Our house on Brambleton Avenue in Roanoke, Virginia was across the street from a large city park. Roanoke is in the Shenandoah Valley and has rolling hills and creeks all through the city. So the park was a wonderful place for my brothers and me to play.
I would take my baby brother John to the park with me and, unknown to my mother, I would swing in the large park swings with him. I held on to one swing chain and wrapped my arm around the other chain and John at the same time. I would then swing as high as that swing could go – very dangerous, but tell that to an eleven-year-old girl playing mommie with her baby brother.
My brother John was about 6 months old when our cousins Mary T. and George Lynn came to visit with their families. All of us took off for the park. It was warm and the creeks were very enticing. All six of us were wading in the creek, well five of us were – I was holding John because he was too young to walk. Someone yelled, “SNAKE!!” It was probably Mary T. because she did that kind of thing. We called her Mean Mary. As everyone ran from the creek, I sat John on a big flat rock (easier to run without holding a baby!) and proceeded to run from the creek, too.
Now picture five kids, 12 and under, standing on the side of the creek looking at the baby sitting on a rock! All the others kept telling me to go get John out of the creek. However, the thought of a snake in that creek was powerful enough to keep me from going back in right away. My brothers and cousins said they were going home to tell mother that I left John in the creek. I summoned up all my courage and waded back into creek to save my baby brother from the snake that probably never existed.
All of us agreed never to tell what happened because we knew death was a certain result if our father found out. (Not really, but we thought so at the time.) And we kept the snake-in-the-creek event secret until our parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party. When we told our parents, my mother was horrified and asked, “What else did you do to my baby?”
It’s probably best that she never knew about the swings! And, yes, John did survive my sisterly care and grew up basically undamaged.