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Wonder Bread Parachutes and Palmolive Snow

By:  Mikki Loiselle

One rainy recess I was talking to my students while we played a game. We were talking about what we’d done during our week off because of the big snow we’d just had. Some were talking about the trouble they’d gotten into because they were bored. That’s when a student asked me, "Mrs. Loiselle, have you ever been in trouble?"

I smiled and said, "Come and sit up here on the floor and I’ll tell you all about the trouble I’ve been in."

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

Around age 2, my mom took me to a friend’s house. Everyone was busy talking and didn’t notice me wander off. I peaked in all the rooms and finally decided on the master bedroom. I did my usual once over of all the things I wasn’t supposed to touch. I spotted things like jewelry, perfume bottles, baby powder, figurines, books, and a blue velvet bedspread.

I ended up on the blue velvet bedspread with the bottle of baby powder, and that’s where my mom found me. I was smack-dab in the middle of the sprinkled bedspread with the empty bottle of baby powder in my hand.

My mom has often told me the story about how I locked myself in the bathroom in our apartment. I sat on the floor and got into all of the things in the cabinet under the sink. I brushed my teeth with Comet. Then I broke the toothbrush glass in the sink and began to eat the small pieces. My mom finally got into the bathroom with a coat hanger. She was shocked at what she found. When Comet gets wet, it foams up and turns a darker green. So there I was with my curly, red hair and my green teeth, munching away on shards of glass. Mom got so scared she called the poison control people. They told her to just rinse my mouth out several times with water and to watch me for signs of nausea.

When my mom and dad first got married, I nearly drove my mom nuts. My dad would leave for work in the morning and my mom stayed home and took care of me. The minute my dad left, I began to cry, scream and throw a tantrum that would last until the minute I heard dad’s key in the front door. My mom would sit in the hallway of the apartment building and cry because she didn’t know what to do with me.

One morning when my dad was leaving for work, my mom told my dad she could take my crying anymore. She told him to leave and then to sneak back in to hear my tantrum. As soon as I heard dad leave, I began to cry and scream. Dad heard all he needed to: he came into my room and just stared at me. I was so shocked that he was standing there I immediately stopped crying. I knew he was angry.

Out of this incident came a line my mom would use for years to come-"Just you wait until your father gets home!"

FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Falls Church was known to me as Paul’s Church. This is where my mom was a Vivian Woodard representative. You know, sort of like an Avon lady. As a Vivian Woodard saleswoman, my mother had a beautiful case full of samples.

I got hold of mom’s sample case and decided to play beauty parlor. I smeared, smooshed and plastered almost every sample she had across my face. I used some of the lipsticks and eyeliners to draw pictures on the inside of mom’s case. When I got caught, I just smiled.

Without her samples, it was hard for mom to sell anything.

Paul’s Church is also where I almost fell out of a 2nd story window.

 

PANAMA

Shortly after my brother Russ was born, my dad’s job took us to Panama. We lived there for 3 years. This was plenty of time for a 3 year to get into trouble.

Not soon after our move to Panama, my dad petitioned to adopt me. Both my parents were very excited about the whole thing. Mom and dad retained a lawyer, they ran ads in newspapers, and they filed all the appropriate papers. After all this, we finally got our court day.

While the judge talked to the lawyer and my mom and dad, I decided to occupy my time by swinging on the banisters of the judge’s bench. Finally it was my turn to speak.

The judge looked at me and asked in a very serious voice, "Mikki Bennett, do you want to be Mikki Loiselle?"

"NO!" I responded, "I don’t want to be Mikki Loiselle."

My parents were shocked. The judge asked me, "Why not?"

"I don’t want to be Mikki Loiselle. I want to be Anna Loiselle."

Hey, why not change my whole name while I was at it? Anna--Mikki, what’s the difference? I wanted to be Anna because she was the pre-teen who lived across the hall from us. She would play with me and take me places and I just thought she was terrific.

Well, I didn’t get my way. I am Mikki Loiselle and I always will be. I like my name. I had to chose my name. Even when I got married, I kept Mikki Loiselle.

The longer we lived in Panama, the sneakier I got. Once I stole 2 pennies from Gretchen, the little girl upstairs. Gretchen cried to my mom, "Mikki stole my pennies!"

My mom questioned me about the alleged stolen pennies.

I quickly lied, "No mama, I didn’t steal Gretchen’s pennies. I found them laying next to each other in a crack in the sidewalk. I can show you where I found them."

My mom looked long and hard at me and then she took the pennies. She examined those pennies very closely. Then my mom used that kind of voice that lets you know she is very serious. She said, "Mikki, I know you took these pennies from Gretchen. Do you know how I know?"

"They’re not Gretchen’s pennies. They’re mine. I found them."

