There are things in life that one would rather not remember. There are those times that certain acts follow, no matter how much we want to put them behind us.
In seventh grade, at the opening stanzas of puberty, just beginning to look at girls in a different and confusing way, it was my early day of seeing myself as a “tough guy” and I was invincible.
I showed up for trumpet practice on that particular Monday morning. The lessons took place backstage in the school auditorium, and that day the teacher was late. If I remember correctly, he was late a lot.
Always able to find things to do in his absence, that morning a new student had come on the scene and it was a girl. I don’t remember her being pretty, but what did I know back then.
I do remember two or three of us boys outdoing each other by performing more and more dangerous acts, trying awkwardly to get her attention.
As it is with boys, the stakes kept getting higher until one of the boys jumped off of the stage which was three feet above the main floor.
I had been in a gymnastics class for a month and at that point I pretty much knew everything there was to know about gymnastics. So, with much ruffling of feathers, blustering of hot air, I said I could do a flip off of the stage and land on my feet.
I could see that I had gotten her attention, so I strutted to the edge of the stage and with the grace of a high wire walker, I did a perfect handstand and swung my legs over my head, to do a precise two point landing in the main floor, at least that’s how I saw myself in my head.
The next thing I remember I was being put onto a stretcher and carted off to the hospital in an ambulance. Apparently I had landed on my feet, but for the fact that I had been wearing my “tough guy” wing-tipped leather sole shoes, the smooth soles slipped out from under me and I smacked the floor hard shattering my nose in six places, jamming my front teeth through my bottom lip and laying open a deep gash under my chin. So much for grace and style.
After many hours of surgery and many more weeks of recovery, I finally returned to school and the embarrassing fact that I was the idiot who did a flip off of the stage.
The memory lived with me each day even through high school with those glaring scars and a crooked nose and mouth.
Mom, in her unwavering attempts of support said that with those scars I looked like a Jimmy Cagney sort of tough guy.
When I went to my thirtieth high school class reunion, the last one I attended, I was introduced to a stately-looking woman. As she was shaking my hand, she said with a bit of a giggle, “Oh sure, you’re the guy who did the flip off the stage.”
Some things we can never live down.