The reason that my life has been just a little less magical is none other than a boy named Ryan Koehnlein. Oh, I'm sure he's a man now, but in my mind he will forever be the red-headed third grader who was so intent on getting out to recess to partake in some freeze tag that he plowed into me with such force that I thought I had been run over by a train.
Granted, I had undoubtedly been standing there in a daze, completely unaware of my surroundings (as was often my custom--okay, it still is). But, I had my back turned, and he should have been watching where he was going. As soon as my knee made contact with the pavement, it immediately began to swell into the size of a grapefruit.
The doctor's diagnosis was water on the knee. I knew all about this condition as I had successfully removed that pail of water from the man in the Operation game's knee hundreds of times. But, it turns out that the name is misleading. It isn't water at all, but blood, which the doctor removed with the largest syringe I had ever seen in my life.
But that wasn't all. I had to wear the most gigantic brace that stretched from my mid-thigh to my ankle for what, to my mind, seemed an eternity. And, this is where the devastating news came in. My family was planning to head to Disney World over the Thanksgiving holiday...plane tickets, hotel, it was all set. Except now, I was not supposed to be on my feet and my doctor did not recommend that I make the trip.
So we didn't go. The Magical Kingdom would remain but a dream to us.
Since I had to walk with crutches and my classroom was on the second floor of a school with no elevator, I was homebound for a while. My gangly, uncoordinated self attempting to maneuver up two flights of stairs would have only led to greater injury, so it was for the best. My classmates sent me some awesome homemade cards, and the abundance of "we are going to beat up/kill Ryan Koehnlein" messages made it clear that word of my misfortune had gotten out. But not to Chris Romey. It seemed that he thought he was merely sending me a Thanksgiving greeting, judging by the colorful food he drew and labeled as "turekey, cranberr, and stoffin." (Neither spelling, nor classroom gossip, were his strong suits.)
I'm sure that Ryan Koehnlein felt bad about what he had done to me. Knowing that you singlehandedly ruined an entire family's dream vacation must weigh heavily on a third grader's mind, especially when you also have an entire classroom of fourth graders (with the exception of Chris Romey) after you. His mom made him call to apologize to me, but it was hard to understand what he said since he was crying hysterically the whole time.
When I was finally cleared of using the crutches, I was able to return to school. I still had to wear the brace, but I had gained an unexpected perk. While the rest of the class had to gather on the scary, green shag carpet for reading, I got to sit next to my teacher, Sister Diane with my leg propped up on a chair. It seemed like a seat of honor! And, while Sister Diane would read aloud from Superfudge, I found it to be the perfect time to tighten the 50 plus gigantic Velcro strips on my brace.
She began to read: " 'Another Fudge! Just what the family needs.' I turned and stormed down the hall. Fudge, my four- year-old brother, was in the living room."
She stopped and gave me a death stare, but I was oblivious and unfazed. I gave her a "go on, proceed" look in response.
She continued: "He was shoving crackers into his mouth and laughing like a loon at Sesame Street on TV. I looked at him and thought about having to go through it all over again"
It went on like this for awhile until she finally lost all patience and yelled, "Gretchen!! Enough with the Velcro!!"
"But Sister, I need to keep my brace tightened."
Right around this time, my Mom discovered that she was pregnant. She consoled my sister and I by saying that we would plan another trip to Disney World when the baby was old enough to enjoy it. That baby is now twenty-two years old, and we have yet to plan that trip.
When other people talk about the wonderful memories they have of childhood trips to Disney World, my only solace is that Ryan Koehnlein later developed a brownish-yellow deposit on one of his front teeth and was given the nickname "Poop Tooth." You know what they say about karma...
|Me (with my brace), my Dad, and my sister, Bridget perhaps pretending we are on a ride at Disney World, only better because we can be in our pajamas...or our underwear which I'm sure Mickey would frown upon.|