Monday, December 22, 2014

Toes on the brain

My career as a ballet dancer ended before it started. I injured myself tumbling down a hill after seeing our friends dance in the American Youth Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. It felt like I broke my toes.

I must have had toes on the brain. During the performance I kept leaning over and whispering into Katie's ear, "How do you think they get up on their toes like that?"

"Lots of practice," she'd say.

My plans to begin practicing for my dance career dashed, I sat on my ass at the bottom of the hill and groaned, "I'm OK. I'm OK."

The most embarrassing part of all is that I was actually paying attention, trying not to fall. When we had pulled into our parking spot and got out of the car, I even made a comment about how steep the hill is.

"Wow, that would make a good sledding hill," I said.

"Yeah, if there weren't any cars in the parking lot to slide into," Katie said. I wasn't looking at her face when she said it since I was too busy looking right at the ground, focusing on not falling as we climbed the steep hill, but I could feel her eyes rolling at me.

"We can take the stairs over there," Will pointed out.

"Nah," I said. "We're already half-way up." I said "we're" but actually Will and Katie were near the top looking back at me, turtling my way up the hill. It had snowed the other day, and while most of the snow had melted off the hill, the grass was cold and wet and slick.

I felt victorious by the time I made it to the top. We made our way into the hall, found our seats, and had a great time. All the dancers did a great job, and it was especially fun to watch our friends' performances.

When the show was over, Will hurriedly led us out the front door so we could beat the crowd. It had been a sold-out show and nearly every parking space within eyeshot was taken. Katie and Will had already take a few steps down the hill toward our car when I stopped at the top.

I've become *that* mom. The "safety first" mom. I'm forty-four, with an eight year old. The benefit of having a child when you're of advanced maternal age is that you are more comfortable with yourself and wise enough to have some good comebacks to the inevitable profound questions kids ask. So mentally, being an old mom is great. But physically, I have to be careful not to break my old bones while I'm trying to keep up.

"Hold on. I'm gonna take off my shoes," I announced to Will and Katie. They both stopped and turned around to look at me. Like I'm crazy.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Will asked.

"Yeah, I think I'll have more grip with my toes than I will with the heels on these clogs I'm wearing," I reasoned.

"Why don't we take the stairs?" Will said,

"No! No! We're almost there," I pointed to our car at the bottom of the hill.

I slipped off my slip-ons, picked them up and held them in one hand as I began slowly, carefully inching my way down the slope.

The grass was prickly and cold under my feet.

That's the last thing I remember thinking before everything slowed down in a weird, warped sense of time as I could feel my left foot lose contact with the earth and my body began to fall, the toes on my right foot the only part of my body firmly planted on the ground.

I must have had toes on the brain from the ballet. It was as if when my body started falling, my brain shouted out, "pirouette!"

All of my weight was on the bare toes on my right foot as my body spun in an awkward, frozen attempt at a pirouette, ending with my rear end landing thump on the ground. A lot of good it did, removing my clogs. I should have taken a hint from the brand, Lands' End, and realized my rear end would end up landing on the ground. I'm about as much of an outdoorsy person as I am a ballet dancer. I just like their comfy clogs. They're kind of a marriage of hipster clogs and grandma shoes and if I were to say I have any type of fashion sense a good name for it would be hipster grandma.

Will and Katie helped me up and I limped to the car. By the time the three of us had buckled up inside the car, we burst into laughter.

"I must have looked ridiculous!" I managed to gasp out in between laughs.

Will hesitated a moment as he looked into my eyes, ascertaining whether or not it was safe to agree, then he said, "Yeah. It kind of was..." and giggled like an eight-year-old boy.

"You looked so ridiculous, Mom!" Katie chimed in from the back seat like the giggly eight-year-old girl she is.

"Thanks. I can always count on my family to keep me humble."

The injury hurt worse by the next day. Like how you don't quite notice the pain in your neck after you've experienced whiplash until the next day. I woke up, hurt.

"Ouch," I said, trying to decide which direction I could move my body causing the least amount of pain.

"Where does it hurt?" Katie asked, her eyebrows furled, not a trace of laughter in her voice.

"Kinda all over. But mostly my toes," I said, trying to inch my leg over to a pillow so I could elevate my foot.

"Which toes," Katie asked.

"Big toe, tall man, and the middle one," I said.

"Oh," she said, and sprung from bed. "I'll make you some breakfast!"

I looked up at the ceiling and remembered a couple of hours earlier asking Will if he could make his own sack lunch before he headed to work. I usually get out of bed and see him off to work, but my foot was throbbing and I knew I wasn't going anywhere. After he left for work, I remembered it was Sunday.

"Holy shit," I said to myself. It was my Sunday to be the lead teacher in our Sunday School class. I slowly made my way out of bed and down the hall, dragging my banged up foot behind me, holding on the the walls for balance. I found the phone and called the church and explained the situation.

"No problem," Pastor Kimby said. "I'll relay the message to them. Go ahead and email them too, just in case I don't see them."

My foot was by now burning, the pain from my toes radiating up to the top of my foot. I hobbled to my laptop and composed a message to my co-teachers. They're all wonderfully supportive, so I wasn't too worried about dropping the ball on them. The kids are so young you don't have to plan too much for each session. They're happy with coloring sheets, play-doh, a story, and a song. They mostly seem to like it when you just talk directly to them in a conversation. You know, like a regular person.

I cradled the wall to the kitchen and found the last two Ibuprofen liquigels in our medicine cabinet. I swallowed them down with a full glass of water, considered eating something so they wouldn't upset my stomach, but the burning pain in my foot made me want to lie down ASAP.

After I hobbled into bed, I asked Katie to bring me my book. She brought it in, along with two pieces of cinnamon/sugar toast and a glass of water on a tray. I'm thankful that what I lack in grace I make up for in good reading skills. I'm lucky that despite my lack of skill, at least my family treats me like a prima ballerina.

Elevation, Ibuprofen, and laughter are the best medicine. It feels better today. I'll probably limp around for awhile, but I can use that to my advantage. When guests come for Christmas eve, I can blame my lack of gifts and good housekeeping on my injury. I can be the Little Drummer Boy, offering the only thing I have: an amusing story.