When I was growing up, there was not a lot of money for extravagant holidays. Most of our vacations were spent visiting family. In my late teens, Mom and Dad were a lot more financially secure and therefore made a decision that our last family trip should be a memorable one. To my and my sister’s delight, we all celebrated my 19th birthday in Bermuda.
Apparently, it was Bermuda’s cool season – around 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and my sister and I thought it was hilarious that all the teens our age were wearing long pants, light jackets and tuques. Having just left the deep freeze that is Canada in February, we donned our shorts and T-shirts and happily spent hours at the beach: our last chance to be Mom and Dad’s kids with no worries or thoughts about who was paying the bill.
We were especially thrilled to be able to drive around on mopeds, exploring the island: neither of us had ever driven any kind of ‘motorcycle’ and we couldn’t wait to get out there. Dad insisted on coming with us, at first, to teach us the ropes and to make sure we would both be mature and responsible about the whole thing. This back in the days before safety was a societal concern, I remember thinking we all looked ridiculous with our helmets – like the little Martian on Looney Tunes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXB9823Qg9E) – but Dad refused to let us go out without them. Resigned, we both self-consciously giggled as we got on our mopeds – large Martian heads notwithstanding – to have our first driving lesson with Dad.
I don’t recall how far we had gotten when we came to the first little crossroad, but Dad made us come to a full stop as he seriously explained how important it was to watch for danger; to look both ways for traffic; and then to ease carefully out into the intersection. “Otherwise, you’re going to wipe out and you could get killed.” He warned us with great seriousness. Dad’s lecture seemed to last an awfully long time before he appeared satisfied that we ‘got’ it. My sister was impatient to get started. I, as usual, was studiously listening to every syllable of his instructions.
Finally, he was ready for the demonstration. “Now, watch closely! This is how you do it, girls,” he shouted over the noise of the moped, as he gave it some gas. For a moment, the tires spun uselessly in a patch of gravel on the road. Then without warning, they found purchase and Dad’s moped suddenly shot like a bullet into the intersection, wiping out dead centre and sliding the rest of the way into the ditch beyond.
We all react differently in a crisis.
My sister, God bless her empathetic little soul – was in hysterics, laughing so hard the tears rolled down her cheeks. She was absolutely thrilled to have witnessed Dad making such a fool of himself. I, on the other hand, thinking I was witnessing Dad’s eminent death, stood rooted to the spot and burst into large, braying sobs.
When my sister finally managed to get hold of herself enough to check whether he was okay, Dad did indeed have a few cuts and scrapes. The men I hadn’t even noticed on a worksite across the road helped pull him out, laughing almost as hard as my sister while they did so, as I remained on the other side of the intersection, still rooted to the spot and crying inconsolably.
It was a foregone conclusion, that day, that I would never go into the field of medicine.
And my sister still laughs until she cries when she tells this story.
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com