Falling- A Mother's Day Post

By the time I was three, my grandparents wanted to buy me a helmet. Not for riding my bike, or any other normal kid thing, but for walking around the house. I was such a reckless, fearless child that it's a wonder I didn't break a bone until I was seventeen, well, at least not my own. My grandparents almost had my dad convinced, if not for my mom, their daughter, who single handedly saved me from the later embarrassment of non-required-protective-headgear.

I think it was her earliest effort in passing on the value of risk-taking that had been all-but-squashed in her own youth. My mom was the third of six siblings growing up on the south side of Chicago. She had only one brother, who was two years older than her. As was usually the case in situations from that time, he got all the benefits because he was the boy, and the sisters were left to be more creative in their achievements. My mother always made good grades, and combined with a loyal work history to a local drugstore chain, was awarded a full-ride scholarship in 1968 to study pharmacy at a state college. Upon hearing, my grandfather told her to give back the scholarship so a boy could have it. When she refused, he disowned her, and kicked her out of the house, and she went off to Western Illinois University in rural Macomb.

It was here, that she really learned to fall. My mother fell in and out of love. She fell out of her pharmacology program in favor of English Education. But most of all, she learned to fall, in the breech position, out of an airplane.

Shortly after taking up skydiving, packing the shoots of other jumpers so she could go for free, my grandmother finally convinced my grandfather to visit the school, just to see what their lost daughter was up to. It was a surprise visit, so when my mom's roommate directed them to the airfield, and they found my mom about to go up, she was totally unprepared to explain her risk-taking. Not wanting to delay the flight schedule, with my grandmother in tears and hysterics, my mom jumped in the plane, went up, came down, and was back on the ground in half an hour. Her mom was horrified, but my grandfather just laughed. He wouldn't admit it until about twenty years later, but I think that's when he knew he was wrong. Grounded by bad eyes, he had always wanted to fly.

My mom's skydiving came to an end on her forty-second jump. She was with a group jump, and they all got caught in an updraft. Everyone went in one direction and she was blown the other. She crash-landed in a bean field, shattering both of her knees. The ground crew went looking in the direction everyone else had gone, all uninjured, and my mother army-crawled on her elbows for an hour to a near by runway where she was almost run over my an ambulance that then backed up and picked her up.

Even in the hospital, with her my grandmother in tears again, begging her to come home, my mom asserted her independence again chose to chance it on her own with two full hip to ankle casts.

She fell, and was indeed worse for the wear. But refusing to miss out on her life a few weeks later, my mother, on crutches, with a jug of wine in a backpack, made her way to a party. There she met a recreational body builder with degrees in kinesthetics and coaching, into whose care her doctor eventually released her for physical therapy. And whom she eventually married and had two violently, reckless daughters with.

I am sure it wasn't always easy watching me stumble around the house, hitting my head, and arms, and knees on everything. Especially when I took to wrapping my blankie around my head over my eyes to prove how well I knew the house. 5, 6, 7 stairs, crash, ok, so it was 8.

When my sister and I took up horse jumping, she sat in the stands every week wringing her hands, but still cheering. Once my sister took a particularly bad fall at a show that happened to be on Mother's Day. She split open her side, duct taped it shut, and went on to win the only trophy of her riding career. She doesn’t say so, but I think it is one of my mom’s favorite Mother’s Day memories.

She clearly knew there was some lesson in falling.

Part of jumping is the falling, sometimes it’s the best part, the entire reason you jump in the first place. You give yourself to the wind just to see what happens and where it will take you. And sometimes, you even land on your feet.

thanks mummsy