When I was 7, I had short bright blonde hair and intent little blues eyes. I was tall for my age, so naturally athletic. I loved to bike, play soccer, play baseball, and do anything else that involved physical activity. I was also a bit of a smartass, always trying to correct my superiors when I believed them to be wrong. The combination of these two factors could get me in trouble. One time at this age my friend dared me to moon 7th grade baseball team to distract them. I took up his challenge, of course– while simultaneously combining my love for baseball with my love for being a smartass (a literal smart-ass in this example.
I pulled down my pants and exposed my butt to an outfielder, distracting him from the task at hand and making him miss a ball that had been hit in his direction. On another occasion my friend’s cousin turned the light off in the attic while my friend, his brother, and I were all up there. I, being afraid of the dark, told my friend I was just going to jump for it down the stairs. My friend’s brother told me not to do it or I’d end up hurting myself. I didn’t listen to him, and instead I just jumped down the wooden stairs, hitting and scraping my butt on the way down.
My tailbone was bruised for weeks after that. Near where I lived there was a playground, connected to a woodsy area, where all the neighborhood children used to play. We’d have stick battles on the seesaw, stick battles on the slide; we’d chase each other around, and get into all sorts of mischief. One of my favorite things to do was climb. I had climbed at Peak Experiences, the local indoor rock-climbing facility, for many a birthday party but I had spent most of my time climbing up and down the trees in the woods behind the playground in our neighborhood.
The biggest difference is that in the rock-climbing facility you have harnesses and ropes that keep you from falling, unlike the trees. One day, I noticed a tree that could only be climbed if one were to hang by their arms and shimmy across from an adjacent tree’s branch. The connection between the two trees occurred at about 20 feet in the air. Despite what my parent’s had told me about the dangers of climbing trees, I decided I would attempt to climb from one tree to the other and prove them wrong. So there I was scurrying up the one tree until I reached the limb that one had to dangle from.
I put my little sweaty child palm’s around the branch and began to swing and shimmy from one side of the branch to the other, like a baboon suspended in free air by his arms. But dammit, I made it across that tree and I did so like a champ. I spent a good 20 minutes playing around swinging from branch to branch. Then I decided I would take my challenge a further step, just to prove my acrobatic resilience. I went back and dangled from the tree branch again until I came upon its center in which I began to cry out for my mom to come watch me. At first she didn’t hear me, so I dangled longer, letting my sweaty little palms get even sweatier.
Finally she heard and began to come over to watch me when all of a sudden I lost my monkey-like grip and began tumbling towards the ground. It felt like worlds passed me on the fall down there and it seemed to last longer than 5 seconds which I know isn’t possible. Finally I plopped onto the ground barely missing a little stump and I sprawled out with all fours. I felt my little heart skip more than one beat on the initial landing. My mom had seen me hit the ground and rushed over to my side to help me. Immediately she noticed my arm was shaped like an “S”. I suppose it was for being a smartass.
This was in ancient times, so my mom didn’t have a cellphone so she had to rush to a neighbor’s house to tell her to call 911. So my neighbor called 911, put makeup on (according to my mom it was to impress the ambulance drivers), and came outside to make sure I was okay. Some time later the ambulance arrived and I was still lying on the ground, they placed my neck in a neck brace and loaded me into the back of the ambulance. The ambulance ride was about as fun as being beaten and tied to the floor of a rollercoaster. And it seemed to take forever! My arm was weltering with swollen numb pain.
The whole time I just sat there in my neck brace, which I didn’t really need, and I was contemplating how I wish I had passed out at the impact of the ground, so I wouldn’t be in as much pain as I was in. Finally we arrived at the hospital and I was rushed into the emergency room where about 15 people were waiting for me so they could poke and prod me in everywhere painful on my body. At one point I had to sit up and tell everyone to stop, which they did for about 3 seconds before they continued doing what ever they could to make me feel uncomfortable. This process went on for a grueling amount of time.
Finally my dad arrived at the hospital, and upon being told to wait in the waiting room with the rest of the people there with patients, he proceeded to charge towards the ER doors and bust past the magnetic door locks like a scene out of Miami Vice. Once in there, there was nothing else he could do but just watch me get poked and prodded by all these nurses and doctors. Eventually I was given a drug that doesn’t put you to sleep, but makes you forget a certain period of time so you don’t remember the pain you have to go through. They use it when setting bones in place.
Despite my dad’s help, when they tried to set my arm I almost got into a fight with the doctor and they had to come get a 300-pound nurse to sit on me while they finished the procedure. I came to some time later and was left in a temporary cast around my left arm. I had survived, and although it would take some decades later before I actually learned to listen to my parents, I did perhaps learn the limit to which physical activity could be combined with questioning my superiors. I started staying away from climbing trees and getting into other dangerous activity. And I did develop a newfound fear of heights.