In every family, there is one clumsy child. The one who spills at dinner, trips on the carpets, and knocks over the valuables. And in my family, the clumsy child was me.
Nothing was safe around me. I spent my life apologizing, uttering my token phrase, “it was an accident,” to the frustration of everyone around me. An aunt once told me, “You better not have one more accident in my house!” furrowing her brow and pointing her finger as she cleaned up yet another mess in the kitchen.
To date, my lack of grace or poise is the white-hot center of my shame. I figured out very young that managing (AKA hiding) my clumsiness needed to be my top priority if I wanted to stay on everyone else’s good side. This was especially important since I was raised by women who had an affinity for beautiful, fragile objects.
My mom filled the shelves of our living room with beautiful crystal sculptures. Big and small, clear and blue, expensive and more expensive. I was reminded of these ornate crystals while watching the Netflix show called Blown Away, where artists compete to create the best sculptures or objects from blown glass. I immediately binged the whole first season because I have been fascinated by glass blowing since I was a little. Perhaps it was just a survival instinct for the clumsy kid trying to cope with being surrounded by crystal.
When I was young, my family like to pile into the car and drive to The Lighthouse, an outlet mall in Michigan City, Indiana. It was a day-long affair because the drive was an hour each way, with a few solid hours of shopping in the middle. We strolled into Nike, Coach, Osh-Kosh, William Sonoma, and Waterford Crystal on each trip.
It was the store where the “Do. Not. Touch. Anything. Or. Else.” rule was very strictly enforced. I held my breath walking in, just hoping that my reputation as the clumsy kid would not become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t want to ruin our afternoon. I didn’t want to let everyone down. And I didn’t want to get left in the parking lot.
But I think the people who ran the store understood that more than the terrifying signs warning patrons you break it you buy it, kids need a distraction.
At the front of the store was a tiny TV. No more than 10 inches by 10 inches, where a video about how Waterford Crystal was made played on a loop. And, with fear in my heart and hands in my lap, I would sit on the floor of that store and watch that video over and over.
I didn’t move. I didn’t touch anything. And most importantly, I did not break anything.