September 13, 2010

When my left leg aches

The summer before I began kindergarten, I was filled with dread. I didn’t want to go to school.

I didn’t have any particular reason to fear kindergarten. I knew little brick elementary school building pretty well because it’s where my older sisters went. I’d gone there for Christmas concerts and the fall bazaar. In fact, I’d even gone to kindergarten for a day with Red-haired Sister and had had a great time.

But still, I hated change. I wanted to just stay home with my little brother and play traintracks on the carpet like we’d always done. I didn’t want to get on the big yellow bus with all those loud older kids, especially the tall 8th grade boys, who terrified me.

A boy from down the street told me that he knew a lucky kid who broke his leg — and got to stay home from school. That gave me a plan. All I needed to do was break my leg, and I wouldn’t have to go to school. Besides, I could probably get all kinds of attention and treats as well.

I tried my hardest that week to break my leg. My brother was a daredevil who had no fear of heights, and I followed him around, trying to jump off the same rocks he did. But unfortunately, my cautious nature kept me from hurting myself. I even went to a higher authority and prayed at night for God to break my leg, but my prayers were not answered.

Thirty-eight years later, on a hot August evening, three days before my fall semester began, I ran down the stairs in my own house, jumped the last four steps, hit the floor, and broke my leg in two places. I had to miss the first four weeks of the semester, and my leg was in a cast until January.

The leg did heal fine, but every once in a while when it’s about to rain, I’ll feel a familiar ache in the leg. I try to think of it as a subtle reminder of that change, even scary change, might well be less painful than a broken leg.


Xtin said...

Two years ago, in early-winter England, trying to get the packaging on a ferret harness open (true story!) I sliced open my hand with a kitchen knife and my best friend fed me hot tea in the emergency room while I held my wounded hand above my head in a tangle of hospital gauze.

Now as the lovely autumn thunderstorms move in here in Berlin, I often hear a distant grumble at the same time as the tendon through my palm twinges, reminding me of ... everything, somehow.

jo(e) said...

Xtin: It's cool how memories get stored in our bodies, isn't it?

sciwo said...

Great story, jo(e). Your last line is the sort of thing that will stick in my head.

Phil said...

Nice story, linking the past with the present. Do all wishes eventually get fulfilled? Is that a good thing?

I remember a similar episode when I was in high school, and had asked someone to a prom just because she wanted me to. I didn't want to, but had no other prospects, etc. The crescendo of remorse found me in the bathroom before showering for the dance, taking experimental cracks at my left radius bone on the counter, wondering how much force it would take to break it.

I went to the dance, and my arm is fine.

Xtin said...

jo(e), it really is cool. Sometimes that I wish they weren't stored there so perfectly and evocatively, for heartbreak and loss so often lives in a smell or a certain sensation, but the magic of pasts resurrected makes up for it.

Kim said...

I found a young girl banging her mouth against a steel pole in the preschool playground. She was trying to knock a tooth out to get a visit from a fairy...

Kyla said...

A delayed answer to those pre-Kindergarten prayers, perhaps? ;)

BrightenedBoy said...

It sounds like God got back to you just a little late.

I love your ability to divine larger lessons about life from events big and small.