"Mikki! I found your fingerprints on these pennies. I know you took them."

I couldn’t stand the pressure. Right then and there I knew I’d been caught: my fingerprints were on those pennies. I burst out, "I took Gretchen’s pennies. It was me. I’m sorry."

Boy, I thought my mom was so smart. For awhile. Then the days or months would pass and I would begin believing my mom could be fooled.

Out behind our army quarters was a red hot chili bush. The Panamanian children in our area grew up eating food prepared with chilies. They thought nothing of taking small bites off the little chilies. We would dare each other to take bigger and bigger bites.

One day my 2 year old brother Russ tagged along on my trip to the chili bush. Russ has always been a hearty eater and that day he was hungrier than ever. Russ saw us taking bites off the chili peppers and couldn’t resist. But because I didn’t stop him or tell him how hot the peppers were, Russ grabbed a whole handful of those chilies and popped them into his mouth.

He began to chew. Then he began to cry and after that he began to sweat. Somewhere between the bush and our house, Russ began to turn blue. When I got him home and my mom saw the state he was in, she became very furious. I told her he had eaten chilies. She realized his tongue was swelling and this was making it hard for him to breathe--hence the blue effect. My mom wrapped Russ up in a quilt and fed him crackers and water until he calmed down. His face changed from blue to pink and I knew I hadn’t killed him.

I’m sure I got punished for that one.

I was always a messy child and I hated cleaning up after myself. I thought I was getting really good at making excuses. One of my favorite excuses when questioned about my room was, "Mom, a little green man jumped in my window and messed up my room."

My mom would put her hand on her hip, shake her head and say, "Oh, you mean a leprechaun came in here and did this?"

"Yup. That’s right. It was a leprechaun."

 

 

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

We didn’t live in Alexandria long enough for me to get into much trouble.

I do remember an incident when we had company staying with us.

The Floods, our neighbors in Panama had been stationed back in the United States, and were visiting with us before moving on. Their daughter Ginny was my age.

To impress Jenny, I carved my name and a picture of a ship in the top of my dresser. I used a nail because it made a nice, deep gouge. I braggingly told Jenny, "My mom and dad let me what I want. I’m so lucky." She was impressed.

After the Floods left, my dad was helping me pick up my room. I had expertly placed a book over the carvings so my dad wouldn’t see them. Unfortunately, my dad cleans very thoroughly and found my art work anyway.

When confronted about the marks, I explained, "I’ve never seen them before. But, I bet I know how they got there. Ginny did it."

POQUOSON, VIRGINIA

Poquoson is where my Aunt Billie Mac and my Uncle Jack lived with their six kids-Cindy, Kari, Kevin, Ketchel, Bruce, and Kip. My brother and I spent so much time at this house that we began to call my aunt and uncle, Mama Mac and Daddy Jack.

I loved visiting the two story farmhouse with its large yard, its creek, and its huge clump of woods. But most of all, I loved to visit because of my cousin Kip. Kip had fiery red hair like mine and we were only months apart. We were great friends. Kip could talk me into participating in his schemes.

For example, it was Kip who convinced me it would be neat to light up the house at night with lightning bugs. For several hours we scoured the yard for those little lights. We stored them in ice-cream buckets with holes punched in the lids. When Kip decided we had enough bugs, he devised a plan--we would wait until everyone was asleep and then we would go from room to room letting out only a few lightning bugs at a time.

We picked Cindy and Kari’s room for our first light show. Only, the first time we cracked open the lids to the ice-cream buckets, the bugs refused to leave. So we opened the lids a little more. No reaction. We took the lids all the way off and pushed those bugs out. It was like bats leaving a cave. Only these bats lit up and blinked like turn signals on a car. There they were, hundred of them. It was a spectacular sight. They flew around and around the room. Kip and I couldn’t have been happier. That is, until Cindy and Kari woke up because the bugs started landing on their faces and arms.

Cindy and Kari told on me and Kip and we were punished. Part of our punishment for the next couple of days was to find and dispose of the dead lightning bugs all over the house.

Poquoson is also where I fell in the mud head first. Kip and I were hunting for craw dads. It hadn’t rained in days so the water in the creek had been absorbed by the dirt. This made the world’s largest mud puddle. The craw dads would surface and we would try to grab them. I got impatient waiting and my arms weren’t long enough to reach the craw dads that surfaced more than a foot away. I kept inching further and further down the creek bank. I inched too far one time and landed head first in the mud.

Kip just stood there and laughed as I began to sink. The more I squirmed, the deeper I sunk. He grabbed my feet to pull me out, but he only managed to pull me through the mud on my face. By the time I got out and was on the bank, I had mud in my nose, my ears and my mouth. Kip and I walked up to the back door and went inside to tell Mama Mac what had happened. The minute she was me she doubled over with laughter. Then she grabbed her nose and yelled, "You smell like a swamp!"

