Even at my advanced age I dart around cracks in the sidewalk. Not because I’m afraid I’ll trip, plummet to the pavement, fracture my skull, and die. No, I’m afraid I’ll cripple my mother. My fear is a vestigial holdover from the old childhood rhyme, ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back.’ Although she’s been gone more than twenty years, reality hasn’t curbed my neurotic behavior.
And I blame Walt Disney, a fervent and enthusiastic tormentor of kids. Remember Bambi? Remember Dumbo? The guy warped my little mind forever with his movies and put me in mortal fear for my mother’s life. I was constantly on the lookout for falling anvils, runaway trains, cannons, bombs with lit fuses, Snidely Whiplash, any danger whatsoever. I kept a book on first aid in my dresser, just to be safe.
I’ve relaxed my guard a little, but I’m pretty sure my mother carries on in some form somewhere. Maybe in a parallel universe, maybe in an alternate world, maybe in heaven. So I refuse to take chances; I still avoid cracks. Keenly. To the uninitiated, my walks probably seem more akin to a game of hopscotch or Twister — with the skipping and sidestepping, the veering and swerving. It’s also possible I just look drunk, like a lush weaving her way home. I don’t care.
It’s hard to quit being a protector, you know. That’s been my job my whole life, so I can’t quit now. I tell myself even if I’m not saving dear old mom, I am saving hundreds — more likely thousands — of bugs. I try not to step on them, either. They appreciate that. I think.
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