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As the Worm Turns

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

A holiday is unforgettable for one of two reasons: It is incredibly joyous and leaves you with fond memories for the rest of your life. It is so hideous you never want to remember it but can’t erase it from your mind.

Unfortunately, one Easter fell in the second category. The Easter of 1953. A favorite haunt that year was the creek in the next block up from my house. Sometimes I caught minnows, but the preferred target was leeches so that I could study them “up close and personal.” Once I brought some home in a jar and stored them in the fridge to check out the effects of cool air on them. The next morning, I heard shrieks coming from the kitchen as my mother found the escaped prisoners in a head of lettuce.

While busy with my “leech research” one day, a heavy truck rumbled over the small creek bridge just above my head. Startled, I leaped up, banging my eye socket on the metal bridge support. Oh, yes. One more detail. This was the day before Easter. Sure enough, the next morning, I had a shiner the size of Vermont, just in time for the inevitable Easter pictures my mom insisted on taking each year. In fact, she thought it such a hoot that she took EXTRA photos to record this especially exciting Easter

Two girls in their Easter coats, one with a black eye.

So there I stood, recorded for posterity, with a face like a thundercloud, both furious at her for recording my misfortune and embarrassed that I had been so stupid. One picture was only of my back. My sister had apparently sent that one to her boyfriend Joe, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton. On the back, in Marge’s meticulous printing, it said, “Susie (my childhood nickname,) was looking at the house across the street.” Bless her heart for covering for me. I was just too, too mortified to put up with another photo-op.

And it got worse. The weather turned cold overnight, and I had to mush my pretty Easter dress and my corsage from Daddy with a COAT—the final straw. That Easter Sunday is the reason I’m not bent over a microscope in some lab, studying the American Leech, of the subclass Hirudinea.

I call that an Old School win-win. I moved on to other interests; the leeches were free of the “mad scientist;” and my mother knew her lettuce was safe.


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