In 1986, my mother, brother and I participated in Hands Across America.
I was not yet five years old so I didn’t really understand what was happening. But, according to Wikipedia, this was a benefit event in which participants paid $10 donations to hold their place in a chain of 6.5 million hand-holding people that stretched across the continental U.S.
Each city had celebrities attending to promote the event. New York got Brooke Shields, Liza Minelli, Gregory Hines, Edward James Olmos, and Yoko Ono (along with a few others).
Phoenix got Ed Begley, Jr.
To my memory, I didn’t see Mr. Begley. However, I do remember having to pee really, really, really bad. The only bathroom nearby was some dude’s apartment that required one to climb over a brick wall. A man (presumably the tenant) was escorting folks to and from the chain of people to the apartment.
My mom said I could go with the man. But she couldn’t go with me. I felt scared and told her I didn’t want to go.
I remember I was afraid to climb the wall. I’ve never been so thankful for my fear of heights (probably not a good idea for little Lilia to go into a strange man’s apartment alone so I could pull down my Care Bears underwear and pee in his toilet).
Instead, we rushed to our Volvo station wagon (tan exterior, brown interior) that was parked down the road. She grabbed a towel from the back, held it out, and told me to pee in it.
I really didn’t want to piss in the towel. But, out of options, I peed.
Then I resumed my post in the chain of people. Some guy was running down the line (maybe that was Ed?) and yelling at everyone. I wasn’t holding my mother or brother’s hand for some reason. And then the two strangers grasping my hands stretched me until my shoulders were sore.
This was all supposed to fight hunger and homelessness.
I’ll try to remember this story next time I feel guilty for ignoring panhandlers…I pissed in a towel for them. Isn’t that enough?