When I was eight or nine, my family drove from RI to Chicago to visit my aunt. We spent a night at a motel on the way and swim in the pool after dark. It is one of the few pleasant family adventures I remember from childhood. A while ago I was talking about the trip with my mother, and I said it must have been a difficult ride with three young boys in the back seat.
No, my mother said, It wasn’t. We gave you drugs to keep you quiet.
Suddenly I understood. During the trip, the story I was reading in the back of the car slowly became infiltrated with hallucinations. One of the characters in the book – a Friar Tuck like character – had been scalped by Indians but was still alive and discussing the scalping with a pair of brothers, the Hardy Boys perhaps (I collected Hardy Boys books). I was a presence in the hallucination as well, interacting with the other characters. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never read a book like this before!’ It was so vivid, so violent, so strange. Since I remember feeling nauseous on the trip, I don’t doubt that my mother fed us some kind of opiate.
My mother’s revelation also made me understand – in a way I never had before – how vulnerable children are. Your parents could give tyou rat poison and you would gulp it down.