Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 22, 2021

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If I could change the past without changing the present...

Regrets of a Five Year Old

by Jessica Borras

If I could change the past without changing the present, I would have listened to my mother when she told me at my sister's seventh birthday party to go inside. That day, five-year-old me played chicken with a one-hundred-and-some-odd-pound Rottweiler and lost. Dog. His name was Dog, and he was the sweetest. My grandfather would have put him to sleep that day, if not for my grandmother holding her ground. It wasn't Dog's fault, after all--my nickname growing up was Klutz for a reason. But Dog shied away from me for years after that... I suspect he was more traumatized by the events that day than I was.

My sister's birthday was ruined, of course--something she never once threw in my face. It was a nasty break. My parents rushed me to the hospital, my father nearly went white when they drilled that traction rod through my knee, and I woke up afterward in a full-body cast. The next three weeks presented me with my mother sleeping on a couch in my hospital room, a birthday cake baked by a nurse for my 6th birthday, many gifts, including a stuffed cat from my grandfather who never bought presents on his own, and countless replays of my Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory VHS tape.

My mother, by the way, is a saint. Five-going-on-six is a rough age for a child to be strapped to a hospital bed, so she did everything she could to make it better. She tied three ribbons to the trapeze bar I used to lift myself when it was time to change the sheets and taught me how to braid. She suffered through my obsessions with Gene Wilder and Julie Andrews, listening to me sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious more times than I'd like to admit. And she stayed by my side, away from the comfort of home. But more importantly, she kept me in check. Because like I said, five-going-on-six is a rough age for a child in the hospital. My birthday cake didn't have cherries on it. I didn't get to choose my birthday dinner. The orderlies were all elderly, and I didn't have friends to keep me company. So, when little ol' me started to feel a sense of entitlement, she'd throw a meow my way. Literally, she would meow at me. It was her very polite, discrete cue, telling me to mind myself. And it worked--hell, it still works.

After that, they removed my cast--too soon, unfortunately. The day I went home, I wanted to sit on the porch with my sister and her friend, but going downstairs was no easy task with crutches and I tumbled. Only, I couldn't go back to the hospital, I'd just gotten home. I cried, I begged, and I talked my parents into letting me sleep in a recliner in the living room that night.

The next morning we went back to the hospital and found out that I'd broken the bone again. However, since we postponed our return trip, the bones had begun to fuse together improperly. The only fix? For the doctor to break it, of course. Within one month the bone in my leg had seen three breaks. I started the second grade in a new city with a cast and crutches, couldn't run a mile without limping, couldn't play sports in school... I still can't straighten my leg completely and will have issues with my knee for the rest of my life. But those aren't the reasons for my regret...

My regret comes from adulthood, from the knowledge of what life really is once you're older. I was the youngest of three children. We were considered, at best, upper-lower-class well into my teenage years, at which point we finally hit lower-middle-class just as lower-middle-class became obsolete. My mother suffered from a chronic stomach bug (a mystery to her many doctors for a full decade, and another story all on its own), and could barely keep down food or water so she was prone to fainting spells and constantly accused of drug abuse. My father worked full-time, but it was a struggle. And my mother worked as much as she could, usually at a diner near home, but when you're hardly able to stand, how can you work a full-time job?

So here my parents were, doing their absolute best to raise my brother, my sister, and myself. And I had to go break my leg. Thousands in debt and weeks of taking me back and forth to the All Children's Hospital, simply because I did not go inside when my mother told me to.

If I could change the past without changing the present, I would have saved my parents so much heartache and so much stress. And I know, of course, it isn't possible to relive your regrets, to make better decisions, to take wiser paths... But oh, how I wish I could.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry

This is actually an idea I've been toying with... A self-help/autobiography called "If I could change the past without changing the present, I would..." And yes, that is 6 year old me with crutches, next to my goofy older brother and my super sweet grandmother. <3
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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© Copyright 2021. Jessica Borras All rights reserved.
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