And climb the stairs to the beach...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Falls I Remember

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit, to you all! It’s November and I can hardly believe it because just yesterday it was the first day of October! Wasn't it? The clocks are about to fall backwards and for some of you, there is a brisk bite to the air and all but the leaves of the mighty, and  stubborn oak, have fallen and are covering your back yards. I remember trying to put off raking them all up until the first of November when I was pretty sure all that were going to fall had done so. Of course, the oak leaves were always last and frequently continued to fall on snow.  

But today, although the season of fall is here, it’s the word fall as a verb that I want to write about.

Why is it that when we see a fall, whether it’s a pratfall or a fall that someone has taken right in front of us, the first response is to laugh? I am not a mean person, I don’t think. And if I fall, it isn’t funny, I mean at my age it could be disastrous. But there are falls that make me have to suppress a giggle just by thinking about them years later.

Remember President Ford tripping as he got off Air Force One? 
That wasn’t funny. But they did skits about it on SNL and showed the clip all the time. We all laughed. I remember one old home movie we had when we were growing up. We were in Storyland in New Hampshire. My mother tripped as she came out of some little cabin or something, recovering before she hit the ground. It was just a little misstep. But Dad used to play that backwards and forward whenever we watched it and we’d all laugh hysterically. Another film of my brother falling down on his face Dad often played and replayed forward and reverse, forward and reverse, eliciting huge guffaws and giggles from us no matter how many times we saw it.  Why are these falls so funny to us?
Me and Barb at my retirement party.
My co-worker Barbara told me a story once about her poor mother. I wasn’t even there, but I can’t think about it without laughing. She told me that some years ago her family was at the airport to welcome her parents home after a long trip. This was back pre-911 when there were no security measures to stop you from meeting your loved ones as they disembarked. Barb and some of her family members were standing outside the gate area as the plane unloaded and passengers filed out. Her mother, probably in her seventies at the time, emerged from the jet way and was so excited to see her family that she ran around the people in front of her, arms outstretched,  through the waiting area, between two chairs, not realizing the chairs were joined by a metal bar. She fell ass over tea kettle right on her face. The whole family, including her father, burst into laughter and couldn’t stop. Fortunately she was okay, but Barb told me this story years after it happened and she could barely get the story out she was laughing so hard at the time, tears coming down her cheeks while she was telling it to me. And I am laughing as I write about it now both because of how she told the story and the story itself!  Barb is a very kind person. She never wishes anybody ill-will. But something about that fall just tickled her, and it continues to tickle me, even though I never even witnessed it.

One of the times I remember laughing at the misfortune of somebody’ else’s fall, was when I was in the 8th grade. My friend Sue and I, (yes my BFF’s name was also Sue) were walking back home from the local drug store. The walk from downtown to our houses, which were only separated by one other home, was only a half mile or so. The town I lived in was a quiet town of about ten to fifteen thousand while I was growing up. The town was small enough that although we might not have known the names of everybody who lived there, we knew if we encountered someone who didn’t.
The downtown area included our library, the drugstore, Sue’s family’s grocery store, my family’s insurance office, and a few other shops and offices located in a couple of strip malls that were situated at the busiest intersection in town, where Concord Road, running north and south, ended at the Post road that ran east and west.

Our library
This intersection had the distinction of being the first in town to have a traffic light which wasn’t installed until I was a senior in high school. Before we had that traffic light every morning and evening one of our uniformed finest, often my Dad’s best friend Pete, would stand under the spotlight, directing the rush hour traffic, with his white gloves and whistle. But when the policeman wasn’t there, there was a pedestrian light, which with the press of a button we could summon the red and yellow lights that would stop traffic in every direction to allow us to cross. I always felt guilty that I stopped the drivers on their way to some place important. I especially felt bad when there was a lull in the traffic and we could cross safely before the lights ever came on. Then the traffic would resume, the red and yellow would come on, and everyone had to stop for no reason at all. We’d always run after crossing, giggling nervously, feeling like we’d done something terrible to the grownups in the cars. After all, they had places to go and I just wanted to get across to visit my Godfather’s TV and appliance store or to Brown’s bakery where we could ogle the sweet offerings in the glass case and just spend the time inhaling the smell of fresh baked bread.

But the first stretch of our walk home was along our ‘busy’ road, the only road that we were ever warned about crossing. Route 20 AKA the Boston Post Road, was a main drag between Boston and Worcester and it could be really busy.

It must have been Campfire Girl meeting day, because I remember distinctly that we had our costumes on. My mother, our Campfire leader,  always made a distinction by explaining to me that Girl Scouts had uniforms because they were militaristic. We were homemakers and wore costumes. I have never figured out how she came to that conclusion, because I don't remember Girl Scouts carrying guns or anything. But that's what she told me.


