I was a stupid child.
I was a ridiculously, unfathomably, undeniably stupid child. Now I'm an equally stupid adult, but because of my stupidity as a child, I almost wasn't.
From the ages of baby to nine years old, I had an oral fixation thing going on. Everything small enough to fit in my mouth was promptly fit into my mouth (except for food, oddly enough, since I was a terribly picky child when it came to stuff that could actually be digested).
Rocks. Buttons. Pen caps, string, paper, random stuff I'd find on the ground like metal bracelet charms and glass marbles. Everything went into my mouth. It wasn't even like they tasted good or anything: I just needed something to play around with and my parents weren't believers of giving chewing gum or hard candy to kids younger than thirteen.
(Apparently my first three Christmases were spent in the hospital because I kept biting the colored Christmas tree lights and winding up with a mouthful of glass. The only reason Christmas four and possibly five weren't spent in the hospital was because my parents wizened up and moved all the lights halfway up the tree where I couldn't reach).
So yeah, mouthy kid. A stupid, mouthy kid.
One of the things that always went straight into my mouth was money. Not paper bills- hell, I didn't start getting my hands on any of those until I was fifteen. But small change? You bet.
So one Mother's Day when I was nine, I had a quarter in my mouth. Biting it, rolling it around- no biggie.
My little sister had a heart shaped balloon- one of the fancy foil kind that last forever. It said something like 'we love you mom' on it, and was weighted down by a heavy yellow disk thing tied at the bottom. Mom had let my sister keep it because because, but my sister wanted the weight off.
So I did the good big sisterly thing to do and and proceeded to bite the ribbon off (because at this point in our lives, my younger sibs were not allowed anywhere near scissors, and retrieving them from the not-so-secret secret spot on top of the fridge would have been too much work). If you've ever tried tear party ribbon with your teeth, you'll know that it's actually surprisingly hard to break because of the way the strands are set up. They rip vertically, rather than horizontally.
So I'm gnawing through the ribbon when I breathe in wrong and the quarter (which had been tightly clamped down between my back teeth) goes down my throat. For a split second, I can't breathe. So I stop trying to breathe and instead swallow a few times.
I felt something going down my throat and something weird, just where my collar bone is at. So I calmly walk into the livingroom and tell my parents,
"I just swallowed a quarter."
There was a few stunned moments of, "What, really? Just now? A quarter? Can you breathe?" Before we got into the car and head to the hospital.
The quarter had went straight through my airways and lodged itself sort of in that area near where the collarbone meets neck. It had gotten stuck sideways, rather than flat-ways, which was why I could still breathe. Everyone made sure to tell me how damned lucky I was, and that they'd have to surgically remove it.
I was hoping they'd have to cut open my throat- because oh man, that would have been cool! But instead they knocked me out with something and stuck a claw-thing down my throat to retrieve it.
"Okay," the doctor said, as I lay there on the table, mask on my face. "This is the part you won't remember."
"Why won't I-?"
Bam. I'm out like a light without even noticing.
I woke up in a hospital bed the next day, throat sore, Mom asleep next to me, and a TV playing that one Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Twins movie where they're in the west riding horses on a ranch or something.
Dad and a nurse or an orderly or some kind of hospital worker came in a little later to check us out. Dad had a little plastic cup in his hand. He shook it and it made a rattling noise.
"Is that it?" I said.
"Yes." He held it out of reach so I couldn't have it. "When I get home, I'm going to drill a hole in it and turn it into a necklace. And you're going to wear it until you're twenty-five as a reminder."
We went home. I'm sure there was other stuff, and I distinctly remember somebody in hospital garb telling my parents that I should eat popscicles and icecream and clear juices (SCORE), but the next thing I remember is we're home.
I don't remember what happened to the balloon.
The quarter is still in the plastic cup out in the garage, covered in dust and spiderwebs. I think Dad really was going to turn it into a necklace, but he never got around to it.
I don't put random shit into my mouth anymore. Now I just stick to gum.