I was a clumsy kid. As a matter of fact, I’m a clumsy adult. The person who falls down in the middle of an empty sidewalk wearing flip flops and carrying nothing more interesting than a small bag I purchased specifically for it’s easy-to-carry-while-carting-around-two-toddlers style. And then attempts to pretend that I didn’t just fall down while all alone, surrounded by nothing more than air, while strolling leisurely on the most innocuous sidewalk in the world. It’s a sad testament to my capability as a grown adult, but at least I’ve managed to never harm another human being in my inability to do anything gracefully.
I grew up in Jersey. We had big hair, wore leggings under everything, and had high tops to coordinate with every sweatshirt-dress we owned. I had at least ten pairs of dangly star earrings in a variety of colors, and wore them proudly with my crimped hair and teased bangs. I was cool. Until I walked into an open locker while staring at Eric Cochrane over my right shoulder. Or fell in PE while jogging as I tried to impress him with my fleet-footed sprinting capability. My parents called me “Gracie”, a supposedly affectionate nickname that served only to remind everyone that I was bound to trip over something.
My school was K-8, the eighth grade graduation being the culmination of all things. It was the pinnacle of the early school years: an event each of us yearned for as we entered into the middle-school wing. We had the pomp, the ceremony. The eighth graders missed class for graduation practice. They got to leave school early…they got pizza for lunch TWICE a week. They were the ultimate. We all wanted to be in eighth grade, so when I reached that pinnacle, I knew great things would come. My eighth grade graduation would be the day, the one where I shined. I was smart-I knew I’d get awards. I’d be stylish, because mom took me shopping for shoes with heels on them. By God, I’d have good hair. No frizz.
The day of The Graduation dawned bright and beautiful, as it can only be on the Jersey shore in June. My parents had made reservations at a rather jazzy little place in Manasquan, and I couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle to the graduation song. I had my new shoes ready, heels and all, and took my time getting my bangs to just the right height to sit perfectly under the square of my graduation cap. I loved the jaunty swing of my tassel; the click of my little heels on the floor. I was wearing makeup. Mascara, and a little lip gloss. I was the shit.
We got to the school, my family took their seats, camera at the ready. They had already put in their order for the VHS of the ceremony. I joined my classmates in the band room, all of us happily chattering in our royal blue graduation robes. My bangs were the perfect height, I noted, looking at the bangs of my classmates.
The chairs for the graduates were set up on the stage of the elementary school gym stage. The kind with the heavy red curtains used for everything from dances to PE class to PTA meetings. My last name starting with an “M”, I was right in the middle of the procession. To get to our seats, we had to walk down the center aisle, turn right at the stage, walking around the band to go up the stairs at the right side. Simple. And interesting to watch, I’m sure, as 90 eighth graders step-tap-step-tapped all the way down the aisle to the beat of “Pomp and Circumstance”.
My turn, finally, and I step-tap-step-tapped my way down the center aisle, smiling for the cameras, my little heels clicking on the floor, my bangs maintaining their perfect height. My tassel swinging perfectly. It was beautiful. My shining moment. I walk down the aisle, around the band, up the steps.
Until, well. The Moment. The moment of all things ridiculous, mortifying, humiliating. I tripped. Up the top step. Shouldn’t have been a big deal, a little stumble that was easily recoverable.
Except. I was wearing heels, for the first time ever. So here’s how it went: I trip up the step, try to recover, step on my robe, slip on my heels, teeter left, over the stage. Off the stage. Onto a band member, slamming my forehead against the edge of the stage on my way down, before landing on the back of my head on the lovely, well-polished, hardwood floor.
I spent my graduation in the ER, being treated for a concussion. Getting stitches over my left ear where I slammed into the trumpet of the terrified fifth grade band member as I fell onto the floor.
Needless to say, my parents have kept their VCR in good repair solely for the purpose of being able to show that particular video. To everyone in the world. If they knew about YouTube, it’d probably be on there too.