Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Last night at dinner the kids asked for some funny stories from college. They didn’t eat much after I spun this yarn for them:

August, 1986 Eugene, Oregon
When we were sophomores, a group of girls and I decided to do a summer sublet of a sketchy little house west of campus from some older boys who wanted to keep it for the following year. It was a classic university rental complete with cracking linoleum floors, chipped sinks, and carpet that had been moist for so long that we’d often find mushrooms growing in dark corners.

One night, when we had nothing to do and no money with which to do it, we decided to poke around the house, see if the boys had left anything interesting stashed away—you know, boxes of gold bouillon, or at the least, embarrassing personal items or a six pack. I think it was just four of us, Julie, Tina, Peggy, and me, because MK was always on dates. (Side note to children: going on dates is overrated; you miss all the Good Stuff that happens. So don’t. Date.) The garage on the rental was around the back of the house, which was strange, and meant that we never parked in it or used it in any way. It was about 1:30 in the morning and we were bored and poking around in the mystery garage when we came across a jar, one of those big glass ones for restaurant-sized pepperoncini and mayonnaise. It was covered in dust but inordinately heavy, so we thought maybe we’d discovered someone’s change jar. Bingo! No strangers to scraping up change, we knew a restaurant-sized mayonnaise jar full of it could keep us in Pop Tarts and wine coolers for weeks!

We carried it into the kitchen and rubbed it down with a wet cloth. I think Peggy screamed first. As you may know, when a handful of girls are together late at night and one screams, all hell breaks lose. We all started screaming, each one getting louder than the one before it. It wasn’t until I looked through the smear of wet dust into the jar that I realized why Peggy was screaming: there was a baby in the jar. A baby packed into the jar and surrounded by a clear greenish yellow fluid.

Once we all realized what it was, we started a fresh round of screaming, followed by the phrase/chant that most often follows screaming: ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!

I’m not sure which one of us geniuses thought to take it to the hospital. It was about 2:00 in the morning by then and we probably thought that showing up at the police station with Bartles & Jaymes on our breath and a baby in a jar might not be the smartest move. What do you do when you can’t go to the police? Take the baby to the hospital, natch!

Peggy didn't want a big jar of unknown fluids seeping out on the velour seats of her '78 Buick Electra so we piled into Tina’s '66 Plymouth Valiant with its pleather seats. [May I digress here and mention that Tina could be guy-level gross in terms of, well, everything, but she was drop-dead gorgeous. You’ve probably seen her: she was chosen as the Black Velvet Girl and graced billboards and magazines worldwide 1988ish, PPB (post pickled baby).]

Tina drove the Valiant exactly as if she was taking an ailing living baby to the hospital, as if having a baby-in-a-jar emergency protected her from being pulled over for reckless driving. It was terrifying. As the person holding Pickled Baby, I expected some of the bile-colored juice to sploosh onto my lap with each corner she squealed around, but happily the thing was sealed tight as a drum.

We got to the hospital—the ER, no less!—and parked right outside the door, emergency style. We were greeted by a jaded clerk who had seen most everything; Sacred Heart was right at the edge of campus and hosted a wide variety of ex-hippie crazy homeless regulars like The Man Who Swallowed Barbie Heads.

I was holding a dish towel around the jar like a curtain on a freak show. When the woman asked who had the emergency I stepped forward, put the jar on the counter, and lowered the towel a bit. “We found this in our garage,” we all whispered. “It’s a rental,” I added. “The house, I mean.”

She put us in a private room to wait, thinking four girls with a pickled baby might be too much for ER patients awaiting triage to handle. I think we expected to have a Doctor show up, maybe do a little forensics à la Quincy, M.E., but instead we got what we were avoiding in the first place: the police.

They took our statement and the jar. Neither was ever seen again.

R.I.P. Pickled Baby. R.I.P.


Anonymous said...

I am so beyond creeped out now!
Yuck! Sorry, I was kinda expecting something funny.
You never found out the background story???

Christy Raedeke said...

My kids felt the same way about that story...starts funny and then YUCK!

We called the next day but they would not release any information to us. I think someone had stolen it from a campus medical lab.

Anonymous said...

I really thought we were on to something finding that baby. We got jipped!

Kimberly Derting said...

