Monday, November 23, 2009

My Life in Action--Part 1

I get my thing in action (Verb!)
In being, (Verb!) In doing, (Verb!)
In saying
A verb expresses action, being or state of being
A verb makes a statement
Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!
Verb! That’s What’s Happenin’ School House Rock

I remember being a child in the 70s and watching segments of School House Rock on ABC in between my Saturday morning cartoons. The short segments helped reinforce what I was learning in school about multiplication tables, parts of speech, American history and science. I ran across the Grammar Rock video recently and began thinking about nouns and verbs in real life. As the noun, I know I am the receiver of the action from the verb. So, here’s my exploration of my life in verbs.

straddle—1. Have a leg on each side of (a horse, bicycle, chair etc.) 2. Stand or lie across; be on both sides of: A pair of glasses straddled her nose.

Back in the early 90s there was a BIG push from the self-help movement to reconnect to our inner child. Bookshelves were bulging with books on how to find and connect to the little girl or boy within who may have gotten lost on our way to adulthood. Finding and embracing our inner child was supposed to make us better human beings, filling us with childlike wonder. Well, at 28 on a cool, breezy spring morning 16 years ago, I had an unforgettable encounter with my inner child, and I learned that sometimes we shouldn’t go back no matter what the prevailing wisdom of the day is!
I had an appointment at Michael Reese Hospital for an ultrasound, and I had it all worked out--get my ultrasound and then head downtown for a little shopping. Sounds simple enough right? Well, I believe God has a sense of humor, and some of our trials and tribulations are for His amusement. I drew the short straw that day.
My neighbor gave me a ride because I did not drive at the time. And since I was already on 28th and Michigan, the bus ride downtown should have been short, sweet and uneventful, but if it had, I would not be telling this story.
After leaving the hospital, I got completely turned around trying to find my way to the bus stop. I can’t explain this because if I could, it wouldn’t have happened. I am directionally challenged. While I know my left from my right, north, south, east and west is as foreign to me as Chinese. In Chicago, people try to help me by reminding me that the lake is east. But this only works for me when I can see the lake.
I walked and looked; looked and walked, but I didn’t see the bus stop sign or another person even though it was the middle of the afternoon. No one was out walking the dog, taking a smoke break, or even begging for change. There was nothing but the back of the hospital, a big green field, the fence and me. I didn’t even know how to get back to where I had come from. After about 15 or 20 minutes of following my shadow, I saw it--the most beautiful blue and white bus stop sign I had ever seen. The only problem was, I was on one side of the chain link fence and the bus stop sign was on the other side. The fence was as tall as two NBA players stacked on top of each other, and the claw-like prongs were turned up ready to attack. My intuition and good sense abandoned me in that moment. Caged in with no visible way out, I was struck by genius--which is close to crazy--and decided to climb the fence.
Dressed in a raspberry sweat shirt, brand new Guess jeans and white lace-up gym shoes, I was up for the challenge. I used to climb and walk along the fence as a child so this was easy, I reasoned. It never dawned on me that close to 20 years had probably passed since I climbed my last fence. I was older, a little less limber and my feet were too big to neatly fit into the grooves on the fence. But my inner child wasn’t concerned with any of this. She wanted to be free. So, she silenced the grown-up me, stuck that superwoman “S” on my chest, and pushed me to face the monster before me.
I strapped my purse across my chest and began to climb. The fence was taller than the fences of my childhood, and I was carrying more weight--thoughts that did not occur to me when I had both feet on the ground. When I got to the top, I swung my left leg over. When I went to swing my right leg over, my shoe string got caught on the prongs. Oh, sugar-honey-ice-tea! I thought. I’m stuck. I tried wiggling my foot loose from the grips of fence monster, but he had my string between his teeth and wasn’t letting go.
There I was, a grown woman straddling the fence in the middle of an open field. My imagination ran wild. First, I had visions of going to jail because I knew somebody was going to call the police and report that there was a woman on the fence. Then I had visions of being on the six o’clock news with family and friends watching. “That looks like Stephanie . . . That is Stephanie,” I could hear them say as they fell over laughing. And once they recovered from their laughing spell, their sick, twisted sense of humor would kick in and they’d make up jokes and songs. Once during a game of charades, my brother mimed blowing up a balloon, and popping it. The answer was Stephanie’s lung. This was a few months after I had been treated for a partially collapsed lung. Being caught on tape and having to deal with family and friends was a fate far worse than jail. At least in jail I could get some reprieve.
I had to get down, so I wiggled my foot again. Nothing happened. I was caught up-- literally. Just outside of my peripheral vision I caught sight of my prince charming walking down the street unaware that he was about to rescue a damsel in distress. At that very moment I denounced my feminist principles and became a firm believer in the happily ever after. Well, sort of. The armor was a little dented, and he wasn’t that charming in a black skull cap and some beat-up dingy jeans. But hey! He was as fine as Denzel that day. “Excuse me sir,” I yelled from atop my prison. The man looked around, and of course, he didn’t see anybody.
“Up here, sir!” I yelled.
He looked up and shook his head as he began walking toward me. “What cha doin’ up there?” He said with this silly grin on his face. I didn’t get a chance to reply because my shoe miraculously came loose. I swung my leg over and jumped down.
“How did you get up there?”
“It’s a long story,” I replied “And I’m too old to be climbing fences,” I mumbled.
He looked at me shaking his head in disbelief as he walked away. I could only imagine how many times he told that story. But it didn’t matter. I was down. I was safe and I could go on with my plans for the day. Not!
I didn’t have a bus pass, and all I could scrounge up in my purse was a measly 37 cents—just enough change to call my brother, who lived nearby. As I headed toward his house on 29th and Indiana, I felt a burning sensation on the back of my thigh. I reached back to find a vertical rip in my jeans. Unable to tell how bad the damage was, I stopped these two guys headed in my direction. “Excuse me, but I ripped my pants and I want you to tell me if it looks bad or not.” To this day I can’t believe I actually asked a man to look at my booty.
“Go ahead. Walk on in front of us,” one said while the other licked his lips. “Naw, it looks fine to me,” the first one said as I walked down the street.
“Yea,” the second one agreed. I know I gave God a deep belly laugh that day.


  1. Glad to finally see new posts. Very interesting and entertaining, Steph!

  2. La'Trice PhillipsDecember 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    Ha! You crack me up!