Another week of Writing Class and another writing assignment connected to our book The Creek by JT Glisson. We were asked to write a story about something that happened to us as a child that encouraged us to do something different either in our childhood or as an adult. Well that was certainly something to think about.
I know I’ve got a list as long as I am tall about things that have happened in my life that have affected me. As I sorted through the memories, the thoughts of JT Glisson’s story of his youth kept cycling in my head. I’m sure it was probably because I’m in the middle of reading his book and just met the man when he spoke to one of our classes.
I learned that JT was born with club feet and he wore braces on his legs when he was growing up. He talks about how went to the Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville for the first nine years of his life. It was a different medical world in the ’20’s and 30’s so at the time, this was the only way his parents could make sure he could walk and not end up in a wheelchair.
From JT’s perspective, it appeared his neighbors and the kids he played with didn’t treat him with pity due to his leg braces. Even though the folks from Cross Creek lived in the state of Florida, their mannerisms and way of talking reminded me more of the people I know who are raised in the south. I learned during my years of living in Georgia that you can say just about anything you want about a person as long as you end it with ‘bless her/his heart.’ They would say something like “JT was a born with trouble in his feet, had a curious streak about him but he did his best to help his family with the work around their land. Bless his heart.”
When I read about JT’s struggles and heard him speak about it to our class, it hit me what I needed to write about. You see, when I was young I wore braces on my feet too. I was born pigeon-toed with both of my feet pointing directly inward towards each other. I have a vivid memory of being a small child and kicking my feet against the walls of my grandparents house while I wore those braces on my feet.
I asked my mom for details about what had happened and did I just imagine kicking the walls. Mom was pretty amazed I remembered this since apparently I was only about 18 months old. I had always envisioned this as a Forest Gump moment (run Forest run!) but my mom explained to me what my braces looked like. She said it was more like a board with two shoes attached to it. I would put my feet into the shoes and wore the braces at night for over a year so they could straighten my feet out.
No one took photos of me wearing the foot braces so I found something that looks like what my mom described. This a newer version of what I wore as my mom described the board as something that looked more like a skateboard.
Mom said that I really was kicking the walls. She thought I was just restless in bed and finding it hard to sleep with those things on my feet. I really think it was more then that. I believe it was the first moment in my life where I was fighting for my rights. I wasn’t too pleased with the situation and without the ability to truly verbalize it, I was going to kick those walls to let them know how I felt.
Apparently my grandparents weren’t too happy with the damage I did. They told my mom that they had to make repairs in the room I slept in and they were hesitant to have me stay with them again until those braces were off my feet. I feel pretty bad about that part.
Guess if my family were Southerns or maybe even from Cross Creek, they would have looked at it differently. They probably would have just said, “Look at what Penney did to our walls. She sure is a strong willed kid with a stubborn spirit. I can only imagine what she can do with her life when she sets her mind to it. Bless her heart.”
Photo credit: Bless Her Heart