Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tales from an Accident Prone Life, Episode I: Don't Step on a Tack

I have always been an accident magnet. I fell down the basement stairs at my childhood home so many times that for a while, I was banned from going down there. (In fact, to this day, if my father sees me on stairs, he bellows out "RAILING!" so as to remind me that the bannister is there for a purpose, and that purpose is SAFETY.)

My accident-prone-ness is a running joke in my family; at one point, my ex-husband told my father that he wanted to teach me to ski.

My dad looked at him steadily and finally said, "You know that she struggles with WALKING, right?"

It's true. If there is a bump on the ground to trip over, I will find it. If there is a single splinter on an entire deck, my hand will run over it. If there is ONE deranged driver on the road, I will make a beeline for him. I'm continually covered with bruises that I can't assign to a specific incident -- but that's primarily because there are so many incidents of crashing into things that, well, how would I choose just one?


Even given my spectacular history of accidents and gracelessness, there are a few that really stand out.

Episode One: The Thumbtack Incident

Shilo and I met when we were in preschool and instantly discovered that we had several things in common. We both were very fond of the colour orange. We both enjoyed giggling. We both REALLY liked to talk.

Needless to say, we were frequently separated. However, for some reason, as we went to kindergarten and then elementary school, we kept ending up in the same classes. I believe it was Mrs Lovejoy, our third grade teacher, who finally decided we were NOT allowed to sit together. EVER. PERIOD. "You two don't exactly misbehave, " she said, "But you're very silly."

And perhaps we were. But by the age of 9, we'd already been friends for five years -- over half of our lives -- and, well, there was just so much to talk and laugh about! And frankly, all of those things were MUCH more interesting than long division!

We were permanently separated.

It was very sad.

So Shilo's mom invited me over for an afternoon to play and have dinner.

To be honest, given my ability to injure myself with regularity, I'm continually surprised that ANY parents allowed me at their houses, EVER. I was the kid who managed to find the ONLY exposed nail in our entire nursery school and kneel on it (the memory of which still makes me feel incredibly queasy and as though I should have a tetanus shot). I was the kid who was always getting hit by the ball in gym. I was an impending disaster with really big feet.

Shilo's mom invited me anyway, bless her.

My mom said I could go.

So off I went.

We were having a grand time, giggling and playing and being goofy little girls when suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in one of my feet. My brain immediately went into research mode: let's see, what was this? Could we relate it to pains we had previously experienced?

Did I bump into something? No.

Did I cut myself? It didn't feel like a cut.

Did I step on something? No, there was nothing on the floor that I could see that I could have stepped on.

I tried another step. NOPE, it was definitely still painful.

I sat on the floor and looked at my foot. And there it was: a Thumbtack.

Well, this is new, I thought.

I'd like to say that I didn't cry. However, I probably did (I'm sure Shilo remembers this better than I do, but I know that my reaction to most injuries was still, at that time, crying. As I have gotten older, if I cry, it's more tears of resignation and weariness, as if to say STILL? Still with the accidents?).

I do remember that Shilo's mom came to see what the deal was and, at that point, I think she realized -- inviting the accident magnet was a bad idea.  Here's how I know: while the rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, she had made a carrot cake for dessert. As usual, Shilo and I were talking and giggling all through dinner. When we got to the carrot cake, her mom seemed worried.

"You girls need to be careful," she said, "and not be talking and laughing while you're eating this. It would be very easy to choke on it." She looked at me, seemed to have an internal debate, and then decided to send Shilo to eat her cake in another room.

Separated again.

But at least we had an accident-free dessert.

Note: I would like to report, happily, that I still see Shilo with some regularity. And that while we still laugh and talk as much as ever, it's been a while since there was a mandatory separation.

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