It was one fateful day in January that misery, embarrassment, and I, got together for what none of us knew would be a disastrous recess. A disaster that, nonetheless, would go down in the great history books of Brookside Elementary's first grade catastrophes.
I remember sprinting out of Mrs. Donavon's classroom as soon as the bell rang for our 15 minute recess. I pushed past the line of my classmates that were pulling their arms through their jackets, preparing for the cold, dark tundra of a playground that was the result of a rainy night. I shoved my arms into my jacket as I ran, zipping it up tightly as I turned the corner out of the hallway. The chilly air slapped my face, my nose was stuffy, and might have even been a little runny, but all I could see was the makeshift sandbox pushed off to the side of our "soccer field." There was a teeter-totter, a pair of swings, and shiny new monkey bars. All of this was compacted into a small square of sand, walled off by a thick border of concrete.
I stood on top of the hill, taking in a deep breath of icy air, exhaling, smiling at my kingdom. I ran down the hill carefully, making sure not to trip over any of the imperfections in the land. I reached my castle. I was queen of the monkey bars. There was no first grader alive who would dare challenge me, and those who had the courage to try, fought valiantly, but never managed to usurp my throne.
I climbed up the three step ladder and stood there, waiting for the gaggle of first graders making their way to where I stood. I wiped the first bar clean of the built up condensation, treating the monkey bars like they were my most prized possession.
I smiled at my friends, feeling on top of the world, and then, one meek little voice called out, "I bet you can't skip bars when you play on here."
The taunting sound of May's voice made me furious. I glared in her direction and then climbed to the top of the ladder, my right hand holding the first bar, my left rested on my waist, I grinned, "Watch, and learn."
In my excitement, I grabbed the first bar with both hands and kicked my feet off of the ladder. I reached for the second bar, almost grabbing it, before I realized I was supposed to skip. My hand grazed over the second bar and reached for the third. My short arms reached, my fingers strained and finally, I managed to grab a hold of the third bar. So far, so good, I thought to myself as I reached for the fifth bar. I let go of my dry and safe bar number one, only to grab a moist, slippery fifth bar. I let out a little shriek, as I knew what was coming, and I shut my eyes tightly. I could feel myself begin to fall towards the ground, and I clenched my fists. The fall was a long one for a short first grader like me, but before I knew exactly what had happened, I heard a slap, a THUD, and then a crack. I felt a sharp pain shoot up my leg and I let out what must have been a long and loud scream of agony.
Hearing a collective gasp, I opened my eyes. Everyone had backed up a little and was staring at me, eyes wide, color drained from their faces. I turned my head, surveying the scene around me. I had landed in the splits, my left leg was in front of me, buried in the sand, and I smiled. Thank God I wasn't hurt.
I turned to examine my right leg, expecting it to be buried in sand behind me, but when I glanced at my right foot, an involuntary scream erupted from my mouth. My right ankle had slammed straight into the concrete, and was now throbbing, turning blue and increasing in size.
As soon as I processed what had happened, I blinked once, twice, and at my third blink, the tears came pouring out. The young boys and girls that were so used to seeing the courageous front I put on, had no idea how to react. I sat there, in the same position, for about 5 minutes. I finally heard a voice, "Move aside! She's hurt! She's right here! She's hurt herself!!!" One of the 3rd graders I used to play handball with had gone and called a yard duty to come check on me.
Tyler, my favorite yard duty, knelt down on one knee next to me. He smiled at me, then before I knew it, he lifted me up in the air and put me on his back. As he piggy backed me to the nurse's office, I turned my head back, watching my castle shrink before my eyes. The group of my friends had dispersed, and a few of them followed me and Tyler up to the school building. I buried my head in my savior's back, not wanting anyone to see me let even one more tear fall from my eyes.
Tyler deposited me onto a comfy chair in the nurse's office, and then went in to grab her. The nurse came out and saw me, defeated, crying, beaten and bruised. She shook her head and muttered something to the effect of, "Poor thing!" and set off to work, bringing me ice for my ankle, phoning my parents, and requesting that my backpack and school supplies be brought to the office by one of my classmates.
His name was Nick. He was my best friend and my biggest critic all in one. We spent many lunch times playing handball on the courts, tetherball with our friends, and climbing the monkey bars. As soon as he walked into the nurse's office, I wiped away my tears, biting my lip to keep me from crying anymore.
"I brought your stuff." He held up my backpack, making sure I knew he was here as my friend. He set it down on a chair and walked over to me, "Can I see it?"
I bit my lip, embarrassed of what he would say, but I slowly removed the ice pack to reveal my fractured, swollen ankle. A huge grin spread across Nick's face and he looked up at me, "THAT IS SO COOL."
I smiled as the nurse walked in and rushed Nick back to class, and I kept smiling as I went to get my x-rays, chose the color of my cast, played around with my crutches, and went to school the next day.
I learned two very important lessons that day in first grade. The first, that pride comes before destruction. One should be humble, and never boast about what he or she was blessed with. And the second, make sure to have at least one good friend by your side at all times, you never know what he or she will do for you. And for that reason, be sure to be the best friend you can be, because you never know when you will get a chance to change someone's life for the better.