Maybe you’ve seen this story that’s circulating on social media:
“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture.
The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones. But no.
Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed.
Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die.
You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink, or hunt for food.
You are meat for prowling beasts.
No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone through reocvery is where civilization starts.
We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.
~ Ira Byock
It’s a hard summer. The story hits home.
It’s especially poignant at our house, as we are in Week Two of Broken Leg Summer, Take Two.
Tucker broke his tibia (shin). He was swimming with some buddies, and he jumped off a tall ledge into shallow water.
Broken tibia, shifted growth plate, six weeks of zero weight bearing, and a whole lot of conversations.
He’s okay, it could have been much worse, and we are all very tired.
“Didn’t you… do this once before?” It’s the most commonly asked question in response to our current situation.
Yes. Yes, we did.
The differences this time:
Tuck is five years older. He’s the size of a man.
He broke his shin, not his foot, which means no knee-scooter this time.
One can’t kneel on a knee scooter when one is healing his kneeling parts.
He is a whole lot of the muscle around here. But with crutches, his hands are full.
So, the real hero is Tyler, who happens to be making some serious bank by doing twice the chores and mowing all the lawns.
As my brother pointed out, “The last time you did this, you got a husband out of the deal.”
True story. And I couldn’t – could not – do this Take Two Summer without him.
We are all learning so much this summer:
One of us is learning to be patient, because not everybody is quick to leap when he needs a refill.
One of us is learning to consider others before himself, because self sacrifice is not the first tendency he was born with.
One of us is learning that I wasn’t kidding when I said, “We are an endless hot mess. Are you sure you want to take this on, you silver fox of a man who could live a free and easy life with no strings attached? You’re sure? Because we have strings. And they have knots.”
And one of us is identifying deeply with the words of Toni Morrison: “Write at the edges of the day.”
Whole feasts are hard to come by, but I can make a meal of crumbs and morsels.
In sad related news:
All summer weekends of The Pen and The Page have been postponed.
Covid Restrictions had strained our plans, and Broken Leg Summer sealed the deal.
If I liked something about this,
I like that Tucker’s designed a cast with sparkles.
I like that the little girls in the neighborhood knocked on our door to bring him the tiniest bouquet of wildflowers in a Brad Paisley shot glass.
I like that he has discovered Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite fiction writers.
I like that when I say “Tuck was swimming with his buddies,” this included his brother, one of his buddies.
I like that we are making a list of things you can do without a tibia. (Thus far, the list includes baking a cake, washing windows, and changing your Mom’s license plates.)
I like that this jump off the cliff brought an awareness to all of the cliff-jumping that was happening at this particular spot, and if Tucker’s shin is the sacrifice on the altar of awareness so that nothing more important gets broken, then perhaps this is a small price to pay.
And I like that Tuck has broken enough bones to now say, “My mom always gets to be the first one to sign my cast.”
Please be well, my friends. Take care of each other. We are best when we serve others, so be civilized. Care for the broken, in every single way.