National Cousins Day isn’t until July 24th, but I want to share a “cousin” story with you now. This particular story has been on my mind because it is the topic of a personal essay assignment for my English 101 class this semester. It is also an opportunity to add something to this blog, which has not been touched since January right before the semester started… my apologies.
This assignment has been turned in, but is not yet graded, so please excuse any errors. There might be some slight exaggeration about the puking (you’ll see), but I did make a women drop her jaw and her phone at the same time…
An Interesting Birthday With Cousins
The latest Facebook post from my family goes like this:
Heather (Cousin 1) shared Ancestry’s photo.
Happy National Cousins Day!
What is your favorite childhood memory that includes your cousin(s)?
Heather (Cousin 1): One memory I have is probably not Frankie’s favorite. I remember clearly the walk out on the wet limb of the tree and the chaos that ensued after that!
Frankie (Me): It wasn’t my best day, but it sure is a fun story to tell now!
Ellen (My mom): I was so happy when she did her first cartwheel after that.
Heather: It is an amazing story.
Rhonda (Cousin 2): Heather, I remember you saying maybe they are not broken.
Frankie: Always looking on the bright side, Heather!
Heather: Frankie oh yes that describes me perfectly. I’m always spreading rainbows and sunshine! Now that I think about it I wonder where that optimism came from?
Frankie: Maybe you were just hoping we could still play “runaway kids” the next weekend…
Rhonda: Can’t say it was my favorite memory but it is one I will not forget.
I remember the day very clearly. It was August 24th, 1985, my twelfth birthday. It had rained that morning, but in the early afternoon the sky started to clear and even though everything was a little wet I was still going to have my party. You only turn twelve once, you know. It was not a fancy party, not a ton of guests, no extravagant decorations. It was a farm party. Not farm themed – we did not do themes. It was a birthday party on a farm. There was farmland involved. Cousins were involved. Growing up on a farm usually means cousins are your first friends and sometimes your only friends until high school. Farmland is normally big open places lined with trees. One of those trees just happened to have a treehouse in it. We called it a tree house, but it was more like a tree covered-porch. It was small, covered by a tin roof, and only had a simple railing around the edge. No walls.
Over the last few weeks my dad had been in the process of building our new house and had gotten as far as the poured walk-out basement. This meant that there was a house-sized hole in the yard that was open on one side and that side was nothing but mud. Because of the mud, a path of plywood and lumber had been thrown across in a makeshift path so that we could get from the tree house back up to the driveway.
Well, the cousins finally arrived and the fun began. Farm parties do not usually involve gifts, but there is always food. So we ate our dinner (to those of you who have never been around farm people that means lunch) and had cake and home-made ice cream and with sticky hands and faces headed down to THE tree. Not only did it have the tree house, but it also had a tire swing, and was at the edge of the “wilderness” area; the part of the property that was not farmed and had grown up in brush. As we arrived at the tree we all picked a spot in which we liked or could have fun. My brother, Jason, and my youngest cousin, Heather, and a much younger neighbor took turns on the tire swing. The older cousin, Brian, decided to go off into the “wilderness”. He had some exploring to do. The middle cousin, Clint, another neighbor, and I climbed the ladder to the tree house. As it usually goes with middle school kids there was some bragging and some daring and some “No you can’t!’s” thrown around. Finally, as proof of bravery, I was forced to climb out on the limb on which the tree house sat. I had done this before and had no fear, what-so-ever. So, I climbed over the railing of the tree house, walked straight over to the trunk, and hollered, “See! I told you so!” I then turned around to walk back… and slipped.
Remember how I had said it had rained? Yup – that happened. I had been on that limb dozens of times and had never had a problem. But, it had always been dry. Today there was a problem. My cousins had shown up. As I fell the 15 feet to the ground I remember thinking the cousins would never let me live this down. I was doomed to be made fun of forever. I landed in the mud. Hands first, kind of like a cat. I got up, embarrassed, laughed a little because of the embarrassment and looked around at my relations. They were looking at me strangely. That’s when I finally noticed that something hurt. I looked down to where the pain seemed to be, lifted my head, and screamed like I had never screamed before. Now, when I think of it I know with absolute certainty I could have won a “best scary scream” contest. I have always had good lungs and most people say I am loud on a regular day, but this was different. I remember feeling myself take a huge breath and filling my lungs to absolute capacity, then forcing all that air out through my vocal chords with all the energy I could muster. No one moved. My cousins and my younger brother had no idea what to do, so they just stood there and waited for me.
It is very hard to describe what I looked like that day, so I drew you a picture:
The red arrows point to the broken part of my arms. The skin was not broken, my arms were just bent in too many places.
When I realized I was on my own, I moved my arms to a position in which they could sort of support themselves. They had started to feel like severed appendages that were just dead weight. I cried and I walked and I walked and I cried. It seemed like forever, but I eventually made it over the plywood and past the basement hole (the huge mud mess that we talked about previously). As I got to the driveway I saw the adults standing there, in shock. I am sure all of this took less than three minutes, but with the adrenaline pumping it was the longest three minutes of my short, twelve-year life. The grown-ups finally jumped into action and I was in the backseat of my aunt’s station wagon, with my dad and another cousin, within seconds. We were headed to the local emergency room and my dad and cousin were trying to keep my arms from moving too much on the way. It did not work. I cried.
Finally, at the hospital emergency room, we did not have to wait. (When your injuries make other patients puke in the hallway, they move you through triage very quickly.) The nurses took me to a room, put me on a bed, and asked what happened. As my dad and I explained a message was sent to the bone doctor. Within minutes of arriving, I was prepped and ready for surgery. The anesthesiologist told me to count backwards from 100. I think I made it to 97. That is all I remember from that afternoon.
When I woke up later that evening, I was in a fairly comfortable hospital bed with my arms in casts. My mom was there. It was quiet. There were cards and toys sitting around the room. There were balloons, as well, floating in front of a window that showed a sky I would not get to enjoy for at least a month.
It was quite a day. It was quite an interesting birthday. And as you can see from the Facebook post above, this is an event that is still being talked about 32 years later. By my cousins.
I knew I would never live it down.