Come to think of it, this might explain why I change my blog header more often than my underwear

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The Crack of Crazy (A True Story)

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As children, there was a rhyme the neighborhood kids would chant while skipping down the street–“Step on a crack, break your Mother’s back.”

The first time I heard this saying I was horrified. The idea that I could turn the same woman who let me stay rent-free in her womb for nine months (something I was reminded of at least twice a week) into a quadriplegic, was more than I could bear.

From that day on, I vowed to never set foot on a crack again.

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This would be her, only without the kickass Unicorn.

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At first it was just a matter of keeping my eyes on the ground, changing my gait so each foot would land squarely between the grooves.

Because my body resembled that of a beach ball with limbs, getting to school on time was my biggest challenge, the once ten-minute walk now forty-five, not including the fifteen minute rest/snack-break taken immediately after passing the Myers’ residence.

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My first day of school

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But soon I began to wonder if maybe my ignorance was causing the rest of my family to suffer as well–   Dry hump this boulder or your Dad hurts his shoulder? Say everything twice or your sister gets lice?

And if that was the case, then who was to say that my actions weren’t also causing inanimate objects unnecessary pain? Not physical pain, mind you (I wasn’t an idiot, I knew that furniture didn’t have nerve endings or anything), but rather mental anguish, offending the ottoman when I didn’t low-five it, or hurting the dining room table’s feelings when I’d walk by without affectionately brushing my hand against its smooth, er…table-like surface.

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And what about my limbs? If I did something with my right hand, like pick up a sock from the floor, I couldn’t help wondering why in heaven’s name did I choose that hand to do it?

Was I giving it preferential treatment? Or was I making it do all the dirty work, while letting my left hand get away with murder?

There were just too many variables to consider, and soon I found it easier not to pick up anything at all.

“Are you deaf?” my mom would yell, returning home from work to a complete pig-sty.

“Of course I’m not deaf,” I’d mumble. “I just don’t believe in favoritism, that’s all.”

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The only way I could keep all of my parts happy was by making everything “Even Steven”. If I scratched the left side of my nose with my left hand, I had to then scratch the right side with my right hand. If I kicked a rock with my right foot, I had to go back and kick the same rock with my left.

It worked for a while. But then I started worrying that maybe my left foot felt inferior. “Why does righty get to kick first? You don’t think I’m a good enough kicker? Just because I’m not on your dominant side doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings, you know!”

The harder I tried to make things even, the more overwhelmed I felt. I know there had to be something I could do to make the voices inside my head stop. But what?

When a deaf lady came to do a presentation at school one afternoon, I had my answer. As she stood in front of the class, her hands flapping wildly as Bette Midler’s “The Rose” played in the background, I realized the only logical answer would be to spell out everything I said in sign language.

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“What’s wrong with you?” my mom would ask.  “Why are you walking like that? And what are you doing with your hands? Pay attention to where you’re going, that’s the third street light you’ve slammed into today.”

I imagined her pushing the stroller carrying my sister faster down the sidewalk, darting across intersections so that passersby wouldn’t assume we were together.

“No officers, I have no idea who she is. She just started following me. …Looks like it could be a seizure. Is she wearing a medic alert bracelet? Perhaps you should take her to the mental institution, they’ll know what to do.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was doing it for her. Waddling down the street with my legs glued together, spelling out “What’s wrong with you?” in sign, all because her fate rested in my hands.

Just as an added precaution, every night I would kneel beside my bed–just like Half-Pint on Little House on The Prairie–and list off the names of people that I wanted God to keep safe.

But as time went on the list became longer and longer, and eventually I was turning in at 5:30pm, just so I could pray for everyone from my second cousin Whatshisface to Geri, Blair’s cerebral-palsy afflicted cousin on The Facts of Life.

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I had no idea what was wrong with me, but I knew it wasn’t typical child-like behavior. Nobody else my age was heavy-petting the toaster, or slamming the left side of their body into the wall so it didn’t feel less important than the right side, badly bruised from an earlier rollerskating accident.

