jayellebee's Blog

March 4, 2011


Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 1:53 pm

     The storm last week left us with sixteen inches of snow on the ground and lots of time on our hands.  Thursday night the power clicked off three times, and back on twice.  That meant no electricity, land line, cell phone (the AT&T tower went down), or internet.  And, since our TV dish is on the oh-so-steeply pitched roof, on the downslope side of the property, no television either!  This was our reality until Sunday night, three full days later.  

     Adding insult to injury, Ken and I knew three different families vacationing in Hawaii at the time.  I checked our newspaper daily to see how wonderful the weather was in the islands while I wore layers over layers to stay warm.  Thus my brain went into search mode, looking for a happy place to hide . . . .

     Mom and Dad took my brother and me to Hawaii in the summer of 1960.  They chose that year because, at the age of eleven, my fare was less expensive than it would be once I hit twelve.  The trip gifted me with many firsts.  My first time on a cruise ship.  My first out-of-California experience.  My first opportunity to swim in the ocean.  My first time on a jet.  My first experience exposing my father to public humiliation.

     Our family did a little island hopping, leaving Oahu to spend a few days in Kauai, and ending up on the Big Island.  Fifty plus years ago, the Kona coast was a quiet fishing village.  A handful of motels backed up, perpendicular to the black lava-encrusted shoreline.  Tide pooling required rubber-soled, laced shoes to avoid dangerous gashes on the soles of the feet.  My brother and I spent hours scouting out crabs at low tide, scooping up tiny, colorful fish in our hands, and laughing as the incoming tide showered us with warm, thunderous breakers.

     After a full day of sun and fresh air, I collapsed into one of the twin beds filling the tiny room my brother and I shared, an adjoining door away from our parents.  Our rooms were at the end of the motel closest to the ocean.  Sounds of the breaking surf lulled me into deep sleep.  Sometime around 2:00 a.m., I was up and running again.  Literally.  Nightmares and sleep walking were a common occurrence for me back then.  (Truth be told, I’m still prone to these activities when over-tired or stressed.) 

     My screams awakened everyone in the motel —  except my brother.  I fled the second story motel room, wearing only pink cotton baby-doll pajamas, and hit the walkway running.  Drawn to the street lights at the  far end of the motel like a moth to flame.  

     Repeated screams of, “No, Daddy, no!” accompanied my flight.

     Poor Dad.  Heaven only knows the root of my mantra — perhaps my night terror featured him in peril — but it continued as I ran the length of the walkway and down a flight of stairs.  I was half-way back to the sharp lava before Dad, also wearing not much, caught up with me and led me back to my bed.  I shudder now, knowing what the other motel guests must have been thinking  as they watched from their doorways, glaring. 

     Embarrassed, we checked out the next day. 

     Imagine how that scenario might play out were it to take place in today’s world.  Multiple 9-1-1 calls.  Smart phones capturing video footage.  Child Protective Services brought in.  Dad taken away.  All because of a frightening but innocent dream.

     Fast forward to 2010.  Last summer Ken and I drove to Seattle to visit our son and his girlfriend.  This delightful and talented young woman teaches a number of classes for children at their local YMCA.  She invited me to observe a class of, as I recall, three and four-year-old adorable ballerinas learning to plie under her tutelage.  Once class began, the ballet mistress and I were the only adults present as the dancers’ parents had gone off to run errands or participate in other activities at the Y.

     All of the girls except one were of the same ethnic background as I am.  You will see why this mattered.  The class progressed until the one sweet girl of color, without uttering a word, had “an accident.”  She stood perfectly still as a growing puddle enveloped her feet. 

     What was my son’s girlfriend to do?  She couldn’t leave the other children unattended to help the unfortunate girl in soggy tights.  There was no phone to summon assistance.  I was pressed into service and introduced to the child as a “good friend” who would be happy to take her to the restroom where she could get cleaned up.

     The child and I left the ballet studio, she trailing wet footprints.  Once in the hall, I had to admit I didn’t know where the restroom was.  The child took my hand and led me  to the proper door.  No one else was inside, picture me in a panic.  The situation could so easily be misinterpreted.  We obviously weren’t related.  I didn’t even know her last name.  She had no change of clothes.

     “Do you need to use the toilet?” I asked.

     She nodded.  I led her to a stall, swung the door open and stood back.  She stared at me.

     “Do you need help with your leotard and tights?” I asked, hoping for a negative response.

     She nodded.  We stepped into the stall.  She closed and bolted the door.

     I helped her remove her leotard.  My heart raced.  The soggy tights went down and still she waited, unwilling to touch the urine-drenched panties.

     Visions of being led away in handcuffs hammered my imagination.  The bathroom door opened.  A woman called the girl’s name.   The child’s mother had returned to the ballet studio and learned where to find us.

     “We’re here,” I called, cracking open the stall door, dreading an explosive scene. 

     This woman didn’t give me a second look.  She thanked me for helping as she bent down to assist her daughter.  I washed my hands, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and hurried back down the hall to dry the high-gloss cedar floor before any of the other ballerinas slipped.  Thankful my good deed hadn’t been perceived as evil. 

     Sunshine has reduced our sixteen inches of snow to a few white splotches in the shade.  How sad, when our children are involved, society can’t afford to shine a bright light on everyday occurrences before rushing to judgement.  Sometimes good people are prematurely condemned because we are so fearful of the bad people among us.



  1. I know someone who had a similar experience 15 years ago and the authorities WERE called. It was a nightmare for the entire family. Everything was innocent, and the louder the girl protested the innocent nature, of course, the social workers thought the parents had “made” her make up the story. Their names were on file for quite awhile.

    Comment by lizbooks — March 4, 2011 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

  2. Amen to your last paragraph. Everyone today is too hypersensitive, perceiving evil or an insult in innocent activities or remarks. Perhaps we have lost trust in our fellow humans, sometime with good reasons. Respect for others and their property seem to be gone. I don’t know what we do about it but I really don’t like it. I miss the days of unlocked doors, playing anywhere in the neighborhood to be called home by a loving shout or a whistle. They truly were the good old days.

    Great article. Thanks.


    Comment by Bee Hylinski — March 4, 2011 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  3. I was thinking of you yesterday Joanne and up popped your very thoughtful essay this afternoon. I remember having similar thoughts whenever our preschoolers and I were in similar predicaments. Stay well and warm too.

    Comment by nina bucchere — March 4, 2011 @ 4:32 pm | Reply

  4. Nicely done! Like Bee,I,too, remember roaming freely among friends and neighbors’ homes, and all the grown-ups assumed responsibility for whoever was on their property at the time. It was a simpler, kinder era. You’ve written a provocative blog post, with a sensible message.


    Comment by Ann Damaschino — March 4, 2011 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  5. I am moved by this telling, Joanne. First, the beauty of your winter wonderland (forget the inconvenience of freezing and darkness!); then the weave of events that thread together full circle. Well done.

    Comment by Jean G — March 9, 2011 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

  6. I second Jean’s lyrical motion!


    Comment by Bee Hylinski — March 9, 2011 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

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