Monday, September 8, 2014

How Clever Girl Almost Committed Accidental Patricide

I am taking a week "vacation" from the 200 Things List, due to a heck of a lot of insane traveling that I am doing this week that will take me far out of cellphone range from Monday through Wednesday. This nuts week will be concluding on Friday with a 24-hour, 200 mile "Reach the Beach" relay race I am running from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to the ocean. I am running 24 miles for my team. I will definitely give you a run-down of the crazy race afterward!

In the meanwhile, to entertain you, I will still be updating Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but with some fun essays about ridiculous things that have happened to me. I hope you enjoy.


Wintertime never stopped my family from playing outside. If I put together all the snowballs I'd ever made in my life, I could probably make a Ziggurat out of them. There's always that initial shock of feeling the snot crystallize inside your nose, and the fleeting fear that if you blink then your eyeballs might get frozen shut. Then of course there's the searing pain of having to hold your bladder for hours on end because it's just not worth it to have to go inside and spend 15 minutes peeling off all your layers for a measly 30 seconds of relief. The cost to benefit ratio just doesn't add up. But really, playing outside in the snow is fun!

We were living in a big yellow house in Rockland, Maine, and I was in kindergarten. (Sidebar: I recently saw this house again when I ended up in Rockland, and it's not actually big at all. It's just a regular house. But in my brain I still remember it as being palatial. It probably just looks smaller to me now because I'm 12 feet tall and weigh 700 pounds... I have spent a lot of time standing in front of open microwaves). Our backyard connected with a big neighborhood field, with apple trees and a little valley that sloped down to a merry little creek at the bottom. The valley was a perfect sledding hill, and the creek was far enough away that you would typically come to a natural stop several yards before the 6 foot sheer drop off, so you never had to worry about falling over the edge and into freezing water.

Except this one time. Of course.

We had these fantastic "sleds" called snow tubes, which were little more than inflated tire tubes with a piece of plastic stretched over the hole in the middle. They were made of good rubber, and hardly ever popped. They were also as close to frictionless as possible, which made for seriously excellent speed going down hills. Typically we'd have just one person on one sled at a time, or maybe I might go down with my sister. One fateful day, my dad suggested that he and I should ride on the tube together, with me in his lap.

I agreed. What fun!

Our breath fogged the crisp winter morning air and the snow crunched beneath the weight of the snow tube as dad and I sat down. My sister took a running start and slammed into Dad's back, shoving us off down the hill. We were flying. We were going SO FAST. Our combined weight made it such that we flew down the hill in no time, and were going on a direct collision course right for the 6 foot drop off into freezing water and rocks that I mentioned earlier. I began to panic. My happiness instantly melting away into animal fear. Right as we approached the edge of the mini cliff, Dad expertly touched snow with his hand, altering our direction so we went zooming along the edge of the cliff. A few inches of the snow tube dangling over the edge as we hurtled along, but we were perfectly safe. There was no way we were going to fall into the creek.

"WE'RE GONNA FALL IN!" I screamed.

"No we're not! We're fine!"



But I did.

I jumped.

I was in a blind panic, nothing could get between me and my blessed self preservation. I struggled free of my dad's clutching arms, and leapt off the tube, towards the safe, solid ground. I flew through the air and gloriously face-planted into the snow, pile-driving up a wall of snow with my face, my feet flipped up over my back.

Now, if you have a basic understanding of the laws of physics, you can probably imagine what subsequently befell my loving father. As my face was at that point buried in the snow like an ostrich in the sand, I can only imagine what happened. My sideways leap sent Dad launching out into the open air over the creek. I imagine that he hovered there in the atmosphere for a moment, like Wil E. Coyote, questioning what decisions in his life had brought him to this awful moment. Gravity took over and he dropped like a stone, down into the abyss.

Meanwhile, on the bank, I rolled over and spat a mouthful of half-melted snow out onto the ground. Rubbing my eyes, I lifted my head and looked around for Dad. But he was nowhere to be seen! After a few seconds of panic about the fact that my father had become invisible, my tiny child brain finally resolved a logical understanding of where he might be. I army-crawled my way over to the edge of the drop off, curled my mittens over the edge, and scooted forward so that just my eyes and nose passed over the threshold, terrified of what I might see.

My dad had managed to stand up. He was calmly standing up to his knees in the creek water, in the epicenter of an explosion of broken ice. The water that was swirling around his legs was brown and full of rotten leaves from autumn. He was covered in mud. He wasn't just sort of muddy. He looked like a creature. One of his mittens was missing. His winter hat was askew.

We made eye contact.


I didn't comprehend until some years later that had I not leapt from the sled, neither of us would have fallen in. But at the time, I was a smug little lady.

And that’s how I almost committed accidental patricide.

Clever Girl

1 comment:

  1. I think it was Ellen's push that led us down this slippery slope. If physics was taught using snow tubes, there'd be a lot more scientists in this country...but maybe fewer Dads.