Today I substituted for a third grade class at Laie Elementary. After reading group and before math rotation was a short recess and my first break of the day. During that 15 minutes I helped a few kids finish up their reading responses, I corrected a few last papers, and I reviewed the lesson plan for math and science. I also had about 1 minute to myself. During that one minute I took a deep breath, stretched a little and tried to recall my third grade experience.
Third grade was my first year at Sunset Elementary. I was eight years old and turned nine in November of that year. I can't remember who my teacher was but I can remember where the classroom was located and that my math teacher, located across the hall, was Mrs. Allen, an old biddy with a reputation--at least among the students--as the meanest teacher in the school. She taught me my multiplication tables.The most vivid memory of that year, however, is the patch I had to wear for what seemed like months and the day the stitches in my eyelid began to loosen and scratch my eye. Yes, I said patch, an eye patch.
One weekend in April I was attending a birthday party at a school friend's house. We were playing hula hoops competing to see who could spin the most times. During the course of competition someone, I think it was Kendra, got a little too close to a post on the porch. The hula hoop hit the post and burst at the seam. The game was done until the birthday girl, Jocelyn, emerged from her mom's home office with a roll of masking tape. We taped the hoop back together and the game was back on.
All of us girls quickly re-gathered on the back porch making a circle around the contestant. It was Megan's turn now and she was good, so good that I was getting tired of standing in the circle. I sat down, keeping my position in line on a step and continued attentively counting, eyes glued to the circling hoop. 50 . . .55 . . .63 . . .whack. Suddenly the hoop swung out of orbit and smacked me across the face. I grabbed my eye as I felt the sting of the plastic whip across it. I heard some screaming and felt the buzz of commotion around me as everyone tried to figure out what had happened.
"Are you OK?" they asked.
Was I OK? It hurt and I could feel the tears welling up and beginning to sting my eyes but was I OK?
"I think so . . . " I mustered. I pulled my hands from my head and turned to face my friends; that's when the screaming started from my friends. I looked back down at my hands and saw blood. I tried to focus my eyes and saw blood. I felt my face and felt blood. I realized that what I had thought were tears were blood and the stinging? Wasn't tears.
I kept my hands to my face and heard the mother of the house come out. I heard the girls trying to explain what had happened. I heard that the hoola hoop was broken, again, and that the masking tape and a staple in the hoop were covered with blood. I was ushered into the house and a towel was placed in my hands. The mother was frantic and was trying to get a hold of my parents. I sat at the kitchen table face buried in the towel. I looked up a time or two to see what was going on around me and was surprised when I realized that though my eye was closed I could still somehow see what was going on around me through a bloody haze.
Soon my mother arrived and I was set into the back of the station wagon. I laid down. I was carried into a doctor's office. It was a doctor I hadn't met before but my parent's knew him. He was a plastic surgeon. He took a look at me, stuck me with a needle and began sewing my eyelid. My eyelid had been slit. I had had a gash that extended from the outer corner of my eye and nearly followed the inside of the crease to within millimeters of my tear duct. Cut clean through. He sent me home with a patch on my eye and instructions to come back to get the stitches removed at a later date.
I have a scar on my eye that continues to fade with age so that it's hardly noticeable now though if you're really looking my left eye is a little droopy. My family says that it doesn't close completely when I'm sleeping: I'm always watching for trouble. I wonder if I should tell those third grade students about it when I go back to the same class again on Monday. They have a whole rack of recess hula hoops resting against the back wall.