I have spent my entire life as a person of small stature. Yes, that’s a fancy way of saying I’m short—sixty inches tall to be exact. Both of my parents are quite attractive, and both have had the fortune of reaching great heights. My petite frame, therefore, has caused some concern. To my father’s family, a band of gentle giants, my sisters and I are Lilliputians.
As I was “growing up,” it was troubling to my parents, and to me, that in every consecutive year, I had been assigned to the first row of my class picture. Moreover, by age four, my younger sister had long surpassed me, causing great consternation on my behalf. This fact, no doubt, led my mother to take me to a specialist to have my bones examined. It was his job to determine whether I had some sort of growth disorder.
After searching x-ray images of my wrists, I was given the all clear, and a “diagnosis” or height range that I might attain. I recall the doctor stating that I had a probable chance of reaching five feet seven inches as an adult. Certainly, this was the upper end of the range, but I wasn’t interested in anything less than five-seven.It was a number, as I would later come to accept, an imaginary goal that loomed in the distance.
When kids would taunt me about my height, I would hold steadfastly to the knowledge that a growth spurt was on the horizon. I would think to myself, Little do you know, I’m coming back to school like a supermodel in the fall…However, to my closest friends I dared to utter my hopes, “I’m growing three inches this summer!” I declared this year after year to no avail.
Why wasn’t I growing? Why had I stopped? I wondered if I was somehow allergic to the process. In truth, my growing pains as a younger child were excruciating. I kept my mother up many nights groaning, completely sleepless and anxious with the change in my bones. Every millimeter tore through my flesh and pounded against me like a hollow drum. Doom-doom-doom. My bones throbbed to the beat of steady misery. Some nights, after ingesting aspirin, that my mother had to crush up and concealed in chocolate, I begged the pain to stop, to go away forever. It seems that they did. :)
What is the WWRFC? It is the Williams Women’s Rugby Football Club, a fine team, and I am a former player. Yes, I am.
Despite my size, I spent two seasons of my college career scraping in the scrum as a wing forward. I participated in lineout, and even had the opportunity to substitute for the hooker (a position in the scrum) on several occasions. The scrum is designed to work defensively on the rugby pitch, or field. The scrum usually contains eight large players. However, a wing forward may be a lighter and more mobile player. I was able to break off the scrum readily and assist the line with offensive play. As we attempted to get a try, or “touch down.”
Does this game sound confusing? Well, to most Americans it is. Rugby is a British import—the game which originally inspired American football. I, however, like to think of it as the REAL game. It’s nonstop action. No one waits for the offensive coach to call a play from a booth high in the stands. Ruggers, or players, don’t stop and start a new line of scrimmage every minute. To me, that’s chess not football.
What’s great about rugby is the fast paced, hard driving force of the game. The line of scrimmage is established by the position of the ball on the pitch. Players must stay on the opposite side of the ball, according to which team has won possession, in order to remain “on-sides.”
The scrum, or "the pack," is a crucial group of players. The pack’s job is to interlock, get low, and RUCK—that is push, stomp, kick, press, and rush over—the ball. Once the scrum has dominated the ball, or rucked the ball, the fly-half sends the ball out to the players called “the line.” The line can boot, meaning to kick the ball forward or they may pass in two directions—laterally or behind. There are no forward passes in real rugby! This makes is challenging to make progress down the field. Players on the line have to burst forward to catch a ball coming at them from the side.
Tackling is a requirement in rugby, and believe me, it isn’t done with helmets and pads. No. Ruggers have only a mouth-guard and pure grit.
Some call it elegant violence. I call it a great time.
The World According to Garp
Great Read, Not for Young
Tragic humor drives the plot of John Irving’s The World According to Garp—the tale of one fictional man’s muddled life story.
Garp is a lovable, yet imperfect, protagonist whose entrance into this world is solely planned by his mother Jenny Fields. She is an independent, New England woman who wishes to have a child without a husband. Despite the taboo of unwed motherhood at the end of World War II, Jenny Fields conceives Garp and raises him on her own. Thus begins Garp’s unique uphill battle through the social and political turmoil of American life in the twentieth century.
What makes this novel so affecting is its unflinching honesty. There is no act of humanity and inhumanity that is left unexamined. From love and loyalty to adultery and assassination, Garp reveals the true recesses of light and dark in the human spirit. The characters in this narrative are easy to admire and abhor, praise and pity. Garp is a wonderful father; yet, he is so frustratingly selfish with his wife. In turn, his wife loves Garp dearly but makes a decision that destroys her family. Jenny Fields is courageously protects women who, like herself, are considered outcasts; nonetheless, she is incapable of protecting her son, who is made outcast by his very parentage and odd upbringing. So it is in real life. People are tragically flawed. Irving’s gift in this novel is to bring laughter out of such things as being mauled by a dog, being rejected by a parent, and being the witness to death.
Irving poignantly asserts, “we are all terminal cases,” bound to end our days eventually. Not one of us will experience a perfect life nor make perfect decisions. Ultimately, Irving seems to suggest that we need not judge one another too harshly. This is a message that will touch the heart of any mature reader.
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