Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Dent in My Head

As a child, I was forever trying to show off my amazing athletic abilities.  This was due to the fact that I was hyperactive and an only child with few friends in my neighborhood.  Birthday parties provided the perfect opportunity to try to impress others with my “gifts” and so it was on my best friend’s sister’s 13th birthday that I decided back flips might provide excellent entertainment.

I had casually waited until all the other girls jumped into the pool, leaving me alone on my patio stage.  With great enthusiasm, I announced in a ringmaster sort of tone, “Prepare to be amazed!” “I, Jamie Ann, aged 8 will now thrill you all with fantastic feats beyond your wildest imagination!” “An expert for some time now, I will demonstrate to you all how to do a backflip entrance into the pool!”

Now for an eight-year-old, it doesn’t take very long to become an expert on anything (A day would suffice for most) and I had gotten to practice a whole 6 flips the weekend before at another pool party. Surely these “older girls” would be so impressed by my skills, they would forget I was only there as a friend for Kim’s little sister and invite me into their grown-up world of New Kids on the Block and MTV.

I slowly made my way to the deep end, placed my heels on the pool’s edge, and dramatically saluted the crowd.  Two bends of the knees and a mighty backward jump, I was in with a crowd-pleasing splash.  I surfaced victorious, ridiculously proud at my achievement.  Kimmy, the birthday girl, said rather dryly, “Nice trick, Jamie” and their conversation about Todd’s new haircut continued. My friend Meri pulled me over to her and hissed in my ear, “Stop trying to show off! They don’t give a care at all!”

Refusing to go through the rest of the party unnoticed, I shrugged my shoulders and smiled back at Meri, “They weren’t ready to watch, and they weren’t impressed because they just didn’t see!” Despite Meri’s protests, I doggy paddled my way to the ladder, scrambled out of the pool, and resumed my place once more at the side. “Because so many of you missed it the first time I will now repeat my amazing trick and do not one, but a second death-defying backflip!”

You know those scenes in movies where everything suddenly runs in slow motion.  Time was half suspended when in the middle of the air I heard Kimmy’s friend say, “She came awfully close to the pool edge last time!” In that same instant, I thought, “What’s that white thing below me?” At once there was a very loud thud, a sloppy splash, and the muffled sounds of talking above water. I listlessly floated to the surface. Time returned to normal speed as I bobbed limply in my splash wake.

I felt a strange electric buzzing coming from the top of my head but in all other respects, everything seemed fine.  That’s when Erica who had thought my backflips weren’t such a good idea screamed & pointed at my head with a terrified look on her face.  That’s when I looked down and noticed the water around me was turning pink.  Confused I touched my hair, saying “What’s the matter?” I quickly pulled my hand off my head and saw what was causing everyone to dash from the pool. 

Seeing my own blood must have released the shock mechanism in my brain. I felt pain for the first time throbbing through my scalp.  My faithful friend Meri grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to the steps.  Trying to be brave, I fought back tears and stammered through closed eyes, “It doesn’t hurt that bad really!” But my reflection in the sliding glass door told me better & all at once my need to be grown up, brave and socially accepted melted away as I crumbled into Meri’s mom’s arms. An emergency room visit & 9 stitches later, my career as a professional backflip diver was over.

Today, my daughter Jenna calls to me from the living room while I cook dinner, “Mommy, watch me!” She stands on the back of the couch and attempts to fly from it with her blanket like a parachute. She knows this will earn a one-way ticket to time out, but she tests me anyway knowing I’m on the phone with the insurance company, holding Naomi on my hip with one arm, and stirring mashed potatoes with the other.

My accident-prone childhood was very much a result of risk-taking and was a major cause of numerous gray hairs on my mother’s head.  When Jenna is older and can understand, I will tell her, and eventually Naomi, this story. Hopefully, they will learn from it and see what happens when we take risks in attempts to impress someone else. Until then, I pray my daughters are kinder to my nerves than I was to my mother’s.  Thanks to Jenna, I already have a small patch of gray hair growing just four inches north of the dent in my head.  

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