Rachel Falls the First Time

The three big boys served at Stations of the Cross on Friday night, thus setting the stage for the story of Awkward I’m about to share.

Friday night, the children and I arrived early at the church to allow time for Ethan, Elliott and Charlie to go get ready to be altar servers. We dropped them off at the backdoor and then me, Augie and the littles took our time walking in. We had about ten minutes to spare, and as I’ve learned (the painful, difficult way), a two-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy can make a quiet church seem super-duper cavernous if given too much time.

But enter we did, because I was feeling strong. Also, Henry and Isa have, here and there, exhibited tiny little signs of decent behavior. The last few times we’ve gone to stations, Henry was the Essence of Goodness, following along in the booklet, or at the very least sitting quietly and coloring with his crayons.

We quietly entered the church, me giving the littles a gentle reminder of the behavior I expected. It was me with both of these little guys but Paul was set to arrive at any moment.

As we turned to walk into the pew, well the details are hazy. Maybe Henry and Augie were in front of me, maybe I was leading the way. What I do remember is that Isabel walked just in front of me (maybe I was carrying her?) and as she settled into our seat, she didn’t land where I expected she would and to avoid falling on top of her I leaned to the side and fell smack on the ground. On my bottom.

That would have been bad enough but as I fell, I heard a POP! in my left ankle and felt a distinct TWIST! I kind of imagined, based on painful feelings felt, that my foot (for a split second) was hanging ten perpendicular to my ankle. Ouch!

But sadly, it was more like OUCH!! OUCH to the ever-loving-OUCH. Now I know I had the self-control to not drop any major bombs there in our beautiful Oldest Catholic Church in the South. But I didn’t hold all my feelings inside. It hurt. Like crazy. And in those ten to twenty seconds that followed what I felt was fear and panic and a distinct loss of sensation in my left big toe.

“I broke my ankle,” was my first thought. I just sat there slumped over on the floor in that tiny space between one pew and the next. I wasn’t nearly as embarrassed as you’d like to think because it hurt so. darn. bad.

It was very sweet because a few people came to my aid. They kind of helped me shimmy onto the seat and the whole time I’m embarrassed that I can’t refuse anyone’s help. I’m still fixated on the fear that I’ve broken my ankle and as much as I’d like to downplay this whole event, I can’t put any pressure on my left foot so I’m technically at the mercy of every kind soul standing there to help.

I could not say no to the offers of assistance. Deep down I knew there was just no way. I could not refuse the offers of ice and a first aid kit, all the while knowing that this was overkill only in that my foot was still attached to my ankle, proof that nothing snapped off and things were not as bad as I’d feared.

So there I sat on the pew, my left leg propped up, my left big toe dead to the world. No feeling in one part of my foot, offset by the deep, pulsating throbs of pain in the other.

Meanwhile, as you may have guessed, Stations of the Cross began. And there I was, left leg propped up on the pew, a two-year-old and a five-year-old now under the care of my 11-year-old. At some point in the haze of my pain and agony, I waved them out of the church and into the cry room. I could see them through the window at the back of the church, me only a few pews away. Augie, having been the baby for five-and-a-half years before Henry came along has never been asked to do any kind of heavy lifting in the childcare department because we considered him to be the baby for so many years. But he was managing alright and I was checking the main church doors compulsively as I waited and prayed and begged the Lord that Paul would be walking in the door at any moment.

The pain was still significant, enough that I sort of watched in an out-of-body experience as Father made his way down the aisle and my three sons made their way closer to us, station by station. Off through the large window I could see the bobbing heads of hyperactive toddlers, small children being (barely) contained by their older sibling. At one point I suspected things were getting a bit much and anyway I was basically waiting for that to happen. Henry and Isabel were in the cry room without mommy and daddy? Party time!

Here’s when things got bad. Because I saw Mr. Harper, who organizes the altar servers and also runs the church and is your basic Man on the Scene, I saw him leave the church proper and head towards the cry room. And I thought, “oh crap.” You would too.

I guess things were louder than I thought? And there I sat like a lame duck, literally, too scared to attempt to stand. In too much pain. Also too mortified. What an everlovin’ mess. There I sat and made a visual triangle, eyes to cry room window, eyes to my ankle, eyes darting over to assess Father’s location. Over and over and over, with an occasional glance at the door as I prayed for Paul’s arrival.

“This all feels really familiar!” thought I, my linear leg trapping me in the pew. There I sat, perfectly still as the ice dulled the pain, watching through the window at the crime scene that was “Small Children Unattended.”

And then I realized, I had seen it all before.

James Stewart - rear window - & Grace Kelly

Unfortunately, in this instance, I didn’t get to be Grace Kelly. I was, in fact, Jimmy Stewart. There I sat watching in agony as the horror unfolded before my eyes. Before my watching eyes and my helpless leg.

