it all. I just kind of accepted it, had fun each day, but remembered each night about my "disease".
My Mom and Dad never did tell me the truth about "cancer". I learned only years later when I was older about the "red dye" scare. I think that I eventually forgot about it as a child and figured that maybe it was going to take longer than I thought.
I guess that I just decided that I was lucky and I must have cheated death, not one....
....but TWO times!
Here I am in my new Sunday dress the summer before 1st grade.
And here is my sweet sister, Janene and I sometime that early Fall.
Gotta love those grins....
Gotta love those grins....