Why did we stick that there?

I was in the courthouse one day and heard someone say their kid swallowed a coin.

They were anxiously awaiting its return. Not because they were excited to go looking for it, but because they wanted to make sure it came out alright.

It got me to thinking about how kids have a curious need to stick foreign objects in places they frankly shouldn’t go.

And to ask the question of why did we stick that there?

My cranial journey took me back decades, to a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon in December when my mother decided it was time to decorate the Christmas tree. We had our traditional ornaments which were used year after year, but we also did the homemade craft of stringing popcorn and cranberries because they were cheap. We had just gotten a new contraption called an air popper, which Mom sat out on the dinner table. My job was to pop the corn and other kids would string. I didn’t realize my job was also to guard the unpopped kernels.

I should have realized trouble was brewing when we didn’t hear a peep out of my little sister, Maria. Her silence was a telltale sign of trouble — if she was quiet, she was up to something. Unbeknownst to me, she had helped herself to a bowl of unpopped corn and silently embarked on a curious need to stick the kernels in her nose. It’s when she started crying that my mother realized she had a strange situation on her hands.

Apparently the temptation of forcing corn into her sinuses had been so great that it wasn’t enough to shove two or three or even 10 into the forbidden cavity. A check with a flashlight revealed dozens and Maria’s discomfort made it clear this wasn’t something Mom could handle with tweezers and a baby suctioning tool.

And to make matters worse, as the kernels of corn got warmer in her head, they started to expand. Now, Maria was hot-headed, but not enough to pop the corn — yet, the warmth and moisture was creating a situation where breathing was becoming a bit hindered.

“This is unbelievable!” my distraught mother exclaimed as she bundled Maria in a parka and prepared to drive her 11 miles to the nearest hospital. I watched the kids while my mother and Maria flew out of the yard in the old green Dodge — a car in which the heater wasn’t working.

They froze all the way to Neligh, only to be referred on to Norfolk because nurses were concerned about the swelling corn and felt medical personnel in the larger town would have more tools at their disposal. Nearly frozen, they finally reached their destination after 45 minutes of driving. The cold air had somehow solidified the growing corn — and they had to wait for the mass to warm up further. Then, armed with tweezers, hooks and maybe even a plunger — the Norfolk crew freed her of the otherwise tasty snack.

So much drama — I still wonder, why did she stick that there?

It’s an ageless question with generations of stories from real people I’ve spoken with (I won’t use names to protect their identities). One boy stuck a BB in his sister’s nose when they were little, another put rat poison in her mouth which prompted her parents to “just wait and see what happens.” A man says at the tender age of two, he drank an entire bottle of hydrogen peroxide while riding in the back of the car.

Everyone survived.

One lady’s niece was caught putting a rock in her ear while at school, which was promptly removed by a doctor. Some time passed, and the young girl’s parents chalked it up to being a one-time incident. Time passed and one night, as they sat eating dinner, the little girl piped up to say, “Boy, it’s sure hard to hear.” They, of course, asked her why she offered that statement, to which she matter-of-factly responded, “Well, this rock in my ear is making it hard.” Sure enough, she’d stuck another into the canal and they had to go in after-hours to have it medically removed.

The little rocker wasn’t done there — the next year she put an entire Kleenex up her nose in school, “because it was constantly dripping after a cold.” Unfortunately, it went so far up that for the next week she was continually sneezing out debris-covered Kleenex.

Oh, and the story about a gathering of cousins who decided to play the board game, Life. Well, the little guy kept telling everyone “there’s a man in my nose,” but no one would listen to him, thinking it was just gibberish. It took a cousin to tell one of the grown-ups that they’d seen him shove one of the “peg people” into his schnoz. Sure enough, the playing piece was accounted for, extracted and I’m sure cleaned before used again.

And the stories keep rolling in — kids who shoved peas in their noses during Christmas dinner for the purpose of blowing them out one side or the other; a kid who swallowed a piece from a checkers set; another who ingested half of a Hot Wheel car (I’m told it was the chassis with wheels attached); and a button in the nose that had to be surgically removed.

Oh, the horrors. But oh, the chuckles — years after the fact when all was deemed to be OK.

Plus, what a gross, but intriguing conversation, as we ask each other the age-old question: Why did we stick that there?



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