When I was 2 years old, I toddled my way around the kitchen, using any surface to maintain stability, including the face of the oven. I suffered 2nd degree burns on my palms.
When I was 3 years old, I chased our dog through the living room on wobbly legs, tripped and fell into the coffee table. I had a gash on my head that required 3 tiny stitches.
When I was 4, I chased my cousin around his house, until he unintentionally slammed my pinky finger in the old-fashioned screen door. The doctor stitched the end of my finger back on with only 5 stitches.
By the time I was 5, my parents did the only thing they could think of to help me with my clumsiness. They enrolled me in dance classes.
Tap, ballet, jazz, tumbling, clogging—from the ages of 5 until high school, I twirled and tapped and flipped and shuffled. Dance taught me discipline and teamwork. It taught me to be an entertainer. It taught me how to be graceful.
It did NOT rid me of my clumsiness.
Case in point: I was a freshman in college. The dorm I lived in hosted a haunted house every year to raise money for a local women’s shelter. East Hall had classrooms in the basement, and they made for the perfect creepy landscape for our endeavor. Eager to help, I volunteered for the decorating committee.
A sunny fall afternoon, I was given the task of hanging heavy black fabric over the windows so that the street lights wouldn’t shine in, ruining the effects of each room. I’d been at it for well over 3 hours and was ready for a break when I finally got to the last room slated to be used for the haunted house. Unfortunately, the windows were impossible for me to reach without a ladder.
Except there was no ladder to be found.
Always the industrious one, I spotted an old-fashioned desk nearby that would allow me to climb up into the windowsill. I dragged it over, tossed my supplies up into the sill, climbed up and started my project.
There was just enough room on the windowsill for me to perch on my knees. I stapled the fabric to the top of the window, and draped it down over the sill, climbed down and took a look at my handiwork. Nope. It wasn’t good enough. The fabric was gaping just enough along the sides to allow light in. So I climbed back up into the windowsill, knelt down on top of the fabric, and began taping the sides down to the glass.
At that moment, a friend walked into the classroom behind me and called my name.
In the instant that I turned to answer, I knew I’d made a grave mistake.
My knee slipped on the satiny fabric, right off of the 6 inch mouth of the windowsill.
And the rest of my body followed.
The only thing that kept me from landing on my head (and probably breaking my neck) was the desk I’d used as a step stool. It slowed my momentum when my face connected with the corner.
I vaguely remember waking up with a sea of concerned-looking faces hovering over me. I also remember writing my parents’ phone number on a sheet of paper and being alarmed that my hand was bloody. I remember being totally embarrassed when the paramedics arrived and wouldn’t let me walk to the ambulance. I remember being even more embarrassed when I realized how hot the young paramedic was who was riding in the back of the ambulance with me.
I remember my heart stopping when my roommate wouldn’t let me see my face in a mirror while we waited in the ER.
contusions on my hip, back, and buttocks
gash in the bottom of my chin (from the desk) which required 8 stitches
3 bruised ribs
The worst of my injuries, though, is not one to discuss with the feint of heart. So if you have an aversion to weird stuff, you might just want to scroll to the bottom of this post. Seriously. You’ve been forewarned.
My front tooth punctured through my bottom lip. And somehow following through that trajectory, managed to turn completely around in the socket. So when I smiled, my front tooth was essentially backwards.
To repair this damage, I had to have emergency oral surgery. Believe it or not, this only entailed the surgeon grasping my tooth with his fingers, turning it around, and shoving it back into the socket. Hard. He then wired my 4 front teeth together, sutured the inside of my bottom lip, then the outside of my bottom lip, and told me to come back to see him in a month to have the wire removed.
Don’t worry, there was plenty of lidocaine. (If you’ve ever taken a shot of lidocaine for dental work, imagine taking 6 of those, two in the roof of your mouth. Now weep for me and the pain I endured.)
Needless to say, the next 2 weeks of college are a colorful blur. Always a fan of bruises, I’m told I was more than willing to share them with any and all who asked. (Including my husband, who was at the time little more than a friend.) (Let me say that the one on my behind was a beautiful shade of indigo.)(I tell people that Brian fell in love with me the moment I showed him my ass.)
In the moment that I fell, my dance background never came into play. I can only imagine how much more damage would’ve been done if I’d tried that fancy pirouette mid-air. Sorry, Mom and Dad…your attempts to heal me of my clumsiness did not work.
Remind me to tell you guys the story of how I lost my balance and fell into the bricks lining my parents driveway one day…