While my aunt hosed me off, Kip just laughed and pointed as he danced around me.

Behind Mama Mac’s house was a bean field that belonged to a neighbor. Kip and Russ and I used to build forts in the field and eat the raw beans. On one particular day, Kip took my sneakers and hurled them into the air towards the middle of the bean field.

"I bet you can’t find your shoe. I bet you can’t, I bet you can’t!" He taunted me until I burst into tears. He thought I wouldn’t tell on him, but he thought wrong. I told Cindy and decided that all eight of kids would have to look for it before my uncle found out: he wouldn’t think it was funny. It took us the good part of a day to find that sneaker in the bean field.

 

ST. BETHLEHEM, TENNESSEE

We lived on Covington Street when my dad got sent to Cambodia. Mama Mac and Daddy Jack lived on Garth Street right around the corner from us. With my dad gone, we spent a lot of time at my aunt and uncle’s house.

We were visiting my aunt one afternoon when my mom announced it was time for us to go home. My aunt had been preparing dinner and I decided I wanted to stay and eat with her. Mom said, "No. We’ll eat at home. Get your things together, we’re leaving."

I whined a little, but she didn’t change her mind. That’s when I decided to play on Mama Mac’s sympathy.

"Mama Mac, can we eat here? All mama feeds us is soup and sandwiches. We never have a real meal."

My mom got so angry she just grabbed my arm, grabbed my brother and dragged us to the car. The whole time she was mumbling things like, "You know that’s not true." and "I can’t believe you lied like that."

When we got home, mama fed us soup and sandwiches.

Kip was always trying to think of ways for us to earn money. Pet rocks was one of our least profitable ventures. He talked me and Russ into stealing rocks out of a neighbor’s brand new gravel driveway. Then we used my cousin Ketchel’s model airplane paints to decorate the rocks.

We were so dumb we set up shop on a card table in front of the neighbor’s gravel driveway. There we were with our sign that read, ‘PET ROCKS-25 cents each.’ We sat there all day but nobody bought one. We were getting ready to pack up shop when the neighbor came home. We very quickly began to gather up the stolen rocks, but the neighbor saw them anyway. He recognized his rocks even with faces painted on them.

Kathy Davis was our next door neighbor on Covington Street. I couldn’t stand her, but there was no one else my age to play with. When my brother and I built a T-Pee in the backyard, we charged her admission. And when my mom made me invite her to my birthday party, I told her it wasn’t my idea. I told her the only reason she was invited was because my mom said so. She came any way.

I played Pee-Wee League baseball the first year girls were allowed to play on the boys’ teams. Because the league was a community league and hardly anybody I knew was on my team, and because my dad cut my hair short, everyone thought I was a boy named Mikki.

I wasn’t very good. The coach put me in the outfield because there wasn’t a kid in the league who could hit the ball that far. It got boring out there, so I would occupy my time by doing ballet. My mom and dad would sit in the stands and hear, "Look at that little boy out there doing pirouettes." "Hey, that kid is dancing."

When I got up to bat, I usually got hit in the arm with the ball. I was so small the pitchers would get confused and throw the ball right at me. This of course meant I got to walk to first base. The umpire would ask me if I was okay. I’d wince and say, "Yes." Then I’d walk to first base and cry.

My team was pretty good though. We were the Pee-Wee League Champs.

CLARKSVILLE, TENNESSEE

Mama Mac and Daddy Jack moved from Garth Street to Edmonston Ferry Rd. This was only across town from us, so we still visited on a regular basis. Even though I was almost ten, and should’ve been a whole lot smarter, Kip could still talk me into doing some really stupid things.

My older cousins were often left in charge while my mom and my aunt went shopping or went visiting. They never paid much attention to us so we were pretty much free to do what we wanted.

One hot, rainy, summer day, while my cousins were left in charge, Russ and Kip and I goofed off in the basement and then watched a little TV.. Boredom set in pretty quickly. We sat around trying to figure out what to do, when all of a sudden, Kip jumped up and told us he could make it snow.

"No you can’t!" Russ yelled.

Kip quickly snapped back, "I can too!"

"Prove it!" I said.

"No problem. All we need is some Palmolive Soap."

Because Mama Mac had eight people in her house, she always bought the large bottle of dish washing detergent. We grabbed that bottle and headed to the front porch. Russ and I still weren’t sure Kip could really make it snow, but we were willing to watch as he tried. Only, Kip decided it would be more fun if I made it snow.

"Walk on over there to the side of the house," he said as he pointed towards an overflowing gutter. "Squeeze the soap in the puddle down there. It will snow."

