Almost exactly three weeks ago, the day before we were set to drive 17 hours to Asheville, I took a tumble down four concrete steps in my garage.
Once I figured out how to crawl (literally) back into the house and yell at my daughter (the only one home at the time) to come help me and bring a bag of ice, I was asked, first by her, then my husband (who came home from work so he could drive me to get X-Rays), and then the folk at the clinic, and then, my sister, who stopped by later to check on me, “how did you fall?”
It happens so quickly, you really don’t know. I was more focused on the pain and getting some ice on my foot than I was considering how I fell and (as I was asked at the clinic later) how I landed. When you’re in a puddle on the garage floor, realizing that you’ve just crashed down to the ground, you don’t tend to assess the situation and examine how you fell or how you landed. You’re more like: holy cow <not the word I actually used – do you know me at all?>, that hurt!
I didn’t break a bone, but my right foot remains swollen; thankfully, the colorful bruises have almost disappeared. It’s always fun to have to have something to show people, just to gross them out. When you’re nine. The pain? So much better, but still there. I discovered a couple of days ago that I’ll stick to breast stroke for a while – the kicking when swimming freestyle lights up every single nerve ending in my foot.
After a few great days, I tend to have a day that is a step back. Today is that day for me. When I stretched in bed this morning, my foot was on fire. Instead of heading downstairs like a normal person, I resorted to that odd sort of gimp. I’m limping a little today. But I am better – unlike a few weeks ago, I’m now limping like a lady.
As I plopped down on the couch, I thought to myself, what am I going to do with myself today? Nothing like a useless foot to gain appreciation for your amazing body. And, do you know? The first thought I had was I wonder if I have a copy of Just So Stories.
Rewind to one hot and steamy summer (is there any other kind in Houston?) when my sister and I were enrolled in Art Camp. Organized, taught, and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Fazholz, we loved going. Mind you, in the 80’s we didn’t have this wide selection of summer day camps as we do nowadays, so it was great fun to get out and see some friends over the summer. Plus, I loved their projects. We knotted macramé wall hangings, sculpted clay figurines, and doodled and drew with fresh, new markers, straight from the box.
Mid-week, I got sick. The humidifier appeared, as did the ginger ale: a sure sign that someone was down for the count. The summer throw ups are no fun, but especially when they coincided with Art Camp. I recall being positively distraught.
To cheer me up, my sister sat by my bed and read Just So Stories to me the entire day. If I recall correctly, she even skipped camp to stay with me. Our father had read these stories to us before, but we had skipped around, always favoring The Elephant’s Child and How the Camel Got His Hump. Over the roar of the humidifier, she read every single story in that book.
It was incredibly comforting. So comforting that 30-plus years later, when I’m stumped as to how to fill my time with a foot that needs to rest, my mind asked for the Just So Stories.
THAT is the power of reading (and the power of really awesome big sisters).
I wonder if this were to happen today if she just would have let me borrow her iPad. Or if she would watch a YouTube video with me, instead. And if so, if I’d remember it so clearly so many years later.
I’m not opposed to other methods of entertainment – not at all. But, I do think there is something about reading aloud that provides a different kind of magic. When you read aloud, you’re committed to it. You’re not doing anything else (how can you?), and that, in and of itself, is a gift. A gift of words and story and imagery and knowledge and information and comfort and love.
I’m not sure it even mattered much what she read to me that day. All she had to do was read. It’s really that simple.
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