Lost in Any Language, Part 5: Oh, Say, Can You See Me Pinwheeling Through the Air?

Once, I took a trip that broke me.


It's sort of a long story, but I used to spend a lot of time taking jump shots, mostly with my sister Bethany.

Officially, however, it was our sister Lisa who started it all one summer day when we ran out of things to do in her town and amused ourselves by jumping off stumps.

Because we liked to Jump Off Things in public, preferably with recognizable landmarks in the background, we did some of our best work while traveling.

If you're thinking that this looks like fun, you're right. If you're thinking that it was just a matter of time before I hurt myself, you're also right.

Ten years ago this week, I sustained my first (and worst) Jumping Off Things injury. (And if you've been hanging around long enough to remember this actually happening, congratulations. We've come full circle.)

Here's the story.

Bethany and I were visiting my friend Lucy in Baltimore, and we'd made our way to Fort McHenry National Monument in order to visit the spot where Francis Scott Key penned "The Star Spangled Banner."

We were also excited at the possibility of some historic jumps.

These possibilities quickly became apparent at the information center as, along with a good-sized teenage tour group from Spain, we sat through the inspirational video about Francis Scott Key. The excitable young tourists oooh'd and aaaaah'd over the dramatic moment when they roll back the heavy curtains to reveal Old Glory flying high over the fort.

You couldn't blame them, really. If you've been there, you know it's a dramatic moment.

And that's when I had my brain wave: We would take jumping photos with the iconic flag itself. Just the flag and the sky and nothing else.

At least, that was the theory; however, given the set-up of the fort, the crowds of other tourists, and my general ineptitude, getting the right perspective for the shot proved tricky.

Somehow, we thought it would be a fine idea for one of us to run through a former cell block of the fort, leap over a shallow set of stone steps, and launch ourselves over the camera person--who would lie flat on her back, camera up--thereby gaining enough lift so that we would appear against a backdrop of clear blue sky and billowing American flag.

We'd have to be careful, though, because the perfect angle to frame this shot just happened to be perilously close to a small drop-off. If we overshot the landing at all, we'd tip over a shallow ledge and land on a rough cobble-stoned walkway five feet below.

Bethany, of course, nailed it in one jump (despite the fact that back then, I was shooting with a basic point-and-click camera that operated on a 3-second delay).

While the results weren't exactly what I'd envisioned, they were the best we could do under the circumstances.

Then it was my turn.

Bethany took the camera and lay on the ground while I skipped to the back of the cell block for my own run at glory.

But I just couldn't get it.

After four unsuccessful attempts, I was ready to give up, but I decided for one more try. Throwing caution (and reason) to the wind, I gave it my all.

I took a long running start through the cell block and flung myself up and out over the stone steps. In my blissful nanosecond of pure flight, I shot a crazed grin down at Bethany as I soared over her.


(Well, sort of. I mean....look.)

You know what comes next.

I came down awkwardly on my left foot and stumbled, body twisting. My right toe jammed hard against the stone ledge, acting as a pivot to propel me forward. Thus I wheeled over the ledge, arms windmilling for what felt like hours, and slammed heavily against the cobblestone walkway below.

Lucy, who'd been standing to the side observing these shenanigans, reported that the teenage group from Spain rounded the corner just in time to witness me hurtling through the air.

"That lady fell down!" one of them cried loudly in Spanish, while others took pictures.

Meanwhile, I lay breathless on the cobbles, uncertain as to whether or not I was dead, but pretty sure I wanted to be.

My immediate injuries included horrible bruises along the right side of my body, brush-burns along my palms, forearms, and shins, and a broken toe on my right foot--immediately swollen and gloriously purple. Eventually, I suspected that I'd likely fractured my ribs as well. Weeks later, I was still bracing myself to stand up and sit down; and months later, it still hurt to cough or sneeze.

We'll never know for sure, however, because I never got myself checked out.

No need to lecture me about any of this now, Internet Moms. It all happened a decade ago, and I can assure you that the next time I fell and broke a bone, I definitely went to the hospital.

But that's another story.

* * * *

This concludes Lost in Any Language, my short series

about traveling the world and embarrassing myself.

I hope you enjoyed it!

Be sure to click back through the blog and catch

any posts you may have missed.

* * * *


  1. Sounds sort of familiar to a novel coming out sometime this year... 😁


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