Monday, October 1, 2012

Memory Lane Monday: When Gaming Brings Us Together

During the summer before I started middle school, a semi-traumatic event occurred in my (usually) quiet suburban neighborhood. I was outside in my backyard futzing around when an ambulance and fire truck screamed down my street and I could here the brakes screech to a halt not too far from my house. I sprinted down the hill in my bare feet, anxious, and morbidly curious to see what was happening. Once I got down to the corner a small crowd of neighbors had gathered and were milling about murmuring to each other. I could make out the form of my 8-year-old neighbor, Bailey, sprawled out on the pavement. An overturned bicycle lay in the grass near her where someone had clearly tossed it in haste. She was screaming like a feral animal. I could see blood dripping down her leg as her mom knelt helplessly next to her and the paramedics attempted to assess the situation. 
As I stood huffing and puffing in a small state of shock, my best frenemy who lived down the street pranced over to me. I really didn't like her and only hung out with her when it was convenient because she was a manipulative little snot who had done some very cruel things to me in the past. But, I had just gotten back from Bible camp (yes, I said Bible camp) and was still overwhelmed by my newfound saved-ness/spirituality and all this forgiveness and proselytizing stuff, so I thought Frenemy and I could wipe the slate clean.  We started chit-chatting about the coming school year (7th grade was going to be the best) and about what was happening in the street in front of us. Frenemy said something kind of funny and I laughed really hard, but mostly out of nervousness while watching this small child scream on the pavement. I was immediately consumed by guilt (thanks, Bible camp!) That guilt was made even worse by Bailey's howl, "Stop! It hurts! Just get me to the damn hospital!"
That's when I knew shit was serious. When an 8 year old girl is in so much agony that she screams orders at 3 full-grown adults in uniform, you do what she goddamn says. What put the kibosh on my dislike of Frenemy and got me thinking that I'm not so good at this whole 'forgive people because Jesus says so' thing, was when she started mocking Bailey for screaming so much. Maybe it was Frenemy's way of dealing with her discomfort of the situation (I'm pretty sure she had some serious psychological issues even before this,) but at that moment, I was angry at her for being such a bitch, and embarrassed that I was hanging out with her. I don't think we spoke again after that day, but I felt that Bailey deserved retribution for how Frenemy had mocked her, and for how I had laughed, even though I didn't actually do anything wrong.

A week or two later, we all learned that Bailey had suffered a broken leg, but no life-threatening injuries. My sister and I put together a mobile lemonade stand on our little red wagon and wandered around the neighborhood selling our wares. We quickly realized that there was a reason lemonade stands weren't mobile. It was messy and sticky and our neighborhood had lots of hills. Not to mention, people don't really like it when you ring their doorbell trying to sell them warm lemonade in a Dixie cup. Nonetheless, we were determined. We'd raised all of $1 when we stopped at Bailey's house.  Her mom answered the door and we told her we brought Bailey some get-well-soon-lemonade. I remember the touched look on her mom's face when we told her we were trying to raise money for a get-well card/present. She invited us in and we presented Bailey with her complimentary Dixie cup of lemonade.
But it looked so easy in the stock photo!
My sister chatted with Bailey since they were closer in age, and I talked to Bailey's mom. Bailey's leg was up in a traction sling with a dozen pins and screws sticking out of her leg brace. It was definitely the grossest thing I'd seen at that point in my life. Her mom told me that Bailey had been riding her bike, skidded around the corner, and fallen near the storm drain, nearly falling in. She fell at just the right angle to give her leg a compound fracture and royally mess up her knee.  We stayed for a little while and played some Nintendo with Bailey.  As we were leaving, Bailey's mom told us we could come by any time and hang out with Bailey because she was getting lonely being cooped up in the house all day. That's when I knew what I could do: I loved video games, Bailey loved video games. I saw a way to make her happy, and ease my well-meaning but very misplaced guilty conscience.

"Religious guilt at your service!"
Copyright Disney 1940
For the rest of the summer until school started, I went over to Bailey's house for a few hours nearly every day and played on her SNES with her. She was sweet and spunky and if we'd been in the same grade, we probably would have been really good friends. While I don't remember what we talked about every day, I do remember the look on her face when I would come over.  It was like I was pulling her out of a dark pit and she was seeing the sky for the first time.  She had hope, and it felt good. When I would leave, her mom would thank me profusely, and even tried to pay me a couple of times.  I wasn't doing it for money, and I told her so, but she insisted on giving me a few dollars every now and then. At first, my pilgrimage down to their house was like a self-inflicted penance, but I found that I really just liked having another girl to play video games with, and I know Bailey did too. What started out as an obligation to right some imagined wrong, ended up being a fun and memorable summer.
 After school started, I didn't see Bailey much anymore because she was still in elementary school and I had moved up to middle school with all the self-absorbed drama it entails.  Also, once she healed and could walk again, Bailey didn't need me to come over every day. She had friends her own age to pay with. As I struggled through 7th grade, and health issue of my own, a part of me longed to be back in Bailey's living room playing Super Tennis again. Her family moved away the year after that, so I didn't see Bailey again, but, I still remember the summer I got to make a little girl with a broken leg happy just by playing video games with her. Best guilt trip ever.

This is seriously the only reason why I understand how tennis works.

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