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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Accidents Are Not Born
By Anita van der Elst


Sometimes I’m amazed that I made it through childhood alive, with limbs and sanity intact. Well, maybe I’m fudging a little regarding sanity but please allow me my blissful state of supposition.

Accidents happen, they say.

The first I recall might not meet the definition of an outright accident. It involved my older brain-damaged brother, his ability to know right from wrong impaired. It likely wasn’t intentional—thus an accident.

Every summer my farmer-father baled hay from meadows through which a mountain-fed creek meandered. To cool off from the sweatiness of ‘bucking’ bales, his crew often took a dip in the creek. Someone decided damming the stream where the banks were high would create a swimmin’ hole worth diving into. That engineering feat accomplished, much refreshment resulted.

Enter Mother with picnic lunch and five-year-old me. Somehow at leaving time I found myself on the far side of the trickling creek. My many little-girl fears included that of water (except for bubble-bath in the tub). Whining for help went unheeded except by my aforementioned brother.

Instead of carrying me across, he heaved me into the swimmin’ hole. I swam like a rock. My short life passed before me. Hell’s fiery flames flicked at the soles of my feet, or so I thought. It was only dead leaves from the branches used in the dam, which could’ve snagged and held me captive. A hired man dove in and saved me—my first hero.

Danger zone ahead: the kitchen.

My chore as an eight-year old was putting dishes from the drain rack into the cupboard. To complete the task I boosted myself up on the counter.

Our old farmhouse kitchen’s metal cupboards had one below-counter door that never latched properly. As I dismounted from the counter one particular morning, the sharp jagged corner of that slightly open door caught at the back of my knee and dug in. I’m sorry to be so graphic but I thought the sound I heard was my dress tearing.

Thirty stitches, ‘proud’ flesh and almost fifty years later, a wide scar sewing a seam from back-of-knee to bottom-of-rump gives testimony. Eerily-voiced I tell awed curiosity seekers at poolside, “I’m an outer space alien. That’s my zipper—how I get in and out of my human skin.”

At age nine I decided to try my hand at acrobatics. If it would’ve been just my hand, say…in a puppet, I would probably now enjoy greater neck mobility. But no, I had to use my non-athletic body. On a mattress. Trying to flip. Using my head as landing gear. Cra-a-a-a-ck.

Many chiropractic bills later I have feeling in my arms and legs but occasionally they nod off when the rest of me desires forward momentum.

Getting the wind knocked out of me—a recurring theme.

Jumping off stacks of baled hay into piled-up loose hay was great fun. After many jumps it got pretty packed but not so solid that landing on your feet was of any consequence. My dad suggested trying a ‘preacher’s seat’. He explained, “That’s when you stick your legs straight out in front of you and land on your rump.”

I tried it. I thought my breath had died and gone to heaven. (Maybe that’s how that maneuver earned its label.) Walking was difficult for several weeks. As was sitting, standing, laying and just about every position known to my body.

My tailbone and surrounding muscles remember the injury and take the time and trouble of reminding me daily.

My brothers wanted me to learn baseball. Instead of a wooden bat they swung a hollow metal rod. I shudder to think how much worse this could’ve been considering what I’ve seen on the Discovery Health channel. In my case, the rod flailed the air in my brother’s hands and connected flatly with my mid-section. Whompf!

Is that why I’m often so out-of-breath? Not because I’m just out-of-shape, right?

For years I pondered something my mother let slip, that I myself was an ‘accident.’ I discovered the truth. Yes, life has accidents but as a wonderful surprise planned by God, I am not one of them. I speak joyfully with the Psalmist.

“You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Psalm 139:16-18a, NLT)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Johnson09/10/09
Ouch!!! I literally cringed when I read the part about cutting the back of your leg...borrowing your own apology for being graphic...I got a little queasy...but it was a good reminder that God has a plan for every child that is born, and tha no child is an accident.
Robyn Burke09/10/09
For someone who endured a lot of physical trauma-- which contributes so much to our mental and emotional states, you came out of it with a refreshing sense of humor. and while humor can be used to cover up pain, I see how you have allowed God to heal you and place laughter on your lips.
You gave this trip down memory lane a refreshing overhaul. Good writing-- good descriptions!

Thank you also for providing the answer to the question of how a 'preacher's seat' got it's name.
Joy Faire Stewart09/10/09
You began with, "Sometimes I'm amazed..." I was amazed too, there were so many accidents. Great reminder that no child is an accident.
Allen Stark09/16/09
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I couldn't wait to get through this painful, but well written piece. Although you did a good job of making the story very graphic, for me it was a bit too owee.