I still vividly recall the precise moment when my childhood died.
And surprisingly, it had nothing to do with my older sister pulling the supposedly traumatic big reveal that there really is no Santa. (No shit. If Santa was real, he certainly wouldn’t just stand by allow me, a perfectly sweet and trusting child, to live in such run-down hell with cheap-ass presents from McCrory’s,while everyone around me was wallowing in “rich kid” toys from Sears. But that’s another story. Literally.)
And it wasn’t the night that my longtime imaginary friend, Gordy, inexplicably transformed into my nocturnal, masturbatory fantasy. (Though, admittedly, that was close.)
No, the life-altering blink when my wide-eyed innocence became a casualty to reality and caused me to become a cynical fuck, came during an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (The one where Carrie falls down the well. Or goes blind. Or loses her buttocks in a tragic thrasher accident. Or whatever. Damn.That Ingalls family has had more bad luck than the Wallendas.)
I was at my cousin’s house while our mothers were off committing sin by gambling in Sacred Heart’s weekly bingo scam. Susan was older by a year; which in “kid years” is more like a decade, and always seemed more worldly and more life- experienced than I could ever hope to be. Plus, as the daughter of an independent single mother, she had the run of the house at night, with no babysitter. Think Lord of the Flies , with a popcorn maker and a collection of Tiger Beat magazines instead of bloody sticks and some dead pilot hanging from tree. (Although, come to think of it, since we’re talking Nutley, NJ, there likely was some dead guy hanging from the shrubbery for whatever reason, so check that last part.)
We were performing random experiments at the kitchen counter, as bored, pubescent girls are wont to do, when Sue suddenly and inexplicably decided to mix together some mayonnaise and ketchup packets (or “catsup,” for you Princeton types) in order to see what would happen.
Not sure just what she thought would happen, really. The Rapture, perhaps? That would have been cool in that it would at least have gotten me out of town for a bit.
What did happen was way worse than any extinction of Humanity at the hands of any Vengeful God (choose your own adventure).
One taste, and it was all over.
With the force of a cartoon lightning bolt (the real kind would have raised too many adult eyebrows), I was struck with the realization that McDonald’s wasn’t really a happy place dedicated to making kids feel special. No, it was just a stupid, heartless corporation serving Thousand Island dressing all dressed up in a pretty bow.
Okay, granted. Thousand Island dressing rocks, and I could drink it with a straw if left to my own devices, but still.
And the world is now a dark and scary place.