Last week I completed my 45th year on earth. I feel like I’ve hit true mid-life, though statistically speaking I suppose I could be well past.
My mom sustained a spinal cord injury in the 1950s that left her with legs that can walk but not run. Her doctor had no idea what might happen if she tried to get pregnant. Well, she got married, got pregnant, and gained the (at the time) recommended exactly 15 pounds over the next nine months. The doctor suggested a planned c-section. Since he was taking off on vacation (probably martinis and golf) on my mom’s due date, the doc said Gee, what birthday do you want? My parents thought Gosh, wouldn’t it be fun if the baby shared a birthday with her/his grampa?
So, two weeks ahead of the due date (now considered “early term”), I emerged into the world totally gorked on general anesthetic. Ten days later, my parents laid me in a box on the floor of the back seat of their ’65 candy apple red mustang hardtop. Homeward bound.
One of my favorite activities as a pre-walking toddler was to take my mom’s straight pins and line them up in pretty patterns along the arms of a red upholstered chair.
From kindergarten through third grade, I walked a mile each way to school. Judge, a pony-sized black Great Dane, chaperoned the handful of young kids down our one-block street. My imagination wishes he accompanied us all the way to school and perhaps stayed to attend to any disciplinary issues that cropped up in the course of the day. As it was, Mr. Neegard, our assistant principal, managed discipline issues with help from an aerodynamic holey paddle.
I walked home alone one snowy winter day. I might’ve been six. D.E., who appeared to be on the tattoo (ink & needle variety)/motorcycle/impregnation track, stalked me and shoved my face in a snowbank for no particular reason.
Kids on our block knew to cross the street at the very crest of the hill, so cars could at least see you before they hit you. We rollerskated up and mostly down either side of the hill, helmetless, collapsing in a flail of limbs in whomever’s grass was free of poop. If we didn’t feel like rollerskating, we biked up and mostly down either side of the hill, helmetless, zipping across blind driveways.
Eric and Chad’s backyard boasted a chin-up bar, the horizontal aspect maybe six feet off the ground. We’d hang by our knees, swinging back and forth, back and forth over the asphalt driveway below before cooling off in their wading pool, in good company with the squiggly mosquito larvae.
The playground at school featured a series of sawed-off telephone posts, creosote dripping down in artistic lines. We would leap from post to post, leaping because the adult who had decided it would be cool to walk from post to post had a much longer stride than a child. When the bell rang to signal the end of recess – I believe that bell was our only proxy for an adult presence – when the bell rang, I jumped from the tire swing at the very zenith of its arc. And landed exactly on a sawed-off telephone post.
I remember briefly regaining consciousness in the arms of an enormous man dressed all in white who reeked of paint.
The school called my mother. Your child got knocked out on the playground. (Which, I suppose, is better than knocked up on the playground.) You might want to take her to the doctor. And my mother, my five-foot-two, 110-pound mother, carried me to her car and drove to Fairview Southdale emergency room where I was admitted with a severe concussion and two lacerations a half-inch above my left carotid artery.
The kids at church teased me about the white bandage “shaving cream” on my chin, the bandage that covered fifteen stitches.
Why am I dragging you along on my trip down memory lane? I’m dragging you on behalf of the mother who was arrested after allowing her 7-year-old to walk to a nearby park. (Her bail was close to $4000 – and don’t even get me started on the equity issues around being able/not able to buy yourself out of jail.) Or the mother who swore (once) in a grocery store when her family, including her husband, insisted on squeezing the bread after she reminded them not to. She found herself arrested for disorderly conduct. Or the mother (I’m seeing a trend here…) arrested for leaving her kids at a park while she waited in line at a food shelf.
We have at least two potential routes of action:
1) Demand Equal Criminalization: Arrest the father-of-two whom I spotted wearing a t-shirt that read “Because Badass Mother F**ker is not an official job title.” Didn’t anyone tell him not to start a sentence with “Because”? Retroactively sue my elementary school (now condominiums) for moving me without stabilizing my cervical spine, failing to call an ambulance, and making my teeny tiny mother carry me out to her car. Hell, golly, you could arrest my husband, father, brother-in-law, father-in-law, and contractor for swearing in front of my child. Ooh! How about arresting everyone who smokes around a child!
2) The other route involves widespread policy change to support families including equitable access to family planning information and technology, healthcare, education, childcare, housing, nutrition, etc.
The second option seems so daunting and socialist. Much more fun to fill up our jails.
What did your parents do that would get them arrested now?