If you're a parent you can never leave your children alone for a moment. You know how you hear all the time from the parents of the 5 year old you see on the news, who drove an 18-wheeler into a barn or fell off the roof of the grocery - "I only turned my back for a second!"
Well, that's too long.
You can't turn your back ever and here's a little story from my childhood as more evidence that turning your back is not a good idea.
We lived in a house that didn't have central air conditioning, but we had 2 window air conditioners, one in the kitchen/dining room combo and one in my parents bedroom, because in the 70's the parents were the really important people in the house and children were second class citizens who were made to suffer and sweat.
These days I think such a thing may be considered child abuse and things are all turned around and now parents are suffering for the children. What gives?
My brother in law Las Vegas is a prime example of this. MDH once went to a UMASS football game with Las Vegas and his oldest son who at the time was 18. The three of them stayed in a hotel room with 2 full size beds. MDH slept in one of the beds and Las Vegas slept ON THE FLOOR and let his young, spry perfectly healthy 18 year old son have the other bed. In my youth this would never have happened unless I was crippled or something and even then I'm still not sure my parents would have let me have the bed.
Anyhoo... the window air conditioners were expensive and I wasn't allowed anywhere near them for any reason.
We also (for a couple of years) had a pet cat. Her name was Calico and I loved her severely, but nobody had ever shown or told me how to care for or play with a cat properly and as a result Calico stayed as far away from me as possible at all times. I was a tail pulling, force-the-cat-into-my-doll- clothes kind of child. In short, the cat thought I was a little asshole and her instinct for self preservation was correct.
I was constantly chasing after our beloved kitty and the kitty was constantly skulking, low to the ground, as fast as she could away from me.
I soon learned however that she could be coaxed, temporarily, with food.
We kept our pantry stocked with can after can of a disgusting, although very popular at the time, brand of cat food called Puss 'N Boots. No doubt made with ground up horse meat, old phone books, o'possum innards and fish guts, for flavor cats love. Whatever was in it you can be sure that it stunk to high heaven and if you looked at it or had to smell it long enough your gag reflex would begin to kick in.
At the time my sister, who I mentioned before had Down's Syndrome, was going through a phase where she too was obsessed with our cat and also especially with dogs (though we didn't have one). She would spend a great deal of time on her hands and knees barking and meowing. Once she got into trouble for insisting that my mother serve her dinner on the floor instead of the dining room table.
My mother said, "Get up here and eat your dinner at the the table this minute! You're a big girl!", to which my sister replied with a loud yapping bark and then said, "NO! Me a boy doggie!", and barked again as to further prove her point.
Actually she said "Goggie" and it was all ridiculously adorable, up to a point.
Now that you know all of this I can tell you about the series of events that unfolded one summer evening when my mother left my sister and me alone for a few moments. Moments that would change all of our lives forever. Or at least until we finally moved out of that house.
As soon as I realized that for whatever reason my mother was going to be gone for awhile I made my move to the pantry and grabbed a can of Puss N' Boots, slithered over to the electric can opener I that could barely reach on the kitchen counter and the cat food can opening noise began.
As I'd hoped, Calico came running immediately.
My plan was working.
I scooped the stinking pile of cat food into a clean dish, set it down on the kitchen floor and laid down next to it as close as I could stand so that I could pet the cat while she ate.
So absorbed was I in watching the cat enjoy her bonus dinner I did not notice that my sister was observing the event as well.
She walked over to Calico and me, plopped herself down on all fours, shoved the cat out of the way, face planted herself into the bowl and began to eat the cat food herself.
I leapt into action, grabbed the bowl of cat food and started running at full tilt for the dining room. Not so much because my sister had started eating the food, but more because she had ruined my rare and special cat petting moment. I looked around for a new spot to begin again with the cat lovin'.
It was at this time that I tripped over my sister's outstreched leg.
So the bowl of stinking cat food in in my hand went rolling and flying across the dining room, the gooey blobs of cat food rolled and tumbled through the air and landed with a wet, sloppy splat right on the air conditioner.
Cat food was in every single little slat, nook and cranny.
I tried to clean up as much as I could as quickly as I could before my mother came back. Meanwhile my sister had grabbed the bowl that fell to the ground and resumed her mealtime kitty impersonation.
Of course my mother showed up right about this time and I don't remember much after that.
I do remember this: My mother and I were so busy, furiously cleaning the air conditioner, that we had kind of forgotten about my sister having eaten the cat food. Later, when my dad came home from work he nearly vomited when he greeted my sweet baby sister with a kiss. He recalled later that her breath could have knocked over a grizzly bear.
And I remember this: We were never able to get all of the cat food cleaned out of the air conditioner and every time we turned it on the entire house smelled like rotten sardines.