Part 2 – Please Help Me, I’m Falling – Julie Swope

In high school, while on a field trip to Valley Forge, I ventured from the group to hop stones across a small stream. While wading in the stream, I lost my balance, and noticed the red running water. As my teacher offered me assistance, she shrieked at the bloody open gash on my leg. What to use as a tourniquet was the problem. Joe’s sweaty bandana worked well.

Finally, I was an adult. No more bumps and bruises right? Not. When I was twenty I proudly pushed my year old son in his umbrella stroller through the Philadelphia airport. All went well, until the stroller stalled the escalator at the top step. I lifted my son across to safety. As I fell forward, everyone behind fell into me. I only suffered cuts on my legs, and as for my silk stockings – forget about them.

In my mid twenties my partner and I decided to get motorcycles. I got the smallest Kawasaki. He wheeled the cycles into a pick-up, and we took off for an open field to practice. I had no problem with ignition, and soon I was feeling the freedom of the wind. I shifted my weight to the left while turning. I was ready for more speed. But then I was ready to stop. I pressed the “brakes” on the handlebars, just like on my ten speed. I went faster. I had no idea how to brake. I surmised my only option was to shift my weight far left and crash. So I did. The only injury was road-rash on shin and thigh, and a damaged kick-stand. I traded my cycle in for a moped the following Monday morning.

In 1984 I was invited to a ski weekend with five other women. I never skied in my life. This trip included a beginners’ lesson. The skis were taller than I. The boots were so snug that I left the top two eyelets unlaced. All of the other women had skied before and headed enthusiastically to the more challenging slopes. I struggled from the bus to my first lesson. While I was thirty-six, the others were kids six to nine years old. They caught on quickly-I didn’t. The instructor, all of nineteen years old, led us to the bunny slope, with me trudging begrudgingly along. The kids had easy sailing. I looked for an escape, but the fact was I had to go down the slope to make it to the lodge. I tentatively took off, and scared myself as I picked up speed. Just like the motor cycle, I didn’t know how to brake. I fell to my left in the soft snow and was unhurt. I, however, had to figure out how to get up with my long skis as my foundation. Whenever I made any progress, I’d slip. As I wrangled my body in many different ways, the instructor skied to me and said, “I’ve never seen anyone get up quite like that. Is it easy?” “No,” I said, looking him in the eye. “But it sure beats the hell out of lying here all weekend.” At the bottom of the incline, I unsnapped my boots, and unlaced my shoes. I walked in my stocking feet over the slushy snow and mud. My feet were numb, but I was happy; I made it to the lodge and, with beverage in hand, delighted at the excellent winter sight of skiers having a good time on the slopes. I never went skiing again, and furthermore have no desire.

Stay tuned for Part 3——–Thirty more years of descending.

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