I was eleven the summer I broke my arm. I know because it was the summer that the movie A Hard Day’s Night came out and that was 1964. My best friend Trixie had brought her cousin over to my house and the three of us were playing in my backyard, taking turns hitching ourselves atop a green pole and pushing each other off. The pole, about three foot high, ten inches around, dark green, smooth and shiny, was sunk into the earth to mark where the neighborhood’s power or phone lines were located. The pole’s rounded dome-like top resulted in a downward curve that we made a game of slipping and sliding off. While it didn’t occur to me at the time, the overgrown cucumber-like shape resembled nothing so much as a large penis worthy of the Jolly Green Giant.
After taking turn after turn of shoving each other off, I finally fell too hard and fast, landing face down in the middle of my mother’s staked tomato plants. I felt foolish and clumsy, like a little kid, especially in front of the other girl, a year older, already starting to develop.
When I got to my feet, Trixie stared and pointed at my left arm.
“Ew! What’s that?!’’ she yelled, the look on her cousin’s face making me feel like I had a really creepy case of the cooties.
“It’s just dirt’’ I answered, wishing Trixie would stop making such a fuss. But when I brushed off the clumps of earth, I saw a mangled mess where a straight freckled arm should be and I started wailing too.
Whether I was old enough to see the pole as a phallic symbol or not, my pre-pubescent hormones were in fact starting to stir that summer. In love with the Beatles—we were all in love with the Beatles—Trixie doted on George and I spent many a dreamy hour half-sick over Paul. He was my stand-in man, a substitute boyfriend that I could pour my girlish heart over from a distance, obsess and fantasize about safely. Still, when my father took me to the hospital, I caught the eye of a young workman as we backed out of the driveway. He was a college age boy probably working construction for the summer and Trixie and I had developed a crush on him, seeing him laboring in one of the new houses being built, his long legs in blue jeans, his arms wielding a shovel or a drill, some sort of masculine tool. I was mortified he saw me crying. I wondered whether he would approach Trixie to see if I was alright. Some sort of proof of my budding eleven year old charms. Of course, he didn’t. He must have thought we were a couple of cute kids, cute kids and nothing more.
Embarrassed he’d seen my crying like a child, it wasn’t as though I returned home asking him to sign my cast. I pushed thoughts of him aside and concentrated on Paul. Paul, who would never catch me sobbing like a six year old.
Broken arm, cast or no cast, I wasn’t about to miss seeing “A Hard Day’s Night’’. The only problem was like most eleven year olds I needed a few things from my parents first: their permission, their money for a movie ticket and a ride to the the theater.
My father said no, I couldn’t go, fretting over the stampede he predicted in the theater. Everywhere the Beatles went, girls thronged and screamed and my over-protective father feared the theater would be filled with a similar level of chaos. Girls screaming and crying, scrambling over seats in a mad rush to get to the celluloid versions of Paul, John, George and Ringo on the screen. A veritable stampede. He finally gave in to my princess tears, the caveat being he would not only drive us to the movies, he insisted on sitting in the theater with us.
We went, Trixie and I both wishing we could sit further away from my dad who perched on the seat next to me, an unwanted chaperone in a theatre full of girls of all ages, ready to protect me when the mania began. To make sure my broken arm didn’t get caught in the crush. To be honest things did get a little dicey when the final credits rolled and the curtain came down. Giddy and giggly, hormones flying, the music and the fab four driving us wild, girls and young women alike left the theater throbbing with something akin to mass hysteria. Somehow or other, flushed and excited, we got home safely where we played our Beatles records over and over again, spinning I’m Happy Just to Dance with You, sobbing on the floor of my bedroom over If I Fell. I for one wished I could wear my hair in a mod flip, a striped tie at my neck, like the older girls in the movie did.
When the broken bones healed—it turned out it was a compound fracture—and the doctor removed my cast, the blade of the electric saw slipped. It didn’t hurt but it left a small horizontal gash on my forearm.
I still have the half inch scar, a minus sign on my inner arm and I still love the Beatles.
We moved away from Niagara Falls just when I was starting high school. I missed Trixie so desperately I rode a Greyhound bus by myself from Los Angeles to Niagara Falls the summer I turned sixteen. She flew out to visit California the following year but not long after that we fell out of touch. Trixie stayed in Niagara Falls, married early, had a couple of kids. I married late and had just the one.
A couple of years ago I learned Trixie had inoperable cancer. I got back in touch via Facebook, I wanted her to know what a huge impact she’d had on my life. When I was changing from a child into an adolescent, it was Trixie, a chip in her tooth, a dimple in her cheek, and a cheeky laugh in her eyes, that I wanted to be.
Trixie passed away last month but like the scar, like the Beatles, like my feverish affection for Paul, she remains part of me. A plus sign perhaps, on my other arm.