Click here, then read.
Having accidentally aspirated a tiny piece of cauliflower yesterday at lunch--which has led to nearly twenty four hours of sharp pain under the ribs on my left--I am not in the best of moods today, especially with the gloomy forecast I’ve created for my health beginning with the cauliflower taking root in my lungs and flourishing until I’m killed by a flowering vegetable.
This is not an unheard of event, as I well know, having been told The Story of the Boy Who Inhaled a Flower Seed and Died by my mother several times over the years, a story that includes a different mother who became so depressed after her boy’s death that she gained a massive amount of weight but then went on to lose it, appearing as a local celebrity on the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune after her successful membership with TOPS.
My mother shared a hospital room with this woman in 1958 when they were both having babies, and remained friendly with her for some years afterward. When my mom called to check on me last night, she fleshed out the story with details about a few visits she and my dad made with their own new little family to this woman and her husband’s farm, where there were so many flies that they crawled all over my sister Ann in a crib (“They were all over her,” my mother said. “She was covered. I felt so bad, but it was this woman’s crib—handmade! I didn’t know what to do!”) and so many stray dogs that one stole my brother’s chicken right off his portable high chair, causing the corners of his little mouth to turn down. “They would keep big, huge buckets of raw chicken outside for barbecues,” my mother added, “and the raw chicken would be covered with flies, and the live chickens would come to peck at it all.”
My ear grew hot with this story as I listened, one hand under my shirt pressing on my rib cage in search of the cauliflower sprig. “But!” my mother added, “I’ve told you that story before, and now I’ve told you again. Promise me you’ll let us know if you go to the ER tomorrow.”
I promised! I didn’t want to end up like The Boy Who Inhaled a Flower Seed and Died. Who would? I just wonder how long it took for that overprotective, clean-freak of a TOPS woman to realize that there was a plant growing in her son. Were there vines coming out of his nose? Tulips blossoming from his ears?
I know one thing: my mother would never have let it go that far. My mother would have gently taken the five of us kids aside and asked, “Now, which one of you inhaled my flower seed? I had two hundred and forty six, and one is missing.”