Toast for Breakfast Toast for Lunch

I remember when I was seven years old – the day I turned seven. We, my sister and I, were staying at the Hans Brinker Inn in the Netherlands as our parents enjoyed two weeks in Paris.

I was furious with my parents for having abandoned us for those two weeks. At Hans Brinker every meal consisted of toast – toast with sugar and cinnamon for breakfast, toast with cheese or tomato for lunch, for dinner – I do not recall.

But that day, the day of my seventh birthday, we were eating our lunch of toast, and our parents came to pick us up. My sister, who was only four at the time, ran up to our parents. I, on the other hand, held them responsible. I was incensed.

The owner had pushed me down the stairs. They separated me and my sister into different rooms. She didn’t understand. Her roommates didn’t speak English. I was punished for going to her when she cried. I begged for them to put us in the same room.

So, I ignored my parents. Seething, I kept my back to them. They thought I didn’t want to leave.

Saturday I wrote this memory exercise (prompt = “I remember”) at Judy Reeves‘ Speak Memory workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference LA14 (Irvine). Thank you, Judy and all the other great workshop leaders, speakers, and conference organizers.

My Dad, the Hero

My father, sister & I are standing in front of a taxi cab in the Dhahran ARAMCO compound where we lived. I was 7. My sister 4. We are wearing matching sailor dresses as we are about to embark on an adventure as we travel and return to the States.
My younger sister stands close to our dad, as I strike a silly dramatic pose.

When we lived in Saudi Arabia, there was a chemical leak at the refinery in Dhahran. The chemical when inhaled caused immediate paralysis of all body functions. Rather than risk anyone else’s life, my father inhaled deeply, climbed the ladder to the valve to close the leak, and on his way down gasped. At that point, he had no vitals. He could not breathe. His heart had stopped. The Arabs working under his supervision, carried him to safety and resuscitated him.

At the time, my mother, sister and I were in the US visiting my maternal grandparents. My mother knew something was wrong at the exact time that the accident occurred. She called ARAMCO asking what is wrong with my husband, what had happened. She was always able to sense things like that, as if she’s psychic.

My father is convinced that what he experienced while dead, while his body functions had stopped, was heaven. He felt like he was floating on a cloud. My parents both strongly believe that he had gone to heaven and come back.