The Human Piggy Bank

Have you ever done anything really stupid in your lifetime?

Do you have certain family members or friends who will not let you live down that one moment of insanity? Well, the people in my life who serve to continuously drudge up the past are my "loving" siblings.

I can not remember how many times I would have a friend over for dinner at the house when one of my three siblings would never fail to bring up my little embarrassing moment. I mean, it would not even fit into the conversation, but they would find a way to bring it up.

"Mama these peas are great."

"Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy them. Al, will you please get some more tea out of the kitchen?"

"What are you going to plant in the flower bed by the freezer house this year?"

"Oh, by the way, have we ever told you the story about the time Lori stuck the dime up her nose?????"

There it was. My ultimate humiliation before whomever it happened to be at that particular time. They never seem to dwell on the times Al, my younger brother, was dressed up like a little girl (I even have pictures to prove that). They do not even care about the time Tish told Andrea to lay down in a pot hole in the driveway so that she would not feel the bump when riding her bicycle (The stupid thing is---Andrea lay down and Tish proceeded to run over her with her bike). No, the only thing they care about is humiliating their younger sister before her friends. It is awful, but even more ironically, this dime incident would not have even happened if it was not for them, namely, Tish.

As I remember it, I was seven years old, and my parents, who were always going to church meetings, were leaving to go to a church revival meeting. It was a weekday night, so we, the four children, had to stay home and get into bed by 9:00 sharp; we had school the next day. Tish, the oldest, was left in charge of us. She had never kept us by herself before, but it was inevitable that this day would come.

Tish was between thirteen and fourteen years old. It was our unfortunate luck that she was left to keep us for the few hours Mama and Daddy would be gone. Well, maybe it was just my bad luck. Anyway, I followed Mama around while she was getting ready. I did not want her to leave us with Tish, and I kept begging her to take me with them. I promised her everything from never asking for anything else to promising to eat squash the next time she made it, but nothing worked.

Mama just told me to be quiet, and she finished cooking dinner for us. Everything was ready to eat, but Mama and Daddy were running late. They would have to eat when they got back. Tish was in charge of fixing our plates and making sure that we got to bed at the right time.

In a flurry of last-minute directions and questions, Mama and Daddy left. Tish locked the door behind them, went to the kitchen, and fixed us all a huge plate of food. Andrea and I looked at each other with huge eyes. How hungry did she think we were? It was hot outside, and I did not have much of an appetite. Apparently though, Tish did not care.

Have you ever noticed how people change when they are delegated a certain amount of power? Well, Tish was the head "honcho," "the supreme being," "the big banana," "the chief of chiefs." (You should be getting the idea by now). She was in charge, and she was not going to let us three insignificant beings forget that important fact.

I sat in the last stool at the island bar in the kitchen, and I tried my best to stir up the food so that it looked like I had eaten some of it. I did eat all of my ham, some of the peas, and a little bit of the corn, but there was no way under heaven that I was going to touch that slimy okra. Mama would not have put any of that stuff on my plate. She knew what I liked and did not like. Tish did not care what I liked or did not like. However, I could not get up from the table until I had eaten everything on my plate.

Now, that was not a normal rule at our house. Mama always knew about how much we could eat, and she fixed our plates accordingly. I think that Tish had gotten that ridiculous rule off of a television show, or maybe she made it up so that she could sit in the living room and watch whatever she wanted to on the TV while we were sitting at the table trying to finish the ungodly amount of food on our plates.

Tish, whose plate was not quite as full, finished quickly. Andrea finished second with a sick look on her face. Al fell asleep trying to finish his food (he was only about four years old). I was stuck at the table trying to hide the food everywhere I could think of. Eventually, I just got mad. I found some milk money change in my skirt pocket, and I started playing with the nickel and that momentous dime. I pushed my plate away from me and starting flipping the coins.

Tish heard the noise, though I do not know how she could over the loud noise of the TV, and she found my nickel and took it away. She told me to quit playing and to eat my food. I gave her a look and stuck my tongue out at her when her back was turned.

