When I was in third grade, I broke my arm and my collarbone, becoming the first person in my family to ever break a bone, a distinction I was quite proud of. The way it happened, though, is a story I am decidedly un-proud of. Regardless, I’m about to share it on the flippin’ worldwide interwebz because that’s what bloggers do, apparently.
First, you should know that I was kind of a bratty third grader. I was very bright, but lacked diplomacy and humility. I was great at arguing, but bad at gauging when to argue. In short, I was 8. I asked for a briefcase for every birthday and Christmas until I finally got one, since I was determined to become a bold, exacting attorney. I frequently threatened to sue my friends and family members for unfair treatment.
What can I say? I had good intentions, but my delivery was . . . unpleasant. Fortunately my hubris mellowed as I grew older, probably as a result of education, increased self-awareness, and a few violent adjustments from my older siblings.
But in third grade, I was still that bratty attorney. I had a fierce sense of justice and plenty of personal convictions. I brought them all with me one summer night to the roller rink, where I was going skating with a friend.
You should also know that I wasn’t the best skater. I could kind of manage it for a bit, but inevitably I’d have a moment of panic and find myself flat on my butt in the path of a bajillion middle school kids with unfortunate braking skills.
Nevertheless, that evening, I had passed several hours relatively unscathed. At one point, I was getting tired, but I decided to take one more lap. I started around the rink, just reaching the place where there were no more exits, and realized I didn’t want to skate anymore. The rink suddenly seemed interminable, and my fatigue suddenly seemed intense. But the distance to get back — against the flow of skaters — seemed more manageable. You know where this is going.
I skated slowly against the traffic, trying to stay inside the ring of skaters. Seemingly out of nowhere, a tall middle schooler with long, flowing blonde hair was skating straight at me. The situation was almost poetic, actually: I’d met her at the beginning of the night and found out her name was Julie, too. We’d argued over who rightfully deserved the name, and she’d snapped at me that she’d had it first. Now here she was, speeding straight out of darkness as if to claim her birthright. And here I was, about to get mowed down for being a nitwit. I think this was basically the plot of Beowulf, right? Whatever.
I reached out to grab her shoulders and hopefully prevent our imminent smash-up, but she was skating too fast. She swung out to avoid me, and the arm that had grabbed her snapped back behind me as she swerved, pulling me flat onto my back with a thud and cracking two of my bones. I didn’t realize any of this at the time, though. At the time, my only thought was, “Owww.”
Somehow I made it off the rink and over to the concession stand, because my 8-year-old brain assumed that “put some ice on it” was the cure for all physical ills. I barely looked at the dude behind the concession counter as I asked, “I hurt my arm. Can I have some ice?”
“Sorry, I can’t give you any,” came his unbelievable reply. WHAT?! I was furious. Appalled. In my mind, I was entitled to this ice for many convincing reasons: (A) I was a young child, and you should always give young children what they need. (B) I was hurt, and you should always give hurt people what they need. (C) There was no reason I could think of not to give me what I needed. So I did what any great attorney would do. I sassed back. (That’s what attorneys do, right? Wait.)
“But I’m hurt! If you don’t give me any ice, I’ll sue you because my arm is hurt and you’re not helping me! You can’t do this!” My vehemence shocked and embarrassed even me. With a huff and a flounce, I skated into the bathroom and promptly boiled over in tears.
A few minutes later, my friend skated in. I was sure she’d come to comfort and support me, but instead she said, “That guy says he’ll give you ice, but you have to apologize first.”
Apologize?! Indignation burned through me like the flame of a billion blow torches. Thankfully, it was followed by the searing pain of my broken bones, which burned through me like the flame of two billion blowtorches. I could barely look at my friend as we skated together out of the bathroom, my pride melting into a sorry puddle of shame and humiliation around me.
The concession stand guy was waiting with an apathetic look on his face. Somehow 29-year-old me thinks he cared a lot less about this incident than 8-year-old me assumed. After taking a deep draught of the stale popcorn air, I began. “Listen, I’m sorry. I’m just hurt! And I needed some ice!” I felt my pride resurfacing and had to stomp it back down. “And I’m just sorry I talked to you like that. Can I please have some ice?” He barely said a thing, but scooped out a bag and gave it to me. I skated away, holding the cold anticlimax of a horrible night against my wounds. It helped ease the ache of my bones, but did nothing for my pride.
Like so many embarrassing stories from my childhood that I would’ve been glad to erase at the time, I’m glad this happened. I’m glad he put me in my place and used his authority to encourage some humility and courtesy in me. I needed to realize that:
Having good intentions didn’t make what I said less inappropriate.
Feeling like I was right didn’t make it okay to be unkind.
Nobody owed me understanding for inappropriate behavior, and I should be thankful for grace.
Other people’s experience mattered just as much as mine did, and I had to consider them.
It was my job as a human being to consider them.
Boy, did that lesson stick with me.
There’s hardly a segue here into the recipe for these gorgeous breakfast buns, except to say they’ll stick with you, too. Does that work? No? Okay.
These truly are the Ultimate Sausage Breakfast Buns: the best yeast rolls stuffed with cheddar grits, eggs, sausage, and hash browns, and topped with a drizzle of maple syrup. They’re indulgent and perfect for any special occasion — I imagine them on your Christmas morning breakfast table, or being served for a New Year’s brunch. Enjoy — and share with us: what life lesson will you always remember learning?
One year ago: Brown Butter Gooey Butter Spice Cake with Sparkling Cranberries and Cream
Two years ago: Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake (vegan)
Three years ago: Magic Bars
Four years ago: Oreo Truffle Snowmen