Easy Breathing

As I shared in my previous foray into Oklahoma Women Bloggers territory, Yankee by Birth – Okie by Choice, the majority of my growing up years were spent in Maine. Having lived in Oklahoma for 30+ years now … it’s more home than the northeast is but some days I long for crashing waves, sea spray, the scent of pine trees, and the colors that speak to me of Maine. The summer before I entered 5th Grade (10 years old?) my dad was hired to manage a Deering Ice Cream restaurant in South Portland, Maine. We were living in Augusta, Maine at the time and money was tight so commuting wasn’t really an option. (I was surprised to find that it is only a 60 mile trek. Seemed further as a child. Our car was probably not a model of reliability either.) Wanting to keep the family together, borrowing a tent and some cots, my parents moved us to Willey’s Farm Campground in Saco, Maine.

I have to say that this adventure impresses me even more looking back on it as an adult. The sacrifices that my parents willingly made for the sake of the family and the budget. My dad worked long days at a new job and then came home to sleep on an army cot in a one room tent! And my mom? Even more impressive if you ask me … she made our campsite into a home! It never even occurred to me, until years later when I saw a homeless community camped by the highway, what a hardship it must have been for a young mother to be maintaining a household, including cooking (on a charcoal grill), laundry (at a laundromat) cleaning, and raising 3 kids (10, 8 & 5). I wouldn’t sign up for it but she did and as I recall … she did it cheerfully! It probably helped that my parents were still young enough (around 30) to consider this an adventure.

Summer nights in Maine can be quite chilly … especially by Oklahoma standards … so in an effort to keep us more comfortable my parents had borrowed a small space heater. One chilly evening we had all gone to bed and were sleeping soundly when my 5 year old sister became fussy in the top bunk across the tent from my cot. (Yes … we had the army cot version of bunk beds.) My mom got up to come check on her and collapsed across my bed. I had been sleeping, with my face in a draft from the tent flap, but woke instantly as her body fell across my legs. I screamed for my dad that something was wrong.

In spite of the fact that he too was woozy, my dad managed to get up, turn off the heater, throw open the tent flaps, and begin carrying our family to the car. He got Mom settled in the front seat  and each of us kids in the back. All windows in the car fully open to the chilled night air. My sister was wailing. I was startled and scared. My 8 year old brother (a scrawny little guy who had been on a bottom bunk) was totally unconscious. Dad had somehow gotten my mother to wake up and I still remember her, turned around, leaning into the back seat, tears running down her face, slapping my little brother’s face and begging him to wake up as we raced through the night to a nearby emergency room. I don’t remember him waking up but he survived to annoy me in our teen years so I know he did!

At the Emergency Room we were all treated for Carbon Dioxide Poisoning, given Oxygen, advised to cease using the space heater, and eventually sent back to our home in the tent. After that we piled on the blankets but never again used a space heater. I still find comfort, on a cold night, under a heavy pile of blankets, feeling the chill only on my face.



Image Credit: Image credit: lenm / 123RF Stock Photo



Beth Zimmerman writes about her favorite things, everything from faith to food, from her “generation fabulous” (midlife) perspective! She blogs at www.Masterpiece-Beth.com

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  1. Jammie Kern says:

    Wow! When I was about 3 years old my family spent a summer living in a tent, but that was here in OK, no space heater needed. As a mom, my palms were sweating when you described your mother crying and trying to wake your brother up. I’m so happy your family had a happy ending to this story.

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