Like many young children I was totally obsessed with my older siblings. I used to sit outside my sister’s door and scream for her to open it and hug me. When she wouldn’t oblige I’d move down the hall to my brother’s room and do the same. Eventually he’d open his door, kick me, yell for my parents to come haul me away, and slam the door in my tear-stained face.
As a result, the attention he did pay me was very important. We used to watch In Living Color together. After numerous episodes featuring Homey the Clown, I was ecstatic one afternoon when my brother filled a soccer sock full of gravel in an effort to replicate the “Homey Sock.”
To my utter delight, he chased me around the yard wielding this death sock like a lasso and bellowing “Homey Don’t Play Dat,” while I ran, just out of reach, screeching bloody murder. Fortunately he never succeeded in actually hitting me, as it would have undoubtedly caused brain damage.
One afternoon we were in the living room throwing a basketball back and forth. I was a gymnast and in between throws I was doing front somersaults on the couch. My brother, bored with our simple game, decided it would be more fun to throw the basketball at my head as hard as he could while I was upside down. He made this decision while I was mid-air.
The ball hit me somewhere in the stomach area throwing me off balance. I landed partially on the couch, partially on the floor, fell over and hit the side of my face on the coffee table. I burst into tears and may have blacked out.
That night my parents came home to discover I had a black eye that took up about a quarter of my face with a small gash right below my left eyeball.
The next morning my black eye had turned from black, to purple with tinges of yellow. I selected my favorite sunglasses; hot pink and black with diamond studs around the rim, and prepared for school as if nothing had happened. Even at nine years old, I’d watched enough early 90’s Lifetime movies to know that when a woman gets a black eye she wears sunglasses to cover it up.
As horrified as my parents were, there was no reason to keep me out of school. I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I was a little excited about demurely revealing my black eye when other kids asked me why I was wearing sunglasses in the classroom.
The morning passed with a flurry of attention from my fourth grade friends. By the afternoon the yellowing bruise had started to spread and it looked as if someone had vomited on my face. I was sitting alone in the hall reading (during ‘Sustained Silent Reading’) when the guidance counselor walked by.
“Hi Mrs. Kelleher!” I said, from behind my dark lenses.
She smiled absently and then did a double take. “Meghan? Why are you wearing sunglasses inside?”
I became bashful and was overcome with the feeling I was doing something wrong.
Mrs. Kelleher leaned in.
“Meghan. Take your sunglasses off please.”
I did. She inhaled sharply.
“Did someone hurt you?”
“I hit my head on the coffee table.”
I suddenly felt like one of those women in the Lifetime movies. I could feel her disbelief, her judgment. I felt dirty, like I was lying, like I’d done something wrong. The thing was, I wasn’t lying and I hadn’t done a damn thing except flip on the couch. But I could tell Mrs. Kelleher didn’t believe me. She thought I was hiding something.
She wanted me to come to her office to talk. But I insisted, no, I was fine. I had actually hit my head on the coffee table. Finally she let it go and I went back to reading.
At home that afternoon my brother gave me the heartfelt apology of a 13 year old not entirely sure if he almost killed his little sister. As a peace offering he let me chase him through the yard with the homey sock.
This time my parents came home from work to find their pony-tailed fourth grader with a yellowing bruise now encompassing half her face, chasing her brother through the yard, and trying to hit him with a sock full of gravel.
At least I was laughing, not crying.