My memory is almost entirely unreliable. This has proven inconvenient through years of bickering with a mother and sister with equally unreliable memories, and frustrating when bickering with a succession of lovers who actually had some talent for remembering things. Somehow “I’m pretty sure that’s how it happened” coming from my mouth never had any real kick of authority behind it. Likely due to multiple family retellings over the years, one early memory I can dredge from the void is the day I allegedly saved my sister’s life.
I wandered into the living from from some other part of the house, my mother working away at her desk by the large picture window, and walked over to see what my sister was doing. She was lying still on the hideous brown couch with wooden armrests, not watching the cartoons blaring from the television.. The couch one of us would some day smack her forehead against requiring several stitches. The other of us would need a similar set of stitches from playing with keys, but I can never recall which of us did what.
“Mom, Kim threw up,” I told my mother with typical preschooler matter-of-factness.
The next several minutes are a cacophony of images absent any cohesive sense of chronology. My mother dashing over to find not only had my sister thrown up, but she was so sick the vomit stayed in her mouth and throat, blocking her airway and inhibiting her ability to breathe. My mother whisking my sister off to the bathroom and reaching in her mouth to scoop out the vomit. She would later be reamed out by the paramedic for doing so – apparently the likelihood she would push my sister’s tongue down her throat outweighed the likelihood that said scooping would be helpful – but a good plan or not, it worked. Yours truly rushing to the side door to yell to the neighbor, “Something’s wrong with Kim! Call 9-1-1!” apparently at high volume and with great enthusiasm. My mother calling my father who zoomed home at 90 miles per hour down the bumpy back road to get to my sister. The paramedic arriving a handful of minutes after the initial call to rush my sister and parents off to the hospital. Someone calling someone else to summon them to stay with me while the rest of the crew headed to the hospital.
I’d like to say my most vivid memory from this day is a measure of my brain’s coping with potential psychological trauma from the near-death experience but fear it’s nothing quite so noble. Really, four-year-old me was seriously pissed my sister had puked all over my favorite He-Man pillowcase.