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Getting Out of Town

Over 30 years in human services working for and with people with developmental disabilities.


The usual response when I mention my hometown is “Oh I know where Perry is. I drive through there on the way to…” Fill in the blank with any south Florida town of your choosing. The main point is most people drive through Perry. My parents settled there.

This was after making stops in Oakland, California and Atlanta, Georgia. My parents blew through these bustling, enterprising cities and stopped at a town of less than 3,000 people in 1954. I had no say in the matter. It would be another two years before I was born.

Actually, my mother told me it was she who put her foot down and said she was not moving anymore. Dad and she had jobs at the new pulpwood mill in Foley, just south of Perry. I guess it is true: if mom is not happy in the family nobody is. Anyway, they stayed which meant my three older brothers and I stayed amid the pine trees and Stuckey signs.

By the time I came along they still were not delivering babies at the local hospital so my mom and dad drove an hour north to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. My mom, being a nurse, did not want to be found in false labor so she waited until she was sure. They made it to the hospital in record time and I was born in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and not in the back seat of a Chevy. I was the unexpected pleasure --unplanned and a girl. After three boys, my mother had simply expected another boy.

It appears I began trying to escape Perry at an early age. One day, a gentleman found me crawling down the middle of the two-lane highway. I was following the yellow line, my white cotton diapers probably blinding him. He stopped his vehicle, picked me up and took me to the closest house. As fate would have it, it was our house, and I was safely returned.

Then came the fascination with my brother's motorcycles. My brother had one so I decided to climb on it. It did not have the seat on it but that did not stop me from sliding my diapered butt between the seat bars. The first problem I encountered was reaching the handlebars and the second was reaching the pedals. Much more disconcerting was I could not get my butt out of the seat bars. My first lesson in you can sometimes fit neatly in a situation but not get out when it is time for getting.

My wailing produced Leona, who removed my diaper and still with much pulling and twisting could not get me loose. A call to my mother bought out the bottle of dishwashing soap. Leona soaped my bottom and legs until they were slippery. I popped right out. It is good to have someone around to help you out of sticky situations.

Years later another of my brother’s motorcycle and I would become entangled. Sometimes, it takes more than once to learn a lesson. This was a bigger motorcycle, complete with a seat. I was way past diapers and I knew everything about bikes. I had watched my brother on this bike. He made it look easy.

I threw my leg across the seat and began my dreaming. I was leaving this town behind. I kicked up the stand. The motorcycle began to lean more and more. I did not know motorcycles were so heavy. I kept pulling up and the motorcycle kept easing down. Soon my left leg was caught between the concrete and the motorcycle. My leg was in excruciating pain. It took a lot of yelling on my part before anyone came out of the house to rescue me. Second time, the lesson was learned. I vowed never to go near another motorcycle by myself.

I stayed away from motorcycles for 20 years. I left Perry, went to college, got a job, even got married without motorcycles in my thoughts. But then, my new brother-in-law uncovered a minibike in the back of his garage. He rode it. My husband rode it.

Small bike. Young adult. What could possibly go wrong? I whizzed down the street, the wind blowing in my face, and a wide smile on my fact. I made the turn and was coming back at a higher rate of speed. All was fun. Until I realized I had lost the brakes. I could not remember where they were. I did not know how to slow down. I tried to make the next turn that would take me back to the group so they could tell me how to stop. I never completed the turn. Instead, I churned up a hunk of my brother-in-law’s new neighbor’s front lawn and tumble head over heels coming upright in front of a concrete bench. As soon as I stopped tumbling I grabbed my head with both hands to hold it in place-- to make sure it stopped tumbling with the rest of me.

It seems the lesson about neatly fitting into situations I could not easily get out of was a lesson that was going to be repetitive and hard earned. Fortunately, the rest of the lesson about having other people around you to help you out of situations, I had better luck with. The family, and friends, I have managed to gather around me are truly a circle of support and love. Some of those folks are even from that small town of Perry.

© 2018 Kathy Burton

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