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One Friday evening when I was about four, Dad announced that we would no longer have to buy root beer, for he was going to make his own. We all knew that was his favorite drink. Being a staunch Baptist, he certainly would not make any real beer, but the recipe for root beer was just about as complex as a real beer recipe. Dad made the root beer in the bathtub. That was a relief because, for several days, it had to brew and I didn’t have to take a bath. He probably did it during the middle of the week, because we only took our baths on Saturday evenings. It wasn’t a bathtub as we know today but a free-standing, galvanized tub. 

Finally four days later, Dad tasted the root beer. He then let each of us taste it. It was awful. It went up into my sinuses and made my whole face hurt. This was the first soda pop I had ever tasted and it felt like it was going to burn my face right off my nose. Dad looked at me, laughed and said, “I guess I made it a little strong.” I was unfamiliar with the word “strong” — at least in that context — and thought about it a great deal. On Sunday we went to the Methodist church across the street where we sang “Jesus Loves Me.” When we got to the phrase “for we are weak, but He is strong,” I thought about the root beer. Ever since then, whenever I sing or hear “Jesus Loves Me,” I think about root beer fizzing up my nose.

Another time when expressions were interpreted by me in a strange way, was when we were at Grandma’s house. Grandma said she didn’t like the town they were now living in, and preferred the previous community. 

“Why don’t you just go back?” I asked.

“Because we’ve burned our bridges there,” she replied.

That evening when Mom was tucking me into bed, I asked, “Did you hear about what happened to Grandma and Grandpa?”

“No,” she said “What was that?”

“When they left their last town, the people were all chasing them. The only way Grandma and Grandpa could get away was by burning down the bridges after they crossed the river. They are lucky they got away at all. They could have both been killed.”

Bob Larsen

Bob Larsen is a retired surgeon whose eclectic career has allowed him to see the world.

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