Still, I thought I was doing a pretty respectable job of keeping my crazy hidden from others, and it wasn’t until the night of the church Christmas recital that all hell broke loose.

My parents finally realized that my quirks weren’t as little as they thought when, instead of singing “Silent Night” along with the rest of the choir, I spent the entire performance in the front row, punching myself in the face and swaying back and forth like some deranged Stevie Wonder groupie.

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Afraid these tics were a precursor to demonic possession, my parents sent me to see a child psychologist. The woman made me so uncomfortable– taking notes as I played with the naked Barbies in her office (“Ok, now show me on this doll where he touched you.”)–that eventually I had no choice but to stop doing all the things that made my parents send me there in the first place.

Instead, I channeled all of my energy into starting “The Bloodhound Gang”–a cross between Nancy Drew and ‘To Catch A Predator’–enlisting the neighborhood kids to help me solve mysteries like “Who’s That Kid Hogging The Good Swing At The Park?” and “BLOODSPORT—The Case of The Dead Bird On Our Lawn.”

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“Good job, Lo!” I’d say to my sister, Laura, who would run up holding another severed wing she’d found in the yard. “Now go put this evidence in the freezer and we’ll have Forensics look at it. -Oh, but make sure mom and dad don’t see you.”

 

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Comments

  1. I knew we were long-lost twins! Only, now that we know, which of our four hands do we high-five with first? Lord, it’s gonna be a long night.

    p.s. The Bloodhound Gang was DA BOMB. That’s right. I said it.

  2. Hahahaha awww… this made me giggle. I mean, it’s not really funny, because I feel bad for child you, but the spin you’ve put on it makes me giggle. Am I a bad person?

    • Of course not! If only you could see my friends do their impersonation of me as a kid.

      Sure it’s mortifying, but I think the worst part is that out of all of us, I’m the one who requests it the most.

  3. Did I ever tell you that you’re the most awesome woman in the whole OCD Kingdom if not the world? I meant to. It’s hilarious to me that some of the folks I love the best are like me. Somehow though y’all make imperfect perfect. You are so awesome and article timely too considering the other day I had the hunch that if I went somewhere it would kill my mother or me. Or to summarize my paragraph, “Thank you.”

  4. Gosh, you’ve had an interesting life! I think your writing makes it so believable because it’s so surreal.

    We would have been such good friends if we had been in the same grades at the same time. I would have bought you a fake pop art shirt with soup cans on it. You would have given me 75 cents for the Hostess cupcake in my lunch. Together we would build a miniature village in the back yard out of empty shoe boxes, ignite it with kitchen matches, take Polaroids and illustrate our homemade newspaper article about the “Tragic Burning of Kedsville”.

    • HA! How did I miss this comment?

      We totally would have been BFFs! After our newspaper article hit the big leagues, we would have made a documentary about what it was like to grow up wherever we grew up and to deal with whatever it was we had to deal with.

      It would have been a hit!

      But you’d have to film it, only because my tics would have made holding the camera impossible.

  5. If only I had met you sooner and we didn’t keep our genius mannerisms secret!

  6. What a sweet child preventing her mother from becoming an instant “child stepped on the crack” quadraplegic because when I was a kid, I heard of a kid who stepped on the crack and it was alllllll bad! I didn’t have the problem with favortism – I’m ambidextrous ;)

    • I tried to be ambidexterous! In fact, that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I used to practice writing with my left hand for hours.

      But then I found out that ambidextery jobs were few and far between…:)

  7. Peeyor geniosity! I got so screwed up trying to miss all the cracks, I quit walking.

  8. Just how seldom do you change your underwear B?

  9. elizabeth3hersh says:

    The severed wing in the freezer reminded me of one of my first jobs as a psychiatric nurse in New Orleans. I loved to read the in depth psychiatric reports in the patient charts as they often provided a fascinating glimpse and history into their particular psychopathology. One of the patients had been involuntarily committed after being discovered cradling the partially thawed body of his pet monkey which had been deceased for many, many years. Apparently he would remove the monkey on a daily basis, allow it to thaw and then re-dress it. After ‘playing’ with the monkey for awhile it would go back in the freezer. Of course, this was not nearly as disturbing as other patient reports (like the 13 year old who cold-bloodedly strangled his 11 year old sister, by his own account “for no reason at all”), but memorable nonetheless. Walking on cracks does not bother me anymore (since my mother [who I wanted to strangle] is no longer here), but I absolutely MUST kick any rock or stray pine cone that is on the sidewalk. And if one kick does not sweep it off the sidewalk, I will have to double back and kick it again. Somehow, I think Scott will relate.

