I’m back. Almost exactly three months to the day of my eventful fall on Russell Street — I’m here in Columbus, Ohio for yet another wedding. Am I being too careless tempting fate this way? My arm isn’t even properly healed yet. I still feel twinges of the old pain, can’t eat my cereal with my right hand and shrink away whenever anyone tries to grab it for a handshake. The surgeon at the Fracture Clinic guffawed when I told him I was coming back. Did he rub his hands anticipating another six week relationship with me? All he said was: “Wear the brace!! And don’t fall.” Did he think I hadn’t thought of that? At least the second one?
To test my determination to stay afoot, yesterday I went back to the scene of the crime with the Joes² — my Columbus brother and Oklahoma nephew. Carefully I got out of the car, tiptoed to the shiny silver grate and tripped my way onto the sidewalk. Not to worry — no fall. I showed the boys just exactly where the deed had been done and how. Even they — doubting Joes up to that point — had to agree that it wasn’t totally my klutziness that caused the fall. No — this is a highly hazardous stretch of sidewalk. “Report it the Mayor,” I said passionately. They just offered their arms so I didn’t misstep again. (Actually, I don’t think they were keen to spend the afternoon in the emerg).
That Boogaboo taken care of, I could relax a little. Sitting here in the house I grew up in. The house where I spoke my first words, sang my first song and read my first book. It should be inspirational? Yes? No? Actually, it’s a little intimidating trying to write here. I keep slipping back into my ten-year-old-self who flunked spelling and art of all things. I still remember that substitute art teacher playing the Skaters’ Waltz and telling us to close our eyes and “feel” the music. Then, once inspiration had moved within us, we were to draw a picture of what we felt. I drew ice skaters on a pond. Not bad, I thought, C- she thought. I was perplexed and sad. She made me feel like I had no imagination … and certainly lacked the talent necessary to “create”. I stayed a C- artist in my mind ever after and never learned to draw even a good stick figure properly.
It shouldn’t have mattered — but it did throughout my school years.
When I found my wee source of creativity in writing, I never trusted that it was really mine. Didn’t have the confidence to believe that that “A” on the English paper was deserved. When I won my first writing award — a statue of the Virgin Mary for my essay on Honoring Mary in the Month of May (her month) — I did feel a momentary pride in my creative abilities … but then I came home. Unfortunately, the same day my cuter-littler brother, Tom, came home with a statue of The Infant of Prague that he had won in a classroom raffle — no talent necessary. My mom oohed and ahhed over it. When I said I had won a prize for my writing she was pleased but when I showed her my Mary she said, “Oh, we have one of those already.” I had been one-upped…again. I knew I’d have to do better.
Then, Sr. Mary Joel picked my essay — from all of the essays written by the other 40 six-graders in the school — to send to a city-wide competition of Catholic schools. It was huge. A smidgen of pride in my creative skills stirred within me. I remember that essay well — the cover page showed a picture of a haunted house (I didn’t draw it) and inside a spooky, cleverly-written description of what went on inside those walls. It was brilliant. I didn’t win. But that time it didn’t matter — I believed. I must have secretly held onto that moment-of-glory somewhere within my little heart — and I think it’s stirred within me here, today, in this old house of its conception.