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Scars of life

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Lovable little fuzz balls. If you asked, that’s how my three brothers, sister, and I would’ve described us during the time we spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street.

It’s hard to imagine though, as lovable as we all were during those seven years, that our parents were the ones who actually needed a timeout. Away from all of us, that is.

That’s where the babysitters came in, along with lots and lots of scars. Confused as to just how babysitting and permanent scarring could possible go together? After reading this story, you parents out there may never want to leave home for a romantic dinner again.

Back in the day, Mom used to say, “You kids go outside and play. Be back before sundown, and try not to get hurt.”

Guess that’s why we seemed to always get injured when we had a babysitter. I know. I’ve got scars to prove it. Our babysitters just said, “Go outside.” They never said, “Don’t get hurt.”

First up: playing tag with Twin Brother Mark. In and of itself, tag should be a rather harmless game — unless it’s played while riding bikes, at night, up and down the driveway.

Did I mention we were all barefoot at the time? Just ask Mark about the scars on his left toes. Spokes on a moving bike are unforgiving. Yep, there’s no pedicure that can make them look better.

Next: Mom’s Valentine’s Day candle. This scar belongs to me. My brothers and I went around the house collecting candles while Dad took Mom out for a special dinner on Valentine’s Day. Big Brother James dumped all the candles into a pan then melted them on the stove top. We even melted down the special white candles our parents got for their first anniversary.

In defense of our babysitter, she was in the basement mopping up water when the candles came to a boil. Seems someone tried to flush two Barbie heads at one time and flooded half the basement.

James put a wick into a glass and asked me to hold it. As he poured hot wax into the cold glass it shattered. The molten multicolored mixture covered my hand. My ensuing screams were what alerted the babysitter.

Needless to say, after we got back from the hospital, Dad had to call a plumber and Mom got a very unique candle.

Big Brother James owns the next scar. Yep, his was the hardest head in our family. Just how do I know? I found out when I was only 9.
Blazing down Flamingo Street on his bike, James suddenly came to an unexpected stop, flew over the handlebars, and hit the curb head first.

Back then, there were no bike helmets. The crash ended with a trip to the hospital and six stitches in his forehead. To this day, I still feel bad about tossing that stick out in front of his bike.

Finally, the last scar is actually two. The cause was the reason why we stopped having babysitters.

Our dartboard was against a wall of wood paneling at the end of the hallway. We missed the target a lot. Dad always got mad.

Knowing this, the babysitter sent us outside with the dartboard. She just said, “Take the game outside.” She never said one of us shouldn’t hold it as the others threw darts.

Yep – it was James and Older Brother Richard who went to see the doctor for dart removal that night. Mark and me, we were terrible dart throwers.

Coconut football, giant lawn darts, and “Bet you can’t jump it” are just a few games from our childhood that have left a lasting impression on each of us in the form of scars.

And each time we came home crying, Dad would say, “If there’s no bone sticking out, you ain’t hurt. Go rub some dirt on it.”

Who knew all that dirt rubbing on injuries would cause so many scars?

So, what was the source of the worst scars from our childhood you may ask? Was it the giant tractor tire ride or dryer spin game?

Nope. The Sister’s Barbie dolls, of course. If there was ever a case for warning labels on toys, here it is.

Playing with those things can really do some damage — especially when they’re either decapitated bodies thrown at your annoying brothers or heads propelled by slingshots in The Great Barbie War to end all wars – which, by the way, it didn’t.

Not that I’m admitting to anything, mind you. The Sister, she’s still doesn’t know what happened to her collection.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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