by English Amy
I had to write about a memory from my childhood for my creative writing class.
"I can't swallow, Mommy; I'll choke." I remember missing the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus in 1976. I was five years old and refused to eat after choking on a piece of green Brach's candy. The experience was terrifying, and the memory still haunts me today. If you have ever choked on something, you know the intense, panicky feeling of not being able to breathe.
I recall playing with my dolls in the living room on the shag carpet that day. It was a very warm day in Billings, MT. I don't remember why I got up, but it was probably to grab more homemade doll clothes from the mini suitcase my mother gave me for storage. I got up and must have swallowed wrong, and the newly unwrapped, circular green candy slid down my throat. I remember the panic I felt as I couldn't breathe. My mom was sitting on the couch and noticed that I was in trouble. She quickly figured out I was choking. She grabbed me, took me to the sink, and started beating on my back. I am sure that this lodged the circular death wedge down my throat even farther. It seemed like forever, but I remember being upside down and having a big blow to my back that lodge the candy to the floor. I could breathe again, and I was scared.
For days, I was in pain. My back hurt, and my throat was sore. I resorted to drinking liquids. My mother tried to add substance to the soups she served me in order to re-nourish my body as I had lost weight and wasn't recovering from the trauma. She and my father resorted to all sorts of creative bribes to try and get me to eat. Nothing would change my mind. I would die if I had to swallow food.
The Barnum and Bailey's Circus was coming to town that summer, and we had family tickets to the show. I loved attending the big events at the Billings Metro stadium. The experience of all the people, the smells, and the cotton candy were beyond describable. My parents decided to lay down the law that if I didn't start eating real food that we would cancel our family outing. I didn't want to miss the show, but I still was so fearful of choking on anything with substance.
Unfortunately, the show came and went without me, and I continued to get smaller and smaller. My parents were at a loss. They used every threat they could think of, but nothing worked. Did I need psychotherapy? Did I need a spanking? How were they going to explain this craziness when I attended kindergarten in the fall?
My father came home one Sunday morning after going to the truck stop to get a newspaper. I loved the Sunday paper as it had the weekly colored comics. And, he loved those day-old gas station donuts that probably had been touched by every passing trucker who needed a coffee and a snack. He was engulfed in that paper and nonchalantly offered me a donut as if it was no big deal. It was the baited hook that made me bite. I think I ate half a dozen of those dry donuts that day and didn't even take time to breathe between bites.