I can remember an incident that occurred when I was about five or six year old. It took place on a hot, humid summer day. The men from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation were doing road inspection, repairs and cleaning the culverts in front of my parents’ house. My parents’ house was close to route 711 and had a heavy flow of traffic. The house had a small side porch where I could sit safely inside of the gated, railings and yet see what was happening on the roadway. I used to like to sit outside and watch the traffic most days, but today was something special. It was the activity of the road workers. It was even more interesting than normal. The orange vested men were directing the traffic as well as working.
I was sitting in the shade of the porch roof and was rocking in my child size rocking chair. It was wooden and its rockers were wide and thin, like skis that were bent. One of the rockers had a music box fastened to it and when I rocked, it played a tune.
My mom had given me a glass of Kool-Aid and in my child’s mind I needed it. It was hot out and I wanted to keep cool. I can’t remember what flavor the Kool-Aid was, but it seemed to have disappeared in no time at all. I was still thirsty and hot, but I didn’t want to leave the porch and go inside. I didn’t want to miss anything that was happening. The men were still working and directing the traffic. It was interesting stuff to a young kid.
I started sipping the water from the ice as it melted. The problem with that was I became thirsty long before the ice melted enough for me to take a drink. While I was tilting the glass, one of the ice cubes went into my mouth.
A-a-a-h, that tasted so good. It was cool and wet. So I began to plop an ice cube into my mouth and then shoot it back into the glass. It was working well. My thirst was held at bay and I could continue to watch the men as they worked.
Either I wasn’t paying attention or I became too cocky with the ice cube because instead of shooting it back into the glass, it shot in the opposite direction and went down my throat. It stuck in my esophagus; biting, freezing, almost choking me as it hung up about halfway down. It was painfully cold and it scared me. Was I going to die? Would it freeze my insides? I was almost in a panic.
I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t stand the pain. I remembered that hot water melted ice. I leapt from my rocking chair, bowling it over on its side, and bolted into our kitchen. Fear caused me to jump up onto the counter top in one frantic leap. I grabbed the handles of the faucet and turned on the hot water.
As soon as the water started to warm, I began to slurp at the stream as it poured from the tap. When the water became hotter, I could feel the ice cube start to melt. My esophagus grew less cold as the hot water trickled around and past the icy obstruction. Slowly, ever so slowly, I could feel the ice cube start to slide downward towards my stomach.
I instantaneously felt relief as the offending ice cube dropped out of my throat and into my stomach. I can remember the relief that I felt then. No more icy pain and no more fear of dying.