Anyway, our costumes in Junior High were quite sophisticated: A navy blue A-line skirt with a white blouse and a red grosgrain ribbon worn under our collars, crossing in front where it snapped together. There was a blazer available, too. But it was too expensive so none of us had that. According to the catalog I found on line, it would have cost $13.95. Way too much for back then.

We were in the Horizon Club, the Junior High division of Campfire girls, having flown up from Bluebirds and then to Campfire Girls and then Horizon Club. We thought we were very sharp and very grown up.

We were Bluebirds in 2nd grade. My mother, standing, holding my sister Cindy. Sue, in a pony tail is standing to my mother's right and I am standing to her left, eating or drinking something.

One of our Campfire meetings before Horizon Club, probably about 5th grade. That's Sue kneeling. I am standing next to my mother, our leader.
Anyway, on those meeting days, we were allowed to wear stockings rather than socks. In the 60s panty hose had not yet been invented. We wore nylons that were held up at the thigh by rubber garters that hung from garter belts. And as we two Horizon Clubbers walked along route 20, enjoying our drugstore candy purchases of Mint Juleps and Pom Poms, Sue stepped in a hole in the pavement. Down she went, onto her hands and knees, in front of all those out of town commuters on the Post Road who were stopped in traffic thanks to Pete. As she tried to recover from the fall, a wind came up, and while she was still on her hands and knees, it whipped her navy blue skirt up over her head exposing her whole bum and the ugly garters we all wore. 

Now had it happened to me, it wouldn’t have been funny for a number of reasons, but the main reason was that things like that happened to me a lot. I wasn’t the graceful,' never a hair out of place' person that my friend was. (I often said I was her Rhoda and she was my Mary.) I was kind of clutzy and really a mess. Sue, on the other hand, was always appropriate and proper and beautiful and I thought she was perfect. So it was the juxtapositioning of that perfection against that fall and the accidental and undignified exposure of underpants and garters that just got to me. 

I started laughing and could not stop. I laughed so hard my eyes watered and only air came out when I tried to speak. Poor Sue stood up, her nylons torn at both knees, her face bright red with embarrassment. I helped pick up her things that were scattered all over the side walk, and still I laughed. What was wrong with me??? I tried to offer her sympathy as she stiffly and quickly walked up ahead, but I couldn’t get the words out. I followed behind her, my sides now hurting, trying to compose myself, but it was of no use. I was sure the entire line of traffic stopped by Pete, were all in their cars laughing, too. And I knew I should have felt badly about that, but I could not stop laughing. I never felt meaner yet even now, 50 years later, I have a little smile on my face as I write this.

Our 6th grade class. That's dorky me in the front row with the white collar. Sue is two people over also in the front row. Looking perfectly quaffed even at 11.
When I finally caught up to her, pleading for forgiveness through my laughter, to my surprise, she wasn’t crying. No, by the time I caught up with her, on the quiet little side street I discovered that she was laughing too. In fact she was laughing as hard as I was, trying to talk through the guffaws. She laughed so hard that mint julep drool actually came out of her mouth while she tried to recap the incident, which made us laugh even harder. In fact the mint julep drool became the catalyst for more laughter, so completely out of character that was for her. The rest of the way home, we had periods of silence, interrupted by outbreaks of laughter. I still don’t know why that was so funny but it was. And the mere mention of the mint juleps would result in waves of uncontrollable laughter all through high school.

I wonder if Sue remembers that. In fact I am wondering if she is reading this. In spite of laughing at her that day, she and I remained friends and to this day she is my oldest and dearest friend, despite my lack of sympathy. I haven't seen her in a while. We are both grandmas now. And I think of her all the time, and she says the same thing. We will always be friends. Although, now that I’ve written this, who knows?
BFFs before that meant anything back in high school. As usual, my hair was sort of messed up and Sue's was perfect. Rhoda and Mary.

Have a great day everyone! And nobody fall!


  1. Oh such a fun post. I have a lifetime friend, Kris..we have shared such moments...and laugh again, and again when we recall them.

  2. I dont' know which was funnier: your friend's mother at the airport or Sue on the street. I too cannot control myself when someone falls and I am rolling all over the floor at your stories. And the mint julep drool just caps it all.

    My favorite fall story is when two of my friends and I went to that awful club Pufferbellies to learn to country line dance. As we were leaving, I think we must have been running which is ridiculous to imagine, one of my friends tripped. BUt it wasn't just a hands and knees on the ground trip or a quick stumble. This was one of those arms and legs totally splayed and sliding on the pavement kind of trip. She had some serious speed behind her as she fell and skinned up her knees. At 21, I thought this was definitely the funniest thing I have ever seen and I am still dying as I type it. I can be thinking about something totally different, this will cross my mind and I am uncontrollable for minutes as I still picture her sliding on the pavement. She did not find it anywhere near as funny as I did and if I brought it up today, I think she'd kill me. I didn't make her fall, but I must have incited the running (why we were running from this place, where no one but pre senior citizens actually went to line dance makes no sense at all) and my uncontrollable laughing did nothing to make things better.


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