First – quick update on Cat Watch ’07. Eddy and Sebastian are getting along now. There is carousing and frolicking throughout the apartment. Sebastian has toned down the yowling late at night and I am actually getting approximately 6 hours of sleep. Sebastian is a sweet and lovely cat (when he’s not expressing everything at the top of his lungs) and quite cuddly. However, he does have a habit I’d like to break him of – that of the love bites. Picture it, if you will, our heroine picking up the grey cat and petting him. He starts purring, throws in a few head butts and then stops to look deeply into her eyes. Everything about him says “I adore you.” And then he leans forward and bites the end of her nose.

May I just say ouch? Because seriously, that hurt. It was amusing, I’ll give you that, but somewhat painful.

Anyway, on to our feature presentation:

B is for Broken

When I was 13, my parents got divorced (and, before you think, oh poor Dana, she came from a broken home, believe me, this was a good thing. My Dad, although I love him, was not a good husband or father when he was drinking (which was quite often)). When I was 14, Kari, my adorable but bratty little sister broke her foot.

Here’s what happened. Dad has visitation and decides to take us camping. We go to William O’Brian State Park, a nice little campground we’ve been going to for years. It’s between Stillwater and Taylor’s Falls, right outside of Marine-on-Saint-Croix. Dad is dating a very nice woman at the time but I can’t remember her name. She also has daughters (and why yes, I can’t remember their names either. It was a long time ago, 27 years) who come along on the trip.

I had just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels either that summer or the summer before (or maybe the summer before the summer before) and so was very excited when Dad suggested we bring our bikes along. Kari and I, along with Other Daughters 1 & 2, start riding our bikes everywhere. William O’Brian is divided between the main campground (up the big hill) and the not-main campground (down the big hill and then the really biiiiiiggggg hill, by the lake) and we spend hours on our bikes, riding up and down the trails, having a great time.

One of the things I loved the most about this weekend was taking the bike trail – it was nicely paved and there were cute little signs that said stop and yield. Like regular stop signs and yield signs but much smaller. They were baby signs. And yes, I am amused easily.

Anyway, we told my dad and Dad’s Girlfriend that we were going to go down to the beach. Kari, OD 1&2 and I took off, planning on traversing the biiiiigggg hill on bikes for the first time. This is a scary, scary hill. My mom always hated driving it because it seems like the road just drops away.

This was the summer of 1981 and it was normal to let your kids disappear for hours when camping. There was no fear of kidnappers or child molesters, people routinely left their doors unlocked. It was a simpler time and honestly, I really miss it. But the world has changed. And maybe, considering what ended up happening to Kari, we shouldn’t have been off on our own.

If I remember correctly, I think OD#1 and I were closer in age and so we had left our annoying little sisters behind us. We weren’t too far ahead of them but I couldn’t see her. Kari and I did not get along when we were younger and I wanted to be the cool older sister. I remember OD#1 and I ran into these cute boys that were also at the campground. I’m not sure what happened but somehow we had alienated them or they had alienated us and I remember them biking past and making remarks about my weight.

OD#1 and I stopped by the non-swimming part of the lake and were admiring the scenery when OD#2 came screeching up to us.

OD#2: It’s Kari! She’s hurt!

The three of us rushed back up the road to Kari. She was not where OD#2 had left her. May I just state that I panicked? My little sister was missing. Somehow I did not think that my mother was going to accept the fact that Kari was a total brat as a good enough excuse.

We made it back to the campsite as I pondered the best way to tell my Dad that his baby girl had vanished. We got back and there, thank the Good Lord for all his mercy, was my sister. With a broken foot. Apparently a nurse just happened to be driving along, saw her and brought her back to the campsite.

We went to the Emergency Room and I remember asking OD#2 what had happened. She told us that the pack of boys had ridden by them, shouted some insults and then Kari had catapulted off of her bike onto the side of the road. Apparently one of the boys had used the “F” word.

DM: Oh no. Kari’s never heard that word before. Maybe she was shocked and that’s why she fell off her bike.
OD#2: Uh, no, she hit a rock.

Yes, I was concerned that my impressionable little sister had heard a bad word and got hurt because of it. Yes, I am aware that I was incredibly naive.

Kari’s foot had been caught in the bike chain. She spent the rest of the summer in a cast and I spent the rest of the summer waiting on her hand and foot out of guilt. I’d like to say that this was when we became close and how she became one of my favorite people. I’d like to say that but I can’t. She became even more of a pain in my ass than before. Not surprising, considering that we referred to her as Brat and she would respond to it.

The cast finally came off, Kari healed well and school started in September. I hated school. I was not a popular person, I was laughed at constantly and I just plain hated it. I didn’t like any of my classes (not even English, which is surprising because I have had a love affair with books my entire life but not surprising because I had the worst teacher for 6th and 7th grade who made my life a living hell). But this was to change.

My English teacher was Mr. Wharton. He decided to have us write an essay on how we spent our summer vacation. Cheesy, of course. I wrote about Kari’s accident but started out “In the Drama world, the term ‘Break a leg’ is used to wish actors good luck. Actually saying ‘good luck’ to someone is thought to bring bad luck. Unfortunately, for my sister, the term ‘break a foot’ was not good luck for her.”

Mr. Wharton had handed back every one’s papers except for mine. I was freaking out, wondering where my paper was. Did he hate it? Was he going to humiliate me in front of the entire class like evil teacher had? And then Mr. Wharton said “I’m going to read you an essay that I thought was the best out of this entire class.”

And he started reading mine out loud.

And even better, someone laughed. And then someone else did. And then the entire class was roaring with laughter. And it was the most amazing experience of my life. I had made people laugh. Not at me. But because of something I had written. I was funny. And my teacher was telling everyone in the class.

And that, my dear friends, is why I blog. It all stems back to that class, to that realization that I had someone who believed in me. And it helped me begin to believe in myself. I write to make people laugh. That’s my job. That’s my purpose. That’s my true love.

Thank you, Mr. Wharton. I have been truly lucky to have 4 great teachers I will never forget. You, Mr. O’Dean, Mrs. Roberts and Ms. Lambert.

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