Near a church I attended as a child just outside of the city of Boston, there is a park that I liked to play at. Sometimes it was a family occasion with my parents and brothers all in attendance, but other times I would just go with my father. It was not a large park by any means; there were a few swings, a castle-like climbing structure with a slide or two, a few miniature wooden huts with benches inside them, and a large sand-box in the center of the whole thing.
I’d been taken to this park by my father, but when my earliest memory begins, I was alone while he was off somewhere presumably making conversation another parent. I was sitting in an empty miniature wooden hut when I noticed another boy walking around with a long bag of something that looked like crackers. The crackers were round and golden-looking, and they looked unfamiliar as I couldn’t remember my mother ever buying them for me before. After watching him for a minute, he looked to me and asked if I wanted a “cookie.” As a curious and hungry five-year-old child, I accepted and ate the cookie. I’m not sure what the cookie tasted like, what the boy’s reaction was, or even where he went afterwards. The next thing I remember feeling was my lips feeling tingly and strange, shortly followed by an overwhelming pain in my throat that seemed to extend down into my chest. I started to make my way from the hut to the sandbox when I spotted my father standing nearby with a coffee cup, talking to someone of whom I have no recollection.
When I finally reached him, I struggled to open my mouth and started to say: “Dad, I—“
“Say excuse me, and then wait.” I’d been faced with this excuse-me-then-wait situation a few times in the past, and although it was taking a considerable amount of effort to inhale, I decided the easiest thing to do would be simply wait it out. I’m not sure how much time actually passed, but it felt like I’d been waiting for ten minutes when my father turned back to me to say, “Okay. What did you need?”
At this point, I was having trouble getting words out of my mouth, but I managed to utter, “my throat hurts.” I remember watching my father’s expression immediately darken as he promptly ended his conversation and told me that we were going to the hospital. I do not have any memory of what happened after I got in the car heading to the hospital, but I have not eaten any more Ritz Bits Peanut Butter Sandwiches since that day.