No, I wasn't born in a war zone. I didn't have abusive parents. And
I didn't live on gang-infested streets. Overall, I led a pretty
I began by being sent home from the hospital in my
mother's lap rather than an infant car seat. Luckily, I was never
ejected through the front windshield as apparently happened with
I was born at a time when breast-feeding was considered "dirty"
and unhealthy for babies. It was only acceptable in the Third World
countries I saw on documentaries, in places where it wasn't possible
to boil bottles and nipples.
At night, I was laid on my stomach when I was put in my crib, and
I woke up gumming the rails that were painted with lead-based paint.
That way, if sudden infant death syndrome didn't get me, lead
poisoning would. I didn't know my parents were so heartless.
When I got sick, my mother would lovingly crush half an aspirin
in a spoonful of water to take away my pain and give me a fair
chance to contract Reye's syndrome. Despicable!
My parents apparently thought lung cancer from secondhand smoke
would build character, so they each religiously smoked two packs of
cigarettes a day.
Our toys not only had lead-based paint on them, but they were
filled with an amazing array of magnets, springs and buttons
guaranteed to choke even the most savvy of toddlers.
When we were old enough to play outside without eating sand or
yellow snow, we were gone all day. I don't think my parents ever
knew where we were and, I swear, they liked it that way.
[to top of second column]
We rode bicycles without a helmet. They were for sissies. Seat
belts were not even invented yet. All four of us sat, stood, kneeled
or squatted in the back seat area built for three. No one ever
wanted the "hump" seat, so we played musical seats for entire car
rides. It was amusing, but our parents didn't like it much. They
would take random swats with their arms, trying to make contact with
our bodies without their eyes leaving the road. "Don't make me come
back there!" they'd yell. Like they would fit back there.
We ate fruits and vegetables once a week whether we needed it or
not. And those that we ate had been sprayed with poisonous
We lived in houses made with asbestos insulation, and radon
silently lurked in the low spots. Our parents never even told us
about those important issues. We breathed in carbon monoxide from
our cars and smokestacks.
There was no need for smoke detectors or sunscreen. My father, a
man who could sleep through a train wreck, assured us that he would
hear a fire if one broke out in our house.
As for sunscreen, why would we want to deny ourselves the fun of
peeling the dead skin off each other's backs after getting sunburn?
My generation could have and should have died out due to anything
from SIDS to mesothelioma. All evidence to the contrary, none of us
should have lived through all of that.
I guess my generation was a group of real survivors.
[Text from file received from Laura
You can reach the writer at
email@example.com. Or visit
more columns and info about her new book.
Editor's note: If you enjoy this
feature, click here:
I'd like to read more Laura on Life.