We loved living in Hebo, Oregon with our ever-changing motley crew of intrepid travelers passing through almost daily and our weekly Open Mic gig in Pacific City. Then one day our old friend Clinton arrived with a friend from New Jersey. They couldn’t have come on a better day. Jessie’s elementary school was less than a block away with its little playground, so we went there often. This particular day, I set Justin at the top of the tall metal slide, as I had done many times before, waiting for him to be settled before going around to the bottom to catch him. This time, he stuck his sneakered feet out against the sides to slow himself down where one of them snagged and flipped him over the side and onto his head on the asphalt surface. I saw him falling and lunged for him, catching the toe of his sneaker as he hit the ground.
He was conscious but dazed, and I knew enough first aid to know that I probably had shouldn’t move him right away, although my first instinct was to scoop him up into my arms immediately. Instead, I kept talking to him, asking if he could see me then asking if he could move at all. He was bleeding but had not yet started crying. I was terrified. A grandfather was also there with his grandchild and came over screaming at me about what a bad mother I was because I had not picked him up yet, but I managed to block him out and focus completely on my injured child. Eventually, he started to cry, rolled himself over and started vomiting, so I picked him up and ran home with Jessie keeping up with me.
When we entered the driveway, Paul met us outside. I was covered in blood and vomit and in shock. He was the next one to start screaming at me. He wanted to know what I had done to his child. At this point, I couldn’t even speak, so I just stared at him. Thankfully, Clinton came out and took Paul aside, allowing me to go inside and formulate our next steps which were to get to a hospital as soon as possible. With Clinton there, we were able to leave Jessie at home. We packed Justin into the car and set off on the half hour ride to Tillamook for the nearest emergency room.
We walked in and waited … and waited … and waited, trying to keep him alert and awake. Once I started making a scene, they finally took us in for an x-ray, they handed me a lead vest to wear but nothing for him. When I questioned them, they explained that they didn’t have a child-sized vest and only had one on site. He needed me to stay with him, so they wanted me to wear it. I immediately took it off and laid it over him. I was not impressed with this place so far. Luckily and miraculously, there was no fracture, but they wanted to keep him overnight for observation. Based on my experiences with them up to this point, there was no way I was leaving him there. Under protest, they instructed me to wake him every hour and ask questions such as “what’s your name, can you tell me your abcs, can you sing a song.” We arrived back home at 11 pm.
It had been a very long day, and I was looking at waking every hour for the rest of the night. During that first hour, I finally changed out of my disgusting clothes and showered. Then I woke him, asking those all-important questions and sat down heavily in our recliner to try to de-stress. As soon as I sat, I heard a very distressed “meow” coming from behind the chair and discovered our cat having difficulties giving birth to her first litter. The first kitten was out but she ignored it, so I removed the sac and rubbed her to consciousness. The same happened with the second and the third. I tried to show her what I was doing, but she wasn’t interested. She was having a hard enough time getting them out. So, I spent the rest of the night delivering kittens and waking my concussed toddler every hour while everyone else slept soundly. In all fairness though, all of the adults did check in occasionally throughout the night.
A few days later, Clinton asked us to house his friend Vernon for the summer. They had hitchhiked across the country together, but Vernon was brutally shy and was becoming a burden. Clinton was certain that they would both have a much better summer apart. Paul was a little apprehensive, but I was also very shy and understood. I also figured that if he experienced all of our craziness upon his arrival and was still willing to stay with us, he might fit right in, and he turned out to be one of our closest friends for a very long time.
Unfortunately, all good things seem to come to an end, and our landlord decided to come back much earlier than originally anticipated. We moved to a tiny trailer in a trailer park in Beaver, Oregon, not far from Hebo, made some new friends and enrolled Jessie in her third school. She was in first grade. One of our neighbors kept telling us that our music reminded her of music she had heard at Caffe Lena in upstate New York and suggested that we relocate there. We had no intention of moving. We liked it where we were but the thought stuck.
Then, one day Jessie came home with two permission slip. The first one was giving permission for “paddling” if necessary. Because I refused to sign it, I was called in for a conference with the principal. He had dealt with hippies before and wanted to assure me that, as long as my child behaved, there was no need to worry. The second form was giving permission for Jessie to join “The Good News Club” which would be meeting during school hours. Not knowing what it was, and liking the name, I signed that one. It wasn’t until she started bringing home bible tracts that I realized what the good news really was. Paul lost another job at that time, and we received a large tax return. My parents had also recently moved to upstate New York so, remembering the suggestion of our neighbor, we started packing for the journey east that felt like it took a lifetime.