Was there a clear moment in your childhood when everything about your life changed? Even if you didn't realize it at the time?
There was in mine. It happened the September I was 6 years old.
Before that day I was always in motion racing with our dog up and down the stretch of grass beside our house, dumping formula out of my brother's bottles just to get my parents' attention, spraying the garden hose, climbing over furniture, jumping on the bed, swinging so high on the swing set I thought I could (possibly!) touch the sun with the sole of my shoe.
I'm pretty sure I drove my mom crazy sometimes. Maybe if I were a kid now she would medicate me. No doubt people would say, "Medicate that child immediately because she is driving everyone crazy." But I couldn't help myself. I felt like I was at the mercy of a perpetual and sometimes uncomfortable internal breeze that blew me this way and that.
When I was 6 we moved from Salt Lake to Provo where I immediately took up with a boy my age named Timmy. He was a bike rider. Just like me! And when he challenged me to a race around the church parking lot, well! I did not say no.
Timmy, all freckles and cowlicks, pedaled hard and fast. But I was faster. I was wind. And you can't beat wind, even if you're a boy with a very good bicycle. I glanced over my shoulder to see how far behind me Timmy was … and that's when it happened. I hit a patch of loose gravel, skidded and crashed. I limped home with cuts and scrapes and far fewer teeth in my head than I'd had that morning.
Mom cleaned me up, but infection settled in and went systemic. A week later my kidneys were under attack. I ended up on a hospital ward, and after that I spent seven months in bed at home, my feet never once touching the floor in all those months.
That's how they treated acute nephritis in those days with massive daily doses of penicillin, complete bed rest, restricted diet and isolation.
I used to lie alone on my bed, watching curtains flutter when the window was cracked open, listening to neighbor kids play outside in the slanting sunlight of late afternoon.
The Alpine School District sent in a home-bound teacher, a kindly woman with tight permed hair who taught me how to read, and because I had nothing else to do, I learned. Before my accident, a teacher would have had to hog-tie me to a chair just to get my attention. And even then she probably wouldn't have succeeded in getting me to associate sounds with symbols. Dude. Who cared?
But after my accident? I lived for words. For words on pages. For pages in books. For books piled up around me. Books were my ticket out of the room where I could hear other kids gulping with laughter.
I got better. Obviously. But instead of sending the books away, I invited them to stay in my room and in my life, and somewhere down the road I got the idea that a person who liked words as much as I did should try to write down a few of them herself.
Which I've been doing for miles of years now all because of that bright September day.
When everything changed.
Ann Cannon can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.