    • What the junk???? He was playing with the dead monkey? I find it so interesting that he was crazy enough to play with a dead monkey, yet obviously cognizant enough to be able to live alone (or at least hide the fact that he had it in the freezer) for a period of time.

      My sister did her nursing practicum in psychiatry. She told me stories, but nothing as crazy as that. She mostly dealt with the schizophrenics from the polygamist sect in Bountiful, BC.

      People fascinate me.

      I should have been a psychiatric nurse.

      • elizabeth3hersh says:

        Just when I think I have seen it all something else comes up and blows me away. I have a soft spot for the mentally ill (and for all vulnerable creatures) and I abhor violence. The world can be a very strange, exotic and dangerous place. That’s why I love your blog. Your humor provides ballast and a ‘safe place’ to mentally park, unwind and laugh and laugh and laugh…this is my ‘happy hour’ blog. :-)

        • I’m going to frame this comment and put it on my fireplace!

          Oh, wait. I don’t have a fireplace.

          I’m going to photoshop this comment use it as a screen saver!

  10. Not to brag, but my father has never had a problem with his shoulders.

  11. We did the whole crack thing but after a post on Jillsy’s blog everyone I asked never did this one.

    When we were kids we would flick the heads off dandelions with our thumb while saying “Mama had a baby and her head popped off” Was mine the only neighborhood that did this???

    • Nope! We did that, too. A little weird, but I grew up in Kentucky. There were probably a whole lot stranger things going on in the surrounding neighborhoods.

      • Haha! When I was a kid I always wanted to visit Kentucky. I’m not sure why, it’s not like I knew anything about it.

        Maybe it had something to do with my love for KFC.

    • I forgot about that! We did that, too. In fact, out of all my friends I could make my mother’s head go the furthest.

      That didn’t really bother me because I knew that wasn’t real. (Only because my mom had her tubes tied.)

  12. “Thank God for anorexia.” I’ll be adding that to my prayers. The prayers that I’d say if I were a believer. The thought totes counts.

    • I’d pray that you would update your blog. I’d also pray that I didn’t live next to a nightclub and that my neighbor wasn’t such a creepy creeperson.

      Oh, and I’d pray for the children, too. But only if I had time.

  13. I still catch myself avoiding cracks because of that saying.

    • Now I mostly just worry about sewer grates.

      I once heard that a guy died when he walked over one and it exploded. My sister does too, so at least I don’t feel as weird about it.

  14. “Dry hump this boulder or your Dad hurts his shoulder?”
    Now I can never move to a city with any boulders. This is going to stick in my mind.

  15. Another normal child blessed by the hand that _____ _____ (you fill in the blanks).
    bshcooled
    I was your left
    You were my right
    I’d walk down the cracks
    When I’d sneak out at night
    I’d whisper in the dark
    so the demons would come
    I’d open the washer
    yet no dryer I’d touch
    Hopping some day
    It’d eat her for lunch
    and yes my left arm
    I would try to out do
    and under her bed
    I hide men’s shoes
    Now don’t get me wrong
    I didn’t want her dead
    but I would pray a lot
    before going to bed
    I know where you’re going
    I sense your great plight
    For you are my days
    And I am your nights

    Your story was really fun

  16. Intelligent, smart and very funny!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. I am deeply saddened by this blog entry. I do not eat on the first date. Having food in my system while clamps are attached to various body parts makes me vomit.

  18. i’m just sorry your parents didn’t understand your giving and compassionate nature and your intense desire to spare them any physical harm. because, you know, it IS true…step on a crack, break yo mama’s back.

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