I’ve always thought that a lot of mishaps from my childhood could have been avoided if my mother had actually hired a babysitter. With my older sister as the designated caretaker in my mother’s absence, I had a lot of freedom to get into some sort of mischief.
Stella, my sister, was only three years my senior and often left me alone to entertain myself when it was just she and I in the house together. So, I spent summer days trying various experiments I’d drawn from episodes of Mythbusters.
One day it was balloon-powered rockets while another it was mold samples grown in sticky notes. But the day I experimented with flammable birch bark will be forever etched in my memory.
I always loved how Adam Savage said, “The coolest toys don’t have to be bought; they can be built. In fact, sometimes the only way they’ll ever exist is if you make them yourself.” This was pretty much my life motto. It was just an average day where my mother had gone on a grocery run, leaving my sister and I at home.
Being left to myself, I wandered outside to see what I could get up to today. I eyed up our birch tree (the largest one in the county) and recalled that birch trees contained a flammable oil that made it perfect for emergency situations where a fire is needed. I decided to put this theory to the test and peeled off an armful of the bark.
After dumping it in the driveway, I searched around for more objects to make my experiment a success. My eyes landed on a cinder block, covered in ivy, so I dragged that over to the gravel driveway as well.
After cleaning it off, I stuffed the two sections with shreds of birch bark and ran to get my magnifying glass. While I was inside, I also grabbed a package of hotdogs and a skewer. It took me a little while to angle the magnifying glass, but eventually, it worked! The experiment was a success, and I brought my sister the fruits of my labor – a freshly grilled hotdog. She was quite impressed.
Mom Was Not
But my mother was not. As soon as she arrived home, you could see the worried urgency on her face as she dialed Poison Control. What was the big deal? I had just made Stella lunch. Shouldn’t I be commended? What I didn’t know, however, was that my other had just treated our record-sized birch tree’s bark with a pesticide to keep it healthy.
I almost poisoned my sister! I was horrified! She was instructed to drink plenty of water and get medical help if any symptoms arise. Thankfully, however, Stella turned out to be just fine.
I was not, as my mother saw fit to ground me for my dangerous science experiment. Though my sister wouldn’t eat anything I made for her for years after the incident, she eventually forgave me, and experiences like this one and many more throughout our childhood have only served to draw us closer.
We look back on our childhood antics and laugh together at what we’d get up to. Yeah, maybe it could have been avoided with a babysitter, but I think I would have missed out on a ton of creative growth had someone been around to inhibit my childish curiosity. To quote Mythbusters, “Failure is always an option.” You have to fail a little to grow.