That is both insanely disgusting and completely fascinating! And as much as I want the disgusted side of me to win out, I couldn't help laughing when I read your last line. Poor little Pickled Baby! (I think I must be hard-wired wrong)

Corey Schwartz said...

OMG, that one is leaving me completely speechless, Christy!

Shelli said...

how do you remember all the details of this stuff? YOur brain must be like a trap.

Christy Raedeke said...

Kimberly - I think we are hard-wired wrong in the same way. I thought this was a funny post but I woke up in the middle of the night horrified at how offensive it might be to some people. I was going to take it down this morning, but then thought, nah. I yam who I yam.

Corey - Hope I didn't offend you into speechlessness!

Shelli - I do have a pretty good memory, especially when it comes to the freakish, but I did have to clear up a few details with Peggy and Tina via email yesterday.

Heidi said...

I'm ignoring the fact that there is a pickled baby in a jar and laughing hilariously over the way you tell this story, and the image of college girls screaming and rushing to the ER. You are a great story teller!!

Seriously, I'm ignoring the baby part, because when I start to think of it... yuck can't even come close!

peteo said...

I'm pleasantly surprised this post wasn't a cringe-inducing lead-in to a game of "How much would money would it take for you to..."

Christy Raedeke said...

Peteo - that's part of the unabridged version.

Paul Äertker said...

Awesome, killer, great, super. I love the ending, read in creepy voice, "Neither was ever seen again."


I also très dig the plug for Bartles & Jaymes !!

Christy Raedeke said...

Really, Paul, don't all good stories feature a cameo by Bartles & Jaymes? :)

Glad you liked!

Peggy said...

Love your story...I can seriously hear the OHMYGOD screams as if it was yesterday! I just have a few points to clarify, especially since you've dubbed my brain a steel trap.

First, A doctor did come into the room, and he wasn't what were hoping for young sauve and hot but rather our fathers age, sense of wonderment gone from years of nights in the ER with college students and just plain bored with the four squealing girls in curtain 4!

Second, after the bored Doc left, then Mr Policeman came in and started asking questions...he was convinced we'd done this until your sudden startle syndrome kicked into high gear and he realized we were for real, I think too, we all looked like we were on the verge of tears.

And then finally, a nurse came in and told us, it was made of ceramic in formaldehyde and that we could leave now.

I remember walking out of there thinking...was this part of someone's halloween custom from years gone by or was it real and they didn't want us know the truth.

The truth is out there...

The evening was concluded with yet an round of Bartles and James and sighs of ohmygod!


Katie said...

Am giggling by myself in my office and am dying to know what the hell was that????!!!!!!!

Why weren't y'all arrested?

Oh me, oh my!

Peggy said...

The only reason we weren't arrested was because Christy was SO freaked out and startled by everything, (you can't fake that!), I was on the verge of tears (something I do FREQUENTLY!), Lewis was somewhere between actually being ill ( too many Bartles and James perahps?!) and trying to find a way to sell the story (eager J school student) and Tina, well she was trying to find a way to calm her nerves so she could drive Valiant home, safely... they new we were serious and not master minds of evil doings.

And blind luck, there was a ton of that pouring in around us that summer!


Little Ms J said...

Fantastic story telling! I'm not yucked out in the least, but that probably says something about how I'm wired. What a wonderful mystery. I always wonder about the people that lived in homes before me and all the weirdness that could have transpired before I arrived.

Hardygirl said...

Christy, Puh-leeze give David Sedaris a run for his money and write your memoir! This is awesome--just the kind of sick, grotesque stuff that I LOVE.

And, I'm humbled. I was going to post about something that I THOUGHT was gross (guinea pig enema), but I'm thinking you've one-upped me.


Anonymous said...

The best part? This is dinner conversation in the Raedeke house! Now that's funny.


Anonymous said...

Okay, did somebody say the baby turned out to be ceramic, or was it birthed on the garage floor and pickled by a co-ed? Marcia

Suzanne Young said...

OMG!!!!!!!! I was CRYING! Laugh-Crying the entire way through this story! This is the blog post of the year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

tonya said...

I'd like to remind you that Hank is only 5. That said, I will be telling this story to my 8 and 9 year olds tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if that was funny or awful. Poor pickled baby :S LOL