Twelve years old. Or thirteen. Maybe it was fourteen. I’ve been that same age about four times now, so I kind of forget. It was the summer I sprained my elbow. Yeah, I know. That’s not even a normal injury—well, I don’t actually do normal.
My sister and I were staying with our cousins in the mountains of Payson, Arizona, and it was Vacation Bible School week. Every night we went to the Baptist church in town, hung out with all the other youth in a back room, and planned our culminating project—a float for the town parade on Saturday.
I guess that means it was the 4th of July weekend, that summer of 1970-something. We were constructing a giant paper mache earth on the back of a flatbed trailer and it was looking groovy. All the blues and greens were in the right places, the whole thing tilted just so to make sure it was scientifically accurate, and underneath was a giant banner with the question, “Life Insurance – Do You Know Jesus?”
I’m not exactly sure what a giant globe had to do with life insurance, but it was gonna be great! Best of all, the whole bunch of us was going to ride through town sitting on the back of that hay hauler. I felt so country.
But the night before the parade, the paper mache began to lose its grip, and a huge hole appeared in the middle of North America. Pretty soon the South Pole started sliding off the planet—probably an early sign of global warming—and we started to realize our slogan was gonna need some tweaking. Frustrated, I stood on a folding chair on the flatbed trying to glue down a piece of Antarctica when, for some reason, I lost my balance and fell off the trailer. Onto my elbow. On the hard ground.
It’s okay. I didn’t die. But when the doctor in the emergency room told me it was only a sprain, not a break, and tried to make light of my pain and near-fatal injury, I burst into tears. I told him it was a tragedy—I’d never be able to play the piano again, my life was ruined, and he was the worst doctor I’d ever met. Actually, I only thought the last part, but I’d been grounded for wearing the wrong look on my face before, so he probably knew what I was thinking.
I’d like to tell you that I got over being theatrical. I’d also like to tell you I have a million dollars in the bank. The truth is I got to wear a cool sling, we made peace with the melting globe, and somebody changed the banner to read, “Your World Will Fall Apart Without Jesus.” And I still got to ride on the back of the hay hauler.
It’s all about learning to make lemonade out of lemons. Cheetos out of cheese. Dinner out of roadkill. And finding redemption after a fall.
Guess I might still be a little dramatic.
Photo courtesy of David Ortmann's photostream @ flickr.com