Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stories -- The Elevator

Last week, my friend, Jim, blogged about worry.
Last night, Father Dan's homily was on worry.

And yesterday, my baby boy turned 18.

Was this a sign to write about worry? I thought about that for a minute, but then realized that my thoughts on worry haven't changed much from what I wrote here.

But there's a connection, I think. Sometimes I worry that I'll never finish my book. I've been plotting it out and mushing it about in my head since Will was a baby. Yes, that long.

But I have decided that this is the year to write full force, and have something worth reading by the end of the year. My book is a highly fictionalized account of losing our family farm, but I am trying to include as many of the real life great memories I have of the people, events and landscape. Even if it's never published, I think it's important to get some of these stories down on paper (or flash drive) because sharing family stories is one of the great joys of life.

In his homily, Father talked about his little sister and an escalator. So, I thought I'd write about my little sister and the elevator. Therefore,

My Little Sister and the Elevator

My mom had her hands full. I knew this, because when I was 8, everyone said that -- from strangers ("My God, you mom has her hands full!") to my Grandma H who reminded me every time we were together, "Now you be a good girl, because your mother has her hands full." My brother was 4 and a wild child, and my twin sisters were 2-year-old toddlers; mom's hands were more than full, and she could have used a few more. That's why someone gave her a set of harnesses for the twins. These were strappy little contraptions that fit over their shoulders and buckled in the back. Each harness was attached to a stretchy cord, so that the girls could walk and run about, but were still in mom's hands, so to speak. I'm sure whoever gave them to her thought they would come in very handy, but I remember them being used only once.

In our little town, there were 2 stores with elevators: the fancy furniture store and JC Penney. Although mom did most of her non-grocery shopping at GC Murphy's, when there were good sales we would go to Penney's, and riding the elevator there was a fantastic treat. Usually I had the honor of pushing the button and then taking the ride all the way up to the second floor, where we would shop in the children's department. As my brother grew, however, he liked to race the elevator, so I would have to begrudgingly run the wide staircase with him while mom and the twins rode up.
One shopping day, we kids were enjoying our time on the second floor, happily
weaving in and out among the racks as mom searched out bargains. The children's department was right outside the elevators doors, and mom reminded us to stay away from both the stairs and the elevator. I remember seeing the girls playing on the floor at mom's feet as I made lap after lap, chasing my brother around the clothes racks. But as I came around the rack on the next lap, I saw that one of the twins had stood up. I watched in stifled horror as Karen, attached to mom by her elastic tether, stepped through the elevator doors just as they were about to close. I yelled for mom to look, but Karen had already started her ride down to the first floor.

It didn't take mom long to realize what had happened, but what should she do? There she stood with her other three children, holding on to Karen's harness and watching the strap stretch, tighten and slide through the slit between the elevator doors right to the floor. She held on tight, not knowing what would happen if she let go, and sent me running down the stairs. I made it to the bottom just as the doors opened to see my sister, hanging near the ceiling of the elevator from the stretchy strap like a little angel. There she fluttered, too confused to cry, until the manager came with what I remember as the biggest pair of scissors I have ever seen, and cut her down. He held her until someone yelled up to mom that everything was OK, and mom and the other kids came barreling down the steps. After gathering Karen in her arms, she tearfully thanked the manger, unbuckled the harness from both girls and handed the remains to him, saying, "Throw these away."

There were so many things to be thankful for. Karen was unhurt. The manager was quick and level-headed. JC Penney's was only a 2-story building. And we had a good story to tell over and over.

Sometimes, I still see children attached to their moms with stretchy little harnesses at parks or malls. They probably think I am crazy when I sidle up and tell them to avoid elevators.