Earlier this year, one of my sisters-in-law told me she’d begun to avoid doing anything where she might run the risk of falling. “Can’t afford it, not now I’m older,” she said. “I used to be built from stoneware pottery, now I chip and crack as easily as biscuit porcelain and it’s more difficult to glue me back together. In fact, I don’t need glue anymore, I need rivets.”
I know what she means, I biked a bit this summer and fell off in the back garden after cycling home from a swim. A bad worker blames her tools, but this bike is wonky and wobbly and I’m blaming it. Though perhaps I’m becoming like the bike, and I’m as much to blame as it.
I fell magnificently. I had pulled away from Cormac on the hill coming up to the house (I had gears, he didn’t), and so he wasn’t there to witness my fall, which was disappointing, as midway through (you know how time slows during an accident) I couldn’t help thinking how dramatic and balletic I must look, that the catastrophe could not have been better choreographed for an audience. As I lay splayed on the grass waiting for my brother to find me and check I was ok, he pushed his bike around the corner, and walked on past me towards the shed. “Are you done in?” he asked. Offended was more like it – I’m fitter than him. “I fell. Wiped out,” I said. “I wish you’d been here to see it.” “Is the bike ok?” He gave it a kick to test it was still hanging together. “As long as we get the summer out of it,” he said, and he left me lying there.
I think about three-year-old Malachy, how his life is built around falling and crashing and wiping out. He builds towers to knock them down, sandcastles to trample, enacts bogus scooter wipe-outs ending in stunt man rolls and cries of, “Oh no, what happened?” For any falls that aren’t fake, he’ll check the reaction of whoever he’s with and take his cue from them. He builds strength from falling, learns how to stand taller and stronger because he knows how to take a tumble, instinctively knows how to roll without hurting himself. And I’m going in the opposite direction, which is why I was so proud of my instructive bike tumble.
That said, not all tumbles are instructive. My mum is convalescing while her body knits together a fractured pelvis. I was home for a few weeks to be her ‘get me’, which apparently is a step up from a ‘go-for’. That my responsibilities were short, time-bound, and relatively simple, made it easier to be a get-me. We hung out, watched lots of The Repair Shop, where the lovely Jay and his fellow craftsmen breathed new life into slightly broken things by using lots of glue and rivets. Kind of apt.
While I was at home with Mum, I went to Maggie’s Christmas shopping night, saw lots of familiar faces, had mince pie and mulled wine, bought lovely things. At the checkout, Maggie spotted that the gold maple leaf dish I was buying had a fracture on the stem, more of a break really, hanging on by a thread. “It’s the last one,” she said. “Take it with you, we can’t sell it. Maybe you could glue it.” The decorative leaf shall now forever be associated with my mother’s fractured pelvis, she a delicate, fallen autumn leaf, left crumpled by that man whose bumper nudged and tipped and cracked her. No glue or rivets needed, she’s getting better.