Sissy Breaks My Leg

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If you look closely at the photo above… you will see one little shoe.

Just one.

That is because just outside of the frame… just outside of the observer’s view… is my little broken leg.

Full cast.

One-year-old.

Look at that baby.

The perfect Gerber Cupie Doll mix right?

How could anyone break the leg of such a nice, sweet, little baby girl?

Well… you’d have to ask my sister.

The practically perfect person pictured here:

Only, if you did go to ask my sister, she would probably throttle you. In fact… she would probably throttle me.

I used to tell the story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg”  in my classroom each year and when I got to the good part… I would call her on the cell phone, press “speaker,” and let her tell the whole class how she damaged me for life.

She hated it.

I don’t do it anymore.

Why?

Because she verbally throttled me.

She waited until she was at my house, vis-a-vis and shouted as she bordered on slapping me, “Why the hell do you have to call me and make me relive something I feel terrible about? Can’t you see you’re causing me pain?”

“I’m the baby,” I said smugly. “You broke my leg… I think you should have to pay for that the rest of my life.”

She gave me “theeeeee” big sister look… the I will kill you right now look… and I never, ever called her during class time again.

My students beg me to…

They do I swear…

But I stop them and shout, “Listen! She won’t let me… and you know how big sister’s are.”

Many of them nod their heads in silent solidarity. (Obviously, having been throttled by big sisters too.)

Sigh.

I don’t know what my sister was thinking that day back in 1966 when she broke my leg… She was seventeen… one of the most popular girl’s at Millikan High School. TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE IN EVERY WAY. Or so I thought… all of these years even AFTER the leg breaking incident but when I told my sister that I was writing this story she said, “Me? Practically perfect? Get real. I used to run around Millikan in my head cheerleader outfit, show all of the teachers the “forged” note from my mom and say, “I have to leave school immediately” before I’d flash them my all-American smile as I exited campus to ditch class with my friends.”

I was actually stunned for a moment when hearing this.

After years of taking the wrap as the “bad sister” the “bad seed” it was interesting to find out that the “good sister” the one who was always “so wonderful” was actually quite a bit of a naughty.

My sister has always been like a mother to me, so I don’t doubt that she had the best intentions when she hopped on her Schwinn Cruiser that day and propped me on the handle bars. I’m sure she thought I would giggle and squeal and love her all the more for it… but unfortunately the short ride went terribly wrong.

She lost her grip on my petite baby body and watched in horror as I slid off the front of the bike, where my small leg entered the turning spokes of the wheel, and snapped in several places before I landed helpless on the ground, caught as if a small animal in a snare, with my tiny leg twisted like delicate ribbon between the rough metal spokes of the rim.

My sister was beyond distraught and ran, frantic for help, to our neighbor: Mrs. O’Grady.

And though they both tried to free my leg, they actually had to remove the wheel from the bike, my leg still ensnared in it, and bundle “us” off to the hospital where the doctors could release me from it’s cruel grip.

The worst part, according to my sister, was not the break in my leg, but the break in her heart, as she held me in the backseat of the car, my little arms raised up to her, my hands opening and closing as I begged for understanding and a hug saying only three of the ten words I knew at the time:

“Sissy, Sissy sweet. Why? Why?”

“I would have preferred you to cry,” she said. “At least that would have been normal. But for you to lie there, like a little Buddha, not one tear on your face, as you asked me to explain in your tiny baby voice why this happened to you… was unbearable.”

The evil baby in me always smiles when she tells me this… I like that I was a master manipulator even at the age of one… assigning guilt and blame a talent passed down effortlessly in my genes.

My leg was “casted” from toe to hip, and my mother was enraged when she found out what my sister had done. It was weeks, no months, a constant barrage of angry words, that my sister had to endure from her parents for that “one” fatal mistake.

But oh… the story gets worse.

When the time came for the cast to finally be removed, I was beyond ecstatic.

They were taking me to see Santa that day for being such a brave girl through the months I had suffered my casted leg.

My sister said she was full of joy, so relieved that finally the day had come when she would no longer look at my cast as the “albatross” around her neck.

They took me from the hospital, straight to my grandmother’s, who was anxiously awaiting my arrival, just one of the many relatives who wanted to witness my full recovery and my visit with Santa.

I remember climbing from the car.

I remember skipping towards her house.

I remember tripping into a giant sprinkler hole and hearing a loud “SNAP” as my leg completely re-broke for the second time.

My sister said that I laid on my back, disbelief engulfing my pretty baby face, before I threw my arms outstretched over my head and WAILED, tossing my body from side to side screaming, “WHY? WHY!!!!!!!!”

Before my father picked me up, a writhing wild animal of a child, a snake ready to bite and hiss at anyone who tried to get close to me.

The next photo you see of me as a child is not a pretty one.

And if I could find it and post it here, I swear I would… but I have a feeling my sister has already burned it.

It’s me, a red corduroy jumpsuit, full leg cast, crooked bangs, a doll wedged tightly under my arm with no head, and a look in my eye that clearly shows that I have changed from a sweet little doll to a demon seed.

A look that seems to imply that I have already suffered the weight of the world and LORD HELP YOU if you try to cross me.

Today… I still limp when tired, the only reminder of that fateful ride… other than my yearly classroom story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg.”

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