From the Storytelling Showcase Dec 20, 2020
This is a story told from three perspectives about the impact and aftermath of an unfortunate accident on Thanksgiving Day 2017.
The day was unusually warm for a late November Thursday in Goshen, Indiana. The air was calm and my leaves were still. There seemed to be more people frolicking and being active on this particular day. Sometime late in the afternoon, multiple people climbed on my limbs racing towards the top. I knew I was strong, sturdy, and ready to support the weight of two human adults and three squirrelly teenagers. One particular adult climbed higher than all of the others. He had a careless confidence in his skill and ability to out climb the adult and the younger climbers. Let’s call him Mr. Swiftly. My strength is in my base and my roots. Admittedly, I have an abundance of leaves and branches at my top however I do not have much strength up there. You can see me swaying in the breeze and casting shadows from my remaining leaves. I tried to warn these folks that going too high or moving too fast to the bottom would be dangerous. A race to the bottom was successful for 4 of the 5 climbers. The one with the reckless abandon jumped from branch to branch as if he was in a jungle or a massive squirrel. An outward jump towards my lowest branch was meant to deliver bragging rights for this particular climber as the first one to reach the ground. I tried to make a connection. Sadly though I could not hold on to this human as he missed my branch and fell quickly towards the ground. If only I could warn him to tuck his arms in before hitting the ground. The message could not be delivered. Both hands were outstretched to stop the impact. I knew it was going to be a forceful impact. I knew it was going to be painful. I knew he could not hear my warnings. He fell hard onto his hands and even smacked his head on the ground. It appeared to hurt. However, Mr Swiftly jumped up, brushed the dirt from his face and went inside the house. I never saw him again.
Have you ever seen a grown man sit on the floor, covered in red pasta sauce, surrounded by broken glass, and crying uncontrollably? You do not know empathy until you experience something like this. Mr Helpless was doing the best he could from late November until early March with two broken wrists, 1 surgery, and 2 immobilizing casts. I’ve known him intimately since his teenage years. Every day he would visit with me listening to music, while slicing, dicing, sautéing, and cooking. The passion and joy of being in here was evident. Making food, sharing food, and eating food is a love language for him. I am proud to help bring joy to this man and his life. It pained me that day to witness the emotional breakdown caused by one simple accident. The stain of the trauma is still evident on my white cabinet and drawer faces. Marinara memories remain. When you are unable to rotate your wrist to open a jar or to twist a cap, you have to do whatever it takes. Mr Helpless was struggling to pop the top of a regular jar of sauce. A smack on the bottom of the jar with a plaster cast was a thudded failure. Mr Helpless knew that some pressure on the side of the lid could break the seal. One, two, three taps on the counter and no pop was heard. With more force, more velocity, and more pressure the fourth tap thrusted harder onto the lip of the countertop. Smash, pop, spill, splash, crack. The lid popped. The glass shattered. The sauce erupted from the jar. On the counter. On the overhead cabinets. On the drawers. In the drawers. On the floor. On the ceiling. On the wall. On his clothes. On his cast. On his other cast. On his face. The jar and the sauce were separated. At that moment, all of the pressure, the stress, the tension, the sadness, the feeling of being helpless jumped from the tree, out of the car and onto me, the kitchen. The release of emotion flowed from the heart to the eyes. The tears and the red sauce created an instant sea of sadness. Sitting in shards, surrounded by pools of sauce, and the spilling of tears from an emotional release have etched a memory in this room. A memory that remains ever present. A memory that will never surpass the joy and passion of cooking but will always be a reminder that a kitchen can support every emotion. One broken jar can try to break a man, even if just temporarily. It is in that freedom of emotional release that can give that man hope and strength that things will get better. Things got better.