And then, it got better. So much better. Because I saw the three children — Henry and Isabel and Augie trailing behind — I saw those three exit the cry room and then, despite my prayers to the contrary, the door to the church swung open and here came my two littles with Augie hot on their heels.

Of course, if you’ve been keeping track of the priest and the altar servers, you’d realize that yes, they were at this point predictably right in front of our pew. The priest was in the center aisle, to my back, and the altar servers were at the side aisle, the one I faced. The one that was leading my young children to a direct hit, all six of them set to collide on the trajectory of “wild small children” and “big boys just trying to do their job.”

The good news is that Paul walked in about twenty seconds after all this. Just as Henry and Isabel and Augie climbed into my pew, just as Ethan and Elliott and Charlie stopped at Station Number Seven directly in front of me, Paul swung open the door to the church and sat behind me. Of course, at this point he didn’t realize that I was out of commission and he watched in some confusion as I sat back and let Henry stand on the pew and wave his arms in wild excitement at the sight of his three older brothers standing right in front of us with their candles and crucifix.

“Take them out,” I whispered as quietly as I could. It was the tone of a desperate woman. There are still nail marks in the pew.

A few minutes later, after the altar servers had rounded the aisle and started back up the other side of the church, I worked up the nerve to put just enough pressure on my left foot to hobble out of the church and into the cry room. I had grabbed Isabel (who by now was feeling like a feral child, what with the lack of parental control for twelve whole minutes) and told Paul that I would be happy to just go home. Walk me to the car with this girl, she on the verge of hysteric meltdown (oh wait, I didn’t mention Isabel was exhausted, adding to the fun!).

Which is all a long way of saying that was THE WORST. And also, The Best.

AND: by Saturday afternoon, I was able to walk around no problem. I even did my Jillian workout video. The ankle is still a tad sore, nowhere near what I had anticipated based on the level of comatose I felt Friday night! Whew.

The end.


  1. You poor thing! I’m sure you handled it with a lot more dignity than I would have. I hope your foot is feeling better!

  2. The only thing I can think to say is I love you. Maybe combined with a good ole southern ‘bless your baby heart.’ But really, after reading this, I just really do love ya even more. Now, what’s the diagnosis on the ankle??

  3. I, too, hope your ankle is better by now. Raising children really isn’t for the faint hearted, is it? Some days it’s just grace and more grace that help us all make it to bedtime in one piece. =]

  4. So glad your ankle wasn’t worse! I’ve had those horrible falls accompanied by popping noises, and it usually means several weeks of hobbling at least.

    And thank you for sharing these experiences. Solidarity!

    • Indeed! Paul said he once had to go to the emergency room after twisting his ankle and couldn’t walk for several days. I felt better after that, like maybe I wasn’t crazy after all…

  5. Would it bring you any comfort to know that I was at stations that night and did not notice a thing!!! I did see you guys as I walked in, but wanted to sit down before it was late so I headed up front thinking that on the way out I would say “hi”, but then when stations were over you were not there. Who knew!! I wanted to tell you how wonderful your boys looked serving stations and how grown up and handsome and so different from one another they all are – I hope you feel better soon – xoxox

  6. Hilarious title! Glad you ankle is better. Easter Sunday in a boot cast is too awful to contemplate.

    • I’m embarrassed to admit one of my first thoughts was…”if I broke my ankle, I won’t be able to eat as much candy.”

      • Ok… I’d love to hear how that little thrill of fear made it into the mix. I would have seen the probability of being somewhat immobile as holding out the promise of some undisturbed, even indulged by the fam, gnoshing on all things Easter.

  7. Sometimes I feel a little bit helpless like that when I’m 80 months pregnant and can’t move my body out of the sit position during Mass to help a child in need of a bottom tap. The pain, the humiliation, the nerve wrenching. I feel for you…but am happy to know you are feeling tip top again. Jillian wouldn’t let you bow-out anyway!

    • haha! She wouldn’t — Jillian is hardcore. She’d probably come find me and demand more planking.

      Good luck with pregnancy! Isabel turns three next week. It seems like yesterday I spent that Lent as an extra large immobile person!

  8. A great post for “fallen women” everywhere! Love the way you told it. Glad your ankle is doing better. Happy Easter!

  9. Oh.my.!! I know that helpless feeling. When you are somewhere that you can’t grab a child, or cry out, or make any sort of motion that would draw attention to yourself or the situation. And yet, if you don’t, disaster will happen. The worst! Glad your ankle is better.

  10. I feel so bad for laughing, but that was just. too. much. I did that to my ankle a few years ago, missing the last stair into the kitchen, and my husband stood over me, trying not to laugh, while I was so scared to move because it hurt so bad. This scene you endured is precicely why I opted last minute not to take all six kids with me on a solo mission to Mass tonight. I’m glad your ankle isn’t broken!