At age four, I went through possibly the most traumatic experience of my life. I was playing outside with my younger sister. It was winter and we’d just had another snowfall in a snow filled Wisconsin season. Sidewalks were cleared, but snow banks were higher than the heads of a three or four year old. And ice had formed on the sidewalks because the melt had no place else to go. My sister and I, dressed for the weather, were gleefully pushing ourselves and our sleds across the ice on the front sidewalk, short chubby legs churning and then belly flopping onto the wooden sleds for a short ride.
Dad, who had cleared the sidewalk was about to leave for work. He might have been in a hurry, or distracted by any number of things, as he reversed out of the driveway, unable to see the two of us heading down the sidewalk once again on our sleds. The inevitable collision of small body and large vehicle took place. My sister had rolled off her sled and it disappeared beneath the car, becoming nothing more than broken slats. I, on the other hand, still on my feet, attempted to run behind the car to safety on the other side, but slipped on the ice and fell beneath the rear wheel of the reversing behemoth. Actually, it was my head that became wedged between sidewalk and said tire, by the time my father stopped the car’s further movement.
My Mother, who had been standing watching in the front window when she realized what was about to happen, had frantically been pounding on the window yelling for my father to stop and saw me go down beneath the back end of the car. My dad, immediately ran behind the car, picked up my inert and unconscious body and ran for the back door. He slipped on the thin swatch of ice on the back steps and went down with me in his arms, and my head thudded against the wooden steps. I know all of this because I was told afterward.
The result was a severe concussion and a sliver of skull bone protruding inward toward my brain. This was back in the very early 1950’s, and not a great deal of knowledge was had about head or brain surgery. But, a blood clot was forming and there was no question that surgery had to take place. It did and the result was a small steel pin inserted as a patch, and I now had a scar on the side of my head, shaped like a horseshoe and sheltering my ear. And all of my natural blond curls were gone, shaved off and placed in a brown paper bag that was handed to my Mother when she arrived at the hospital the morning of the surgery. They were delayed by more bad weather and so, were immediately escorted to a waiting room because the surgery had already been begun.
I am attempting to keep this brief because there is a very important aspect of this that I wish to discuss. That is the formation of a worldview and the coping mechanisms each of us learns by the time we are five. Obviously, mine were effected by this incident in countless ways. But, it is also important to know that I didn’t go through this trauma alone. My family, both parents, and all three of my siblings were affected as well, in differing degrees. So, back to the story.
Before the surgery, my parents were told that chances were slim that I would recover without sustaining some form of brain injury. They were also told that that would more than likely be some form of cerebral palsy, and perhaps a level of motor nerve retardation. I spent between two or three weeks in the hospital, which was in a near-by city, and by the time I was released it was obvious that all dire predictions had been proven false. Our family doctor called me his little Miracle Girl for years afterward.
But I went home a different little girl and found a totally different environment from the one I had been so rudely plucked from. The doctors involved had little experience of just how such an injury would effect a very curious and active four year old child. They suggested that I wear a helmet to protect my newly shaved head. My mother refused that idea immediately, opting for a soft knit cap instead, a piece of apparel I lost, misplaced, more often than wore.
I was restrained from any overtly active behaviors, and my father was pressed into place to carry me around for at least a month afterward. Which meant that even going to the bathroom in our two story duplex was a bit of a chore as the facilities were on the second floor and my Mother was adamant that I be as much a part of the family goings on as possible. Lots and lots of adjustments concerning the small everyday routines of a very active family of six individuals. And even more adjustments for a curious four year old and her developing view of the world and how it worked and, more important, her individual place within that world. Perhaps adjustments isn’t the right word here. A complete overhaul might be more adequate and far closer to the reality.
In an attempt to understand human nature and the individual, specifically my own person, I have spent a great deal of time and energy exploring the concept of the Wild Thing and how it comes to be present within the human psyche. Because it played a rather large role in my own development, my particular area of interest has been in communication, especially written expression. This is my story and how I came to know and view the Wild Things inside of me. I believe they pertain, to some extent, to all individuals, even those of you who might not have been run over by a parent figure. I also believe that personal experience, ones own story, is the best supportive argument for personal truth and its inherent value.
Next time, I will make an attempt to relate how all of the above figures into why I am here, doing what I do, which is attempting to show people that expression of ones own truth is one of the most important aspects of human existence. We all have a story. We all need to express that story because it holds a message the rest of the world needs to hear, needs to take into consideration, needs to learn from, if we are ever to create a future that holds promise for each and everyone of us.