July 31st, 1987.
My birthday. Having a summer birthday when you're an Army brat can be a real bummer. Often I'd move to a place and have no one to invite to my party. When that would happen my mom would just walk across the street and invite our kids' neighbors, like we did for my first birthday in Hawaii, which I celebrated just a few months after we moved across the country and across the ocean from Georgia.
Our new neighbors, the Fletchers, came, with slightly older, always-laughing Kristin and pretty cute, just-my-age Michael. Us and the Fletchers--that was my party. We sat around and ate some lunch, then Mom brought out the cake she made for me (homemade-only in her kitchen!). I blew out the candles and we piled scoops of ice cream next to our slices of cake. Yum. After the last bite, I opened my gifts (none of this wait-until-later stuff like today's parties).
I only remember one gift, and it was from my dad. In fairness, it was probably from both of my parents, and in all likelihood my mom probably was the one who bought it. But my memory gives total credit to my dad because he was my big hero, and my big running idol. And he chose just for me a new running outfit: snazzy shorts and a matching t-shirt. I had to try on my new stuff immediately, a habit I still have decades later. I ran (of course!) to the bathroom, pulled off one set of shorts and t-shirt and put on my new running shorts and t-shirt.
Then I opened the bathroom door to show off my new outfit, another habit I still have decades later, and saw it. It stared me right in the face. A cockroach. Those nasty creatures were one of the few similarities between Georgia and Hawaii. I hated them there, and I hated them here. That cockroach--I swear to this--looked up at me and spat out the question: "Whaddya going to do about me?"
Normally, I'd freak out. But it was my birthday. And I was ten! I could handle this!
Or, at least I could outrun that bug.
I need to pause here and explain that in our new Hawaiian house there were windows that opened not by sliding up and down but by pulling them out and propping them up on the inside of the house. So, as you walked down the hallway, you had to be sure not to bang into these open windows. Not the most well-thought-out feature, for sure. My father was incredibly un-handy but completely creative, so to get a breeze we propped open the windows with a random Mickey Mouse back scratcher or a ruler or...anything that was mostly straight and about twelve inches long. Right over this cockroach, a window was propped up.
In my determination to outrun that nasty creature, I forgot to actually look where I was running. A minor detail. I ran SMACK into the window, and while I did succeed in running back to the party to show off my new duds, I really was running to show off the blood dripping down my face and onto my new running shirt.
Off to the emergency room--happy birthday, me!--with Mrs Fletcher calling out, "Get the girl some plastic surgery if she needs it! A girl needs her face!"
Luckily for me, I did not need plastic surgery. I needed five stitches over my right eye, some stain-remover for my new running shirt, and some more pride to replace that which I lost bleeding in front of the cute Michael Fletcher.