Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Falling Down Gene

My youngest child, Molly, inherited the falling down gene from me. Give us some space and a little time and we will fall down. We've discussed this problem and agree it’s based on a combination of weak ankles, social anxiety and terminal optimism.

Our ankles are so weak our rubber-gammed gaits often look like Cookie’s in the movie
Best in Show when something goes wrong with her legs right before she and her dog are to take to the floor for final competition. The good thing for Molly and me is that we never break our ankles. This must be because of how flexible they are. They're so flexible they just give in at the most inopportune moment and then we land on our wrists and battered knees, although never at the same time as we aren't a vaudeville act.

Our social anxiety is such that we never fall when we are alone or when we’ve been to Happy Hour. Our most memorable falls happen when we are sober and somber and distracted by our earthly burdens, and when there are lots of people around to appreciate our special gifts.

And then there is our terminal optimism. We keep thinking that, despite our anxieties, something wonderful is going to greet us around the next corner or perhaps land on our heads. Therefore, instead of watching where we are going as we stumble over poop in the driveway, cracks in the sidewalk, and occasionally, carcasses in the road, we are usually gazing upward, looking for the silver lining in whatever dark cloud happens to be listing by overhead.

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are just a few examples:

Molly fell down in New York City in front of where the World Trade Center had once stood. And no, I have to say it wasn’t from being overwhelmed with great emotion; it was just an uneven sidewalk. However, what could have been an irreconcilable embarrassment turned out okay when she realized the group of devastatingly beautiful men who ran over to help her were gay (of course).

I fell down twice in one week when I first began my job with the Georgia Department of Education. Once was in downtown Atlanta; the other was in downtown Athens (the same week).

Molly fell down not once but twice when she was walking down the aisle as Maid of Honor at her sister’s wedding. Okay, the aisle was an uneven grassy area and it was hot and Molly’s feet were sweaty, and, oh yeah, I'd made her get shoes that were too big because they were on sale. I was pretty impressed that, in spite of her humiliation, my smart child took her shoes off in the middle of the vows and took part in the recessional with the offending clodhoppers slung over her shoulder. She then proceeded to drink her way through the reception barefoot.

Carrying my Art Major drawing board, I fell down in the middle of Baxter Street in front of the Krystal when I was a freshman at UGA. The tiny-square-burger-eating Krystal diners applauded me when I got myself up and limped on in for a large order of fries.

Molly told me she once fell backwards out of a trailer. I don’t even want to know the details of that story, but the no falling while drinking may not apply to social gatherings in mobile homes.

I fell down in front of about one hundred graduate students in an auditorium about ten years ago when I was teaching college. The most significant part of
this story is that I immediately jumped up, threw my arms in the air, declaring, “I’m all right! I’m all right!” to what was, no doubt, the group's great disappointment as I was able to continue with class.

My most embarrassing and best documented fall was immortalized for the three people who happened to be listening to
Georgia Gazette on Public Radio the day my story, entitled Dinner on the Ground, was aired in 2006. I've further commemorated it here in case you weren’t lucky enough to be one of the three.

One final word on falling down and this is probably true for anyone who's a faller: As it’s happening, it seems to go in slow motion, kind of like being poured from a syrup bottle. The worst part is that you know you’re going down and there isn’t a damned thing you can do to stop it.

When it happens to me, this is what goes through my head:
1. Oh shit.
2. This is going to be embarrassing,
3. and it’s gonna hurt.


Kate said...

The falling down gene can be successfully treated with repeated doses of Tai Chi. :)
must be awful, though. poor baby...

marciamayo said...

Kate, Molly and I would manage to tumble over in the midst of a Tai Chi session for sure.

cile said...

Funny, funny post describing your falls! Hopefully Molly has also inherited her Mom's quick wit and ability to bounce back somehow better for the experience!

Olga said...

Fellow faller, here! My mom always told me not to hold my arms out as I fell so I would not break an arm. Might I say, my first fall was in her arms down a flight of stairs while visiting her cousin in Toronto. Since then, I have broken my nose twice.

Linda said...

What a hoot! I have a constant fear of falling but actually don't fall that often. I hope you don't get badly hurt exercising this family gene.

Friko said...

You really, really, really, MUST NEVER give up writing.

I fall rarely, but for some reason always when I am in the company of the same person, a very correct, tidy, neat, composed lady, who would be sure to be lifted up by the angels if she ever stumbled.
Drat the woman.

Once I slipped on grass cuttings left by a lazy council employee and broke my ankle so badly that it now has an entire ironmonger's shop's supply for a week in it.

To add insult to injury, I was on my way to go on holiday and ended up in a strange hospital instead.

MaryB said...

Funny, funny. After a fall, do you always get up in a hurry and quickly look around to see who saw you fall? Oh yes, I've had a few falls too. Your sense of humor is wonderful. You see "happenings" from the point of view that life is interesting - not a catastrophe.
Mary B

Arkansas Patti said...

What a delightful post, if at your expense. I guess some things are hereditary.
Remember, I am laughing with you.
I never got that slow motion effect. Mine is usually upright one second, face in dirt the next.
Thanks for the chuckle.

Celia said...

Dang girl, I wonder if we are distant cousins. My 3 sisters and I have the same gene. Its the stairs of death, and ankles of jello with us. At the last family wedding I managed to fall over on my fanny while being introduced to the new in-laws. I imagined they thought I'd spent the morning in a bar. My youngest sister, closing in on 50, wears ankle braces in her aerobics class to keep from piling up in her corner. I always wonder why with all the extra padding I have these days I manage to land on an elbow, tailbone, something with no padding. Must learn to roll. Still it has led to much walking arm in arm, an affectionate way to stay on your feet while the ankles sway.

marciamayo said...

Dear Friends, I have laughed till I cried at your falling down stories. Thank you so much for making me feel not so all alone.

Wisewebwoman said...

Hand up here though that may ruin my balance. I laughed and laughed at what you and your commenters wrote!
I have had spectacular falls, you know the ones where you hang on to your balance long enough to decide which part is going to hit the dirt and everyone applauds after your manic dance? That's me too.
I had an enlightening comment from one of my brothers when I had completed one of these complicated and bizarre tribal rain dances beside him as we walked along a street and I had the time to make the decision to land on my arse.
He looked down at me and said, while shaking his head:
Know what's wrong with your gait, Sis? You don't lift your feet high enough!

And by gum, he was right. I lift my feet a little higher as I walk now and haven't had the dance in a few years.


Batya said...

I'm so sorry that I find this so funny, since falling women do not feel funny. If my daughter told me she fell backwards out of a trailer, I would make believe I didn't hear that one. So funny. When I was in Israel teaching, I sat down on the chair behind my desk and the chair collapsed into smithereens. We were all shocked into silence until I started laughing hysterically on the floor under the desk. All the kids joined in and jumped up to help me get off the floor, I was laughing so hard several students fell on top of me, also laughing. Needless to say, I was one of the favorite teachers at our crazy kibbutz school.

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