When I was a little girl, everybody was afraid of Atomic bombs because of Castro, Cuba, and Communism. I prayed every night that Castro would stay on his side of the Bay of Pigs, and not bring his dominoes over to Florida and convert everyone to Communist, getting rid of all the Catholics. The neighbor across the street built a bomb shelter. My school had a bomb shelter too, and sometimes we had bomb drills. My mom and dad thought there were more immediate things to worry about, like getting everybody new shoes and staying away from the snow. Mom told me not to eat snow, because it was full of radiation, and I would get poisoned.
Nancy and Doug and Noreen lived across the road from me. Nancy was Deanna’s age, Doug was Bonita’s, and Noreen was Vickie’s age. Nobody was my age; that was okay, ’cause everybody let me play with them anyway, even though I was kinda in the gap between ages. Nancy’s dad put a paint mark on the inside of the garage door that marked each kid’s height: green for Nancy, blue for Doug, and red for Noreen. Once a year, Nancy’s dad put a new mark above the old mark, so he could see how much each kid grew. I guess he got tired of that, ’cause Noreen only had one mark, and it was way down there as small as my little sister Julie. Dad said he was going to put a mark on our garage too, just one, ’cause somebody would always be that size at one time or another.
Nancy’s dad dug the bomb shelter behind the garage, on account of the communists in Cuba. He asked Dad how come he wasn’t building one. Dad just threw his head back and laughed with all the silver fillings in his teeth showing, “I’ll just come over here, with Rita and the kids.” Nancy’s dad rubbed the space between his eyebrows and let out a short huffing sound. I guess he didn’t think Dad was so funny. After a while, Nancy’s dad seemed to get tired of the bomb shelter, just like he got tired of keeping track of how much his kids grew, ’cause he stopped talking about it, and Nancy said they never had any drills, or went in it, or anything. I heard Dad tell Mom it was a good thing, ’cause the whole family would be roasted alive if a bomb ever did hit near us. Mom said it seemed like a good place to stored canned goods, anyway, so it wasn’t wasted. It’s super important not to waste stuff; almost as important as remembering to pray before going to bed.
We had a bomb shelter at school with a big yellow sign telling everybody where the bomb shelter was, and the same whistle as the Noon Whistle warning everybody if a bomb was coming to get us. It was a bomb if the Whistle went off and it wasn’t noon. I guess Communists don’t have Noon Whistles, or they would drop the bombs at Noon, and nobody would be the wiser; they’d just start eating lunch, like every other Noon Hour. Anyways, the bomb drills were just like tornado drills: go quietly to the shelter, no running, or pushing. Tornado alarms were the same as the Bomb alarm, so if the real thing came, the only way to know it was a bomb was if Teacher started passing out the food saved up down there in the shelter. That was only for bombs, not for tornados.
After a while, the coaches for the boys’ teams used the bomb the shelter for a weight training room. A girl wasn’t allowed to go down there unless a teacher was with her, and then only for some special reason. I was down there once, but Mr. Maize told me to get out, ’cause I was staring at some sweaty high schooler laying on a bench and lifting a big heavy barbell, like Hercules. I never saw anything like that before in my life. Dad lifted heavy stuff, like when he was fixing the hay baler, but he never just laid down in his shorts and lifted stuff up for no good reason. Mr. Maize grabbed both my shoulders and turned me around and said, “Get out of here, and don’t come back. Ever.” It smelled like old dirty socks and towels left balled up in the corner of the bathroom for a week, so that was okay with me.
Mom told me radiation from bombs was everywhere, and the snow washed it out of the air, so don’t eat snow ’cause then I would get radiation sickness and die. I ate snow anyway, ’cause there it was, all white and crisp and clean, and just begging me to grab a handful and eat it up like ice cream. Oh, I loved the crunch and the coldness. I did get sick, too. Really sick: throwing up, fever, and chills, for days. I thought I was probably dying from radiation poison, but I kept quiet about the snow, ’cause I would feel really sad to die and be in big trouble too. Between throwing up and sleeping, I prayed that I would get better, and promised God I would stay away from snow-eating. I got better, but I didn’t keep my promise. Bonita told me it was okay, ’cause God knows everything I do even before I do it, so He already knew I was going to fail when I made that promise.
There sure are a lot of things to worry about in this world, most we have little or no control over. So I try to limit my worries to the things where I can at least have some impact:, like make sure I eat right and get enough sleep, and keep in touch with all the people I love, and lend a hand when I see people need help. It’s still a good idea to avoid waste, whether that’s wasting money, energy, or resources. Oh, and one more thing: I keep praying. So far I’ve got a pretty good track record with prayer, anyway, I haven’t died of radiation poison yet, and I have to admit, I still like the taste of fresh, clean snow, especially the crunchy kind.