Last week I was adjusting my chair at the table. I was too far away and wanted to get closer to my food. I went for it, but I wasn’t successful. I nailed my left knee on the underside of the table and the impact set a few of the glasses to rocking, risking a chaotic spill. This time there was no slop on the table, but I immediately thought of another time I bumped my knee on a table. It was 1999, I was a junior in high school, and I was attending my first high school dance.
Let’s call my date Jane. That sounds great, except that’s the name of a grandma and the middle name of my sister so that makes it a poor choice really. Moving on. I was in a new town, at a new school, and at a new church. I didn’t know anyone. I think it was a Sunday night when Jane came to the door. My mom answered the door (and I just embellished that because I can’t remember who exactly answered the door…it wasn’t me). I was called to the door and there was Jane, a girl I had a bit of a crush on back in the church camp days. The crush was lingering because I was fairly excited that there was a girl at the front door asking for me and she wasn’t here to sell me girl scout cookies or magazine subscriptions so she could go to Disney World for the entire summer. No, Jane was at the door to ask me to homecoming. I convinced myself it was out of pity because she went to the same church, I was the new guy in town, and I was the pastor’s kid who didn’t have a date to the dance. I don’t know whether any of those reasons are accurate, but I have suffered through bouts of low self-esteem and during one such bout I must have settled on one of those explanations being accurate. I think I know precisely which bout that was…I was on the dance floor at homecoming with Jane and I started to move and groove and she immediately gravitated toward her friends. I didn’t know them and she seemed to enjoy dancing with them more than with me and all this conversation was happening at chest height, the music was loud, and there wasn’t a face in the room I could see clearly, just a bunch of hair hovering around my shoulders.
I am getting way ahead of myself. Earlier in the night there was, at one point, some hot chocolate to be consumed. Jane and I were with three other couples that evening. They all seemed much more serious than we were, but we knew them from church and it seemed right to tag along with them. I think this was my decision. I didn’t know anyone outside of youth group so we wound up in a churchy type of homecoming group. The group was kind of awkward, but I was the new kid, 6’8” (about), and on my first date to a high school dance…it was going to be awkward with anyone.
The cool thing to do back then if you didn’t have any money to go to a nice restaurant was to do it all for free by doing a round robin dinner. Apps here. Entrees there. Desserts over there. This way the parents are more involved in the evening and they get to pay for all the food. It’s excellent. It’s the poor man’s homecoming/prom dinner.
I am getting distracted again. We were all set up for dessert. The hot chocolate was on the table. I, being the tallest guy there, was given the seat at the head of the table. Most people had settled in, but I had to squeeze by someone and a china cabinet I was taller than. I made it to my seat, pulled it out and I was going to do something familiar to all tall people. We can’t get into small spaces like all of you average people can so we adapt. Our go to maneuver in a tight spot is sort of a controlled sideways fall/slide. Once we commit to the movement there is no backing out. That is to say, once you start falling from a height of 6’8” you are going to wind up on the ground or, in this case, the chair you were aiming for. In one fell swoop I was going to get my butt in that chair and swing my legs under the table. It was going well, it really was, until my legs flew under the table and connected with a mysterious appendage protruding down from the underside of the table. Hitting this made the whole table rock. Hot chocolate went everywhere. A few glasses tipped over. I can’t remember if it actually got on anyone, but it was all over the lacy white tablecloth. I was silent and then profusely apologetic to my date and her mother who happened to be serving us the hot chocolate.
It was not, at the time, a good moment to be tall. Perhaps, I could say I even hated my height at that moment. It was embarrassing. I had just made a mess and all I wanted to do was to fit in and be cool with my date. But last week when I bumped my knee on the table I smiled for two reasons. One, it made me think of the homecoming dance in 1999, a night which I hadn’t thought about in a decade. And two, there is no bump on the knee I could take which would make me curse my height now. I welcome the next bump, it will surely dust off a memory that will make me not necessarily feel happy, but just feel.