So I did. I squeezed and squeezed until the almost full bottle was nearly empty. Before I knew it, the puddle began to foam up. The foam just kept growing and growing. It started to roll in waves down the front and side yards. It just kept coming. The harder it rained, the more the soap suds foamed.

Kip pointed proudly and said, "See, Palmolive Snow. I told you I could do it."

We all stood back and admired our handy-work. I had to admit, it really was an impressive sight-almost five feet of foam. Standing there, a thought crossed my mind: what if mom and Mac came home and saw this? Would they understand it was snow? I told Kip I was worried and he just waved his hand at me. It wasn’t until the foam kept growing that Kip got concerned.

By now, my cousins who were supposed to have been watching us, looked out the front window. Bruce stuck his head out the door and teased, "Ooh! You’re gonna be in trouble."

We quickly ran inside and got the broom, the mop, and the dustmop. We began to spread the foam across the yard hoping it would finally dissolve. It didn’t happen right away, but it did begin to slowly disappear. But not before neighbors had the opportunity to drive by or peer out their windows and see our summer winter wonderland.

That same summer, we were nosing around the backyard when Kip told us we were going to buy some candy. Russ and I knew we didn’t have money, but we knew Kip probably knew how to get some. And he did.

Kip’s next door neighbor had a small shed in his backyard where he saved soda pop bottles for the deposit money. Kip told us the man had given us permission to return some of the bottles for him and that we could keep the money. We walked to the corner store and borrowed a shopping cart, which we wheeled right up to the shed door. We loaded up the cart and pushed it to the store. We made several trips until we had enough money to buy what we wanted.

With our pockets and our mouths stuffed with candy, we headed home. We sat on the curb in front of Kip’s house eating candy until my mom and Mama Mac pulled up. They asked us where we got our money.

Stupidly, Russ and I replied, "We returned the bottles for the neighbor and he let us keep the money."

Mac shook her head and said, "Kip Edward! You know he’s on vacation and he’s saving those bottles. You’re just going to have to find a way to earn the money to pay him back."

This same neighbor had a three story porch with stairs leading from the ground to the top floor. We used his stairs to play army men. We had pretend wars and would throw Russ’ G.I. Joe from the top story.

I don’t know where he got the idea, but Kip decided we would parachute off the stairs. We searched the house for possible materials to make these parachutes. All we could come up with were empty Wonder Bread bags. We found some string and took our goodies to the stairs.

We poked holes in the bags with our fingers and tied strings to each hole. We grabbed all four strings and pulled our parachutes through the air. They immediately filled up with air. We got excited.

We didn’t want to jump without first testing our Wonder Bread parachutes. Kip tied Russ’ G.I. Joe to his parachute. He explained, "If it’ll work for G.I. Joe, it’ll work for us."

We climbed the stairs to the top of the stairs. Kip threw the doll over the edge of the porch while we all leaned over the rail to see what happened. The bread bag filled with air, and G.I. Joe gently sailed to the ground.

"Hey! It worked. Who wants to go first?" Kip asked.

Russ yelled, "ME!"

He donned his parachute, stood on the top of the rail, and looked down. He got scared and moved down to the second story. Again, he mounted the rail, but this time when he looked down, he jumped. His parachuted opened, but then his strips ripped through the plastic of the bag. Kip and I watched as his Wonder Bread bag caught an updraft and sailed across the yard before it got caught in a tree. What we didn’t see was Russ hitting the ground and then rolling, Army Man style. He just lay there. We ran down the stairs and over to where he lay. Oh God, was he dead? As we bent down to check him for signs of life, he popped up giggling and began to sing the theme song from the G.I. Joe TV. show.

This was the same summer that Kip took us into the woods to search for real, living Dinosaurs. He left us there to find our own way out.

It was also the same summer we loaded our squirt guns with Kool-Aid and hid in the ditch on the side of the road. We took aim and squirted cars that drove by with their windows down.

It wasn’t until the end of this summer, right before we moved to Australia, that I realized Kip didn’t have my best interests at heart.

 

After going through my pre-school years, and after moving away from Kip, I wasn’t quite as mischievous. That’s not to say that I never did anything wrong after that. It’s just that the things I did, don’t stand out as

much in my mind.

Well, maybe there is one incident that stands out. We were living in Canberra, Australia. On a Clear Day with Barbara Streisand was on TV., but it was time for me to go bed. I begged to stay up, but I got sent to bed anyway. I sat in my room crying and poking pins into a voodoo doll I’d made in art class. My mom saw my light on and came in to see what I was doing.

She asked, "Who is that supposed to be?"

"You," I mumbled.

"What’s supposed to happen to me?"

"You’re supposed to die."

"Oh."

 

 

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