Falling, tripping and losing my balance has all led to my face kissing cement, parking barriers, random walls, rubber balls and softballs at some point in my life. It’s not that I’m totally inept with the art of walking, it’s just that I’m too preoccupied with other variances occurring within my plane of vision to be particularly careful.
My experience with aptly titled ‘face plants’ started early on in my young life. Ever the classic klutz, I managed to pull off some of the most infamous and awkward moments which invariably involved sports. So, basically I suck at all sports. Okay, and walking is tough, too.
To those of you who know me, my ineptitude for any and all sporting activities became glaringly obvious to you only after observing a phys ed class with me. Or witnessing when I tried to play volleyball, or ever attempted to catch a basketball, or swing a bat, or throw a ball, or kick a soccer ball or stand on skates (both the roller kind…what? I’m old enough…and ice) Clearly, a painful experience for everyone.
My initial experience with falling causing any major bodily harm was probably a lot sooner than the one I am about to describe, however, since memories are only accessible to the human mind normally at or after the age of three, I can only assume that the infamous Double Dutch Tragedy of 1975 was just one that I could remember out of a possible one hundred.
It was a hot summer day. The sun was blazing down from a periwinkle sky and school had been out for a few weeks. The air was thick with humidity and the abundant energy of the pre-pubescent boys and girls anxious for fun, activity and the ring of the Dickie Dee truck. (those of you not familiar, Dickie Dee was most famous guy in the ‘hood bringing ice cream treats for every kid lucky enough to score a quarter) The kids from my neighbourhood congregated in the parking lot where the cars were scant and enough room remained available for double dutch tournaments for the girls on one end and ball hockey games for the boys at the opposite end. The townhouses we occupied were situated in a semi-circle, the parking at the centre, the houses facing the lot. I somehow managed to participate in both these sports, albeit in the ill-fated ball hockey game as a bystander/participant/ball catcher-gone-horribly-awry, but that’s another story.
The skipping game of double dutch required skilled timing, lightening fast reflexes and athletic ability akin to an Olympic gymnast in order to pull off the tricks and jumps all the girls were doing. You can see how that drew me to this game.
The rope turners were usually either two girls who, sadly, were at the bottom of the pecking order and who were just tall enough to make sure the rope just skimmed the ground when it was turned, or jumpers who were out by missing a jump and forced to take a turn at the ropes. A toddler old enough to stand and turn ropes would have made due, but for some reason the mothers refused to put them out in a parking lot with a bunch of over obsessed double dutch enthusiasts and pre-teen ball hockey boys. Go figure. The jumpers were usually the girls who were so consumed with getting all the tricks and quick jumpy moves just perfect, that they usually took most of the skipping time. And then there were girls like me. Oh, sure we could jump and maybe even do a one foot at a time jump, but as for turning or touching the ground whilst jumping, that was a near impossibility. We were lucky we were given a chance to participate at all.
We had to watch out for the cranky rope turners. These were girls who wanted to be the jumpers but were relegated to have their turn doing rope duty and none too pleased about it. You didn’t want to risk taking a turn jumping in between the ropes of these girls. The perpetual whipping from the one hundred mile an hour lines proved detrimental to anyone brave enough to step foot in between. This is where the lightening fast reflexes came into play. One had to be quick so as not to get one’s face whipped or feet pulled out from under by the cranky rope turners, who if they happened to catch one unsuspecting jumper, just smiled an evil sort of grin then dropped their ropes declaring it was their turn to jump.
We sorted out who was turning and who was jumping first by taking orders from the bossy ones, then assuming our rightful place at the turner position. After an hour of turning, I wanted a chance to jump. Since it was an exceptionally humid day, some of the jumpers were getting hot and tired, so they took the opportunity to cool down and let one of the lame younger turners take a jump. Gleefully, I took my stance and waited for the girls to start turning. The ropes whipped by my face, the breeze tickling my nose as I closed my eyes and launched into a perfect entrance. I opened my eyes and was jumping. I did it! I survived the initial rope peeling and managed to get in between the wildly swinging lines. I jumped and soared and was about to exit for the next jumper to have a turn when things went horribly wrong. My foot became twisted in one of the ropes and instead of sailing elegantly out onto the side to watch the other jumper, I went crashing down onto the hard cement. I opened my eyes to hear the screams of the other girls coming to my rescue. I attempted to get up, but felt an awful stinging in my knee. I looked down at my raw red palms, then at the skin hanging from my knee as the blood trickled down and I began to cry. As my face crumpled into shocked pain, I felt an awkward stinging from my chin and forehead.
That’s what I would have been doing had my face not decided to go before my hands….
The girls saw the blood streaming from my face, my leg and my knee and immediately went into Florence Nightingale mode. Somebody yelled for my mother, somebody else went knocking on some random neighbour’s door and one girl tried to soothe my pain by saying “Ewwww…you’re bleeding from your face!” She’s now a Therapeutic Counselor for accident victims of double dutch tragedies.
I remember getting up, the blood streaming from my face and my knee and my mother running out to see what all the commotion was about. One look at my bloodied and scraped face and the exclamation of “OH MY GOODNESS WHAT HAPPENED!” sent all the girls running for the hills. My mom snagged me from under the arm and I was taken inside. A while later, after sponging off the stinging parts with warm washcloths then sending me into fits of throbbing pain with the hydrogen peroxide to ‘clean it out’ I managed to see my reflection. It wasn’t pretty. I looked more like a monster from a horror movie than the freckled face jumper of a mere half an hour ago. The red patches of dried blood were quite the contrast to my usually pale face, and my chin was swollen and sore after the beating it took smacking the cement. After the blood had dried, scabs formed in a line from my forehead, along the bridge of my nose and all down my chin. My thigh and my knee were not great, either. Essentially, I had flown from the inner sanctions of the whipping ropes and belly flopped directly onto the pavement that had been baked in one hundred degree heat.
My older brothers were very helpful and supportive with their “Nice face” remarks and “Gee, that looks like it hurt. Are you sure you were just skipping? It looks like you were attacked by a rabid dog”. I kinda wish I was. Older brothers are awesome, really.
“Well, at least you don’t have to go to school looking like that”.
Sadly, there have been many more incidents involving possible head injuries, bruising and even stitches once…but no broken bones which is a miracle, really. Maybe I’ll tell the Ball Hockey Incident next. It’s a classic.