I grew up on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada. As is common along the eastern seaboard in this part of world, during the falls of my childhood we would get hurricane related weather, be it hurricanes or tropical storms. One fall day as a young girl, there was a late hurricane. During lunch hour I went with my father, my elementary school gym teacher, to the post office before the afternoon session started again. I hopped out of the car – eager as an eight year-old to be the one to unlock our post office box – and the hurricane-power winds took the car door out of my hand and slammed my eight year-old finger in the door.
That hurt. I could be mistaken, but I believe we did not bother to get the mail the day. My dad, my hero, hockey coach, all around favourite guy, took me up to my small town’s hospital. I don’t remember there being an “ER”, as such, in the Twillngate hospital, though I’m sure there was. He took me up there and we went to see the doctor who put a little needle into my fingernail and all the blood came pouring out.
I don’t remember if we were late for school. I know we went back there: me, the little grade two or three, and my dad, the gym teacher, and we both went about our days.
That evening, I went to hockey. At the time, I was the only little girl who played hockey in the area, thanks to my progressive mom and dad who, when I said my feet were cold during figure skating, put me in hockey to see if that ice sport would be any better for their winter baby who loved to be on ice.
Here I am, age 7, with Leafs star Gary Roberts.
I went to hockey that evening and most of the practice was a scrimmage. To this day, my dad talks about how I went to hockey that night and I scored two goals. I was the only girl, and I scored two goals.
As a little person, you don’t think about being a boy or a girl. As a little person, that night, I didn’t think about how my finger had gotten slammed in hurricane-force winds. I have no idea what I thought about.
I might have been thinking about the Lime Crush I knew I was going to get after hockey, because every night after hockey practice my dad used to take me to Champion Charlies and he would get me a soda pop. In my house, we didn’t get pop very often, but I always got one after hockey that I would drink in my basement while my dad helped take my hockey gear off.
I might have been thinking about my friend, Nick Styles. Now that I’m 28, I can tell you that Nick just loved life. When I was eight, all I could have told you was that Nick was hyper. He used to score goals on the wrong team. During scrimmage, he would score goals on his own goalie. But he was my friend, and my dad, who was my coach, usually put Nick on my team. So maybe I was thinking about Nick and how I really needed to score some goals.
Maybe I was thinking about the boys on my team who were in my class, and how I wanted them to think I was cool or a good hockey player. Maybe I was thinking how I didn’t want them to tease me, the only girl on the team, who had to dress in a different room, and who wore glasses and had a mushroom cut. Maybe I wanted Nathan, and Jason, and my cousin Kirk to think I was actually cool.
Like I said, I have no idea what I thought about.
However, now that I’m 28, I know what I didn’t think about. I did not think I am too hurt to do it. I didn’t think that I was a girl, and less good in any event. I didn’t think I was broken now and that I had never been quite good enough, and now I was just extra not good enough.
I didn’t tell my dad, No, I’m actually not able to go tonight. I didn’t tell the rest of my team – the boys – that I wouldn’t be any good tonight. I just went. I did the job that I had to do. And I survived it. Go figure.
Tonight, I slammed my finger in the door of a room in my home. It really, really hurt. It didn’t fill with blood that needed to be drained, but it did hurt. When it wouldn’t stop hurting, I decided I would watch Netflix and I would ice my finger and I would drink a beer – as if the alcohol would go straight to my digit and cure the stupid pain that was resonating in my fingernail. I proceeded to tell my boyfriend, my sister, and my friend Melissa. I committed to a night of catching up on television.
Then on Facebook I saw a post about a friend’s child who has diabetes. Tomorrow, the child will be getting an insulin pump. The parents have a Belle doll ready who also has an insulin pump to help the daughter through it. To help her think, this is ok and normal and fine even if it’s painful.
And then there’s me, watching Netflix on the couch because I hurt my finger. When I did the same 20 years ago, I scored two girls during a game of scrimmage when I was the only girl on the ice.
It’s funny. When we’re children, it’s not even that we’re resilient. I think what it is is that we keep seeing all the things that we want to do. In my case, I wanted to play hockey, I wanted the boys to know I was just as good even though I had to change in a different change room (and this, even though, at the time, little girls and little boys don’t even know why they were changing separate and apart from one another). When it came to be being a little girl in minor hockey, I only knew I was different because I was told I was, and I didn’t want it to matter. I didn’t care that I had a hurting finger, even though you hold your hockey stick with your fingers – be they hurting or not! I just wanted to go and live my life, unimpaired by this stupid thing that had happened, this stupid hurricane that had blown the car door on my finger.
How different. How different from when we are grown and we become willing to be hurt. Hurt by bad grades, by bullies, by broken hurts. We tell ourselves we are, in fact, less beautiful, less likeable, less intelligent, less able than someone else. We let metaphorical fingers get slammed by metaphorical door – the bad grade on an exam, the broken heart by someone we love. And, instead of rising – instead of finding love for the person that teaches us a lesson of survival, of not winning every time, or of being free to realize what you can be and who you might love – we curl up on the couch, and we watch Netflix, and wait until tomorrow and we think: maybe tomorrow the pain in my finger will be all gone and we can start again.
But there is no “starting again”. And that pain is permanent – but it is the fertilizer of our becoming. That scar is the proof of being able to get up. The memory of the ER is the evidence of you rising and later knowing how to rise again. The bandage on your broken heart is the story of a heart that knows how to beat, and that doesn’t simply sit in your chest dormant, hoping for a prince or princess to come through, innocent yet deep, young yet wise, and overall non-existent. That permanent pain is muscles forming muscle memory of how to climb a mountain or maintain a forearm stand. The callous on your fingertip is how to play the violin or a guitar or sing with a beautiful, colourful, ringing tone through whole forests.
That little girl in me who got her finger slammed in the car door in hurricane-force winds, who went to the doctor and had the fingernail drained of blood, and who scored two goals during an otherwise boys-only scrimmage, is me. She’s a cool kid, she’s a fighter. That cool fighter didn’t know there was a difference between her and little boys. She knew that at the end of hockey practice – goals or no goals – there would be Lime Crush, so hurt finger be damned! Simply put, with her unassuming strength as a little kid, she just decided to get up.
So today, I decided to do some blogging, with the third finger on my right hand throbbing. If a little girl can get up again, so can I, reminded of how strongly we are intuitively formed when we enter into this world. Despite the heartbreaks, the bullying, the bad grades, we’re still alive here after all. There will be more fingers slammed in doors yet. Take this as a reminder that you can still score goals even when that happens.
I hate to brag, but what a strong chick former-me was.