I had hidden my dime under the plate when I heard her coming, and she had not found the stash. I could not think of anything funnier to do so I--here I would like for you to remember that I was only seven years old, under extreme duress, and exceedingly bored--proceeded to stick the dime up my nose. I would put it in and pull it out.

This continued for several minutes until I pushed the dime in too far. I could not reach it to pull it out, and every time I tried, I only succeeded in pushing it further up my nasal cavity. I jumped up, yelled to Tish that I had to use the bathroom, and ran to the mirror and tried to look up my nose. Do you realize that God put noses on human heads at a distinct angle that makes it impossible to look up your nose no matter what distorting contortion you place your body into?

I got really nervous. What was I to do? I could not tell Tish because there was no telling what she might do to me. Mama was not there. Oh, how I wished that Mama had been there. She would have made everything all right. She was not there, and I had to think of a plan quickly.

While I was in the bathroom, Tish had taken pity on me (either that or it was my bedtime). She had cleared off my spot at the table and fixed me a pallet on the dining room floor. She wanted me where she could watch me to see that I was not playing with my dolls but where I could not watch TV I lay down perfectly still. I was so terrified, and I just knew that I was not going to live.

With the dime still stuck in its awful position, I tried to stay awake until Mama got back, but I could not. I played "possum" one time too many when Tish came in to check on me, and I really fell asleep.

When Mama got back, she carried me to my bed. While Mama was putting me in my bed, I kept mumbling about having done something terrible, something bad, something awful. Mama tried to wake me up, but I was too far gone. She assumed that I was just talking in my sleep. All night long, I slept perfectly still. I did not roll over once.

The next morning when Mama was helping me to get ready for school, I started mumbling about having done something awful.

"Lori wake up. What are you talking about? What have you done?"

"I did something really bad, Mama."

"What Lori? You can tell me. TISH!"

"No Mama, don't call her. I only stuck a dime up my nose."

"YOU WHAT?"

"I stuck a dime up my nose, but it wouldn't come back out. It is still up there."

"Come here and let me have a look."

Mama proceeded to jerk my head up, and she turned a light in my direction. I was blinded by the light, and Mama began pulling and pushing my nose in every direction. She said that I must have gotten it out because she could not see it. I swore to her that it was still up there.

We immediately got dressed, loaded up in the car, and went off to school and the doctor's office. Mama and I dropped Tish, Andrea, and Al off at Open Bible, and we went to Dr. Dennard's office. When the nurse heard our situation, I was taken back immediately. I was embarrassed, and I had wished that Mama would not talk so loud when telling about what was wrong. She felt it necessary to explain my situation not only to the nurse and the doctor but also to the three mothers sitting in the waiting room with their children who had real illnesses. No, she could not just let those mothers assume that I had a sore throat; she had to tell them the entire story. I felt myself shrinking more and more into the leather seat with each retelling.

Finally, I was able to escape from the embarrassing stares of those mothers and was taken back to see the doctor. The doctor blinded me with a light, and he stuck his gloved fingers into my mouth while he was pushing my nose into my eyeballs. He could not see it either. Finally, he looked up my throat, and there it was. It was lying on the edge of my windpipe. He pushed my head down between my knees and went running off telling his nurse to get an operating room ready in the emergency room. My Mama was going hysterical. She was crying and wanted to call my father.

I felt very self-conscious sitting in a chair at the doctor's office with my head between my knees, and no lie, he made me sit that way for 30 minutes. I was about to pass out. He finally lifted my head and peered down my nasal cavity again. He saw it that time, and with a very scary looking instrument, he was able to pull it out of my nose.

He could not believe that I had lived all night with that dime on the edge of my windpipe. Any slight movement could have made it fall down and cover my air passage completely. I would have died quietly, and my parents would have never known. I felt really stupid after he talked about my life being in jeopardy because of a stupid dime. Then, the teasing began: he said that I would make a great human piggy bank.

Ever since that day, my family finds it extremely amusing to tease me about this near-death experience. Can you believe their cold-heartedness? I could have died; I could have dropped out of their lives forever; I could have. . . . This is where Andrea usually interrupts me and says,

"Hey you dummy, you know that we are only teasing you. Laugh a little. . . ."

Lori Swilley Bennett