99% is how you react
Birthday parties at my house were like a circus. My mom, Nancy, did not spend weeks planning them and none of the guests expected a bouncy house, magician, camel rides, or even a party favor. Balloons, cake, and a couple games kept us happy.
1446 Lonsdale Rd. was where I spent eight of my birthdays, which I shared with my twin brother, Patrick. From age 4 to 12, we lived on Columbus’ East side Yorkshire neighborhood. We spent summers at the pool and riding bikes and setting off firecrackers. Our friends loved our tree house. My father Clay, a “maker” before there was a word for it, built the tree house into a couple of grand pine trees that towered over our back fence. These trees had been on the property before the house was built in the 1960s postwar baby boom era. See the trees here in this Google satellite view.
Growing up in a house with 5 children meant this tree house was a nice escape for an afternoon or camp out watching stars through the skylight. My father used a piece of Plexiglas as the window. This was a unique feature for a couple years, but the weather, tree sap and heavy play had left skylight just an opening in the roof.
In September of 1988, my sister Alaina was celebrating her 6th birthday. This was a big deal. Nearly all of her classmates came to the party. My mother had allowed Patrick and I to have one friend attend to keep us busy and out of my sister’s hair. Kevin, a friend since kindergarten, came over. He loved our house. The tree house, big yard, and basement (complete with a train set) made an exciting play date.
As the party got started on one side of the yard, my older brother Joel, Kevin, & I decided that we would keep an eye on the girls’ party from the elevated vantage point of the tree house. Joel climbed in from the ladder below while Kevin and I ascended the tree to get onto the roof.
Just as we reached the roofline, Joel jumps up through the skylight and screams “Hey DAN!!” I immediately let go of the tree and found myself falling.
The next 20 feet were in slow motion. It was the same sensation I had shared in my dreams many times. This time, however, I didn’t wake up safely in my bed. This time, I landed on the ground. After a brief moment of stunned silence, I began to scream.
“MOM!” I yelled as I ran into the back door of the house into the kitchen. I was holding my arm elevated so the blood did not drip on the brick patterned linoleum floor.
“Calm down Danny and tell me what happened,” she said in a matter of fact tone. While I explained through the tears that it was all Joel’s fault and I hate the tree house and this is the last birthday party I ever want my sister to have, Joel and Kevin walked in behind me.
“You ok? That was awesome!” Kevin was clearly more excited about my fall than I was.
My mother, being a trained nurse, wrapped my arm up and gave me a slice of cake as prescribed treatment for a broken spirit. It was incredible that I had not hit my head or broken a bone. I still have a scar along my left bicep that reminds me that we get to choose how to react to life’s challenges.
Now, no matter how far I fall, instead of screaming, I try to stay calm like mom.
If that doesn’t work, I take Kevin’s approach: find the “Awesome” in the moment.
I encourage you to do the same.