When I think of the word “accident” it brings up a few different ideas in my head; to me it means that something happened out of “nowhere” or that it happened without any expectation that it could have happened. And while my accident April 2, 1994 seemed to be both out of nowhere and without expectation, I’m here to share that I haven’t been completely forthcoming with how out of alignment I'd become in the days leading up to it. What if the accident was the Universe’s way of righting itself on my behalf? What if in order to really get my attention, it needed to rearrange reality in such a way that I would wake the fuck up.
In February 1994 I was on top of the world. I felt like I’d finally broken through the tightly knit small town social circle of the sophomore class at Park City High School and I’d found my people. I’d tried connecting with the Mormon group of my classmates with not much success I also tried the cheerleader click. Again, with no great success. I sometimes hung out with the kayakers at the school, and we’d meet up once a week at the town pool, bring our boats and practice our rolls. Rolls were the most important part of being on a whitewater river. If you flip, you need to be able to get back up, even in turbulent waters. So the more practice I got rolling in the pool the more confident I was in the river. And it gave me a sense of belonging with the kayaker guys.
In addition to connecting with the kayakers, I also stumbled upon a laid back social group that was a mix of different grades, a mix of guys and girls, they hung out on weekends, didn’t acknowledge each other too much at school and they didn’t seem to fit in any prefabricated box other than their parents seemed to be generally absent or out of town a lot so there was lots of freedom. There were some athletic people in the group, but they weren’t just athletes, there were some smart people, but that wasn’t their main identity. So I fit in by not having anything big or special about me or knowing what I was all about. I was new, I was left handed, and I was 1 of 2 sophomores to have both a license and a suburban, so I think that helped me. But the best part of that time period, when I was just a few months post Texas and new Utah girl, I got my first real boyfriend and his name was Eric. And for the first time in a while I was happy.
Eric was a ski jumper who had big dreams to be in the Olympics, so in February 1994 when I heard on KPCW, the town radio that Salt Lake City had won the bid for the 2002 Olympics, I called Eric from my enormous car phone that was plugged into my cigarette lighter of my brand new black hard top Jeep Wrangler, and I listened with excitement to him tell me how he was going to be in those Olympics in his home town that were 8 years away. I was so proud. And me, in my naivety, daydreamed that we, that are 15 and 16 years old, would still be together. And I went on to imagine myself sitting in the family section of the crowd cheering my man on to win the gold. And as we were about to hang up the phone, he asked me to be his prom date, which was a little over a month away, in mid April. Yes please and thank you Universe.
In life and especially in high school, a lot can happen in a little over a month, and so it did in my life as well. I hadn’t even gotten the chance to go shopping with girl friends for prom dresses yet when Eric randomly broke up with me at the Pizza Hut across from the school one day. I don’t remember much of his reasoning for the break up because I was in a fog after I heard the words, “I think we should just be friends,” but it was something about needing to keep his focus on his Olympic training, and having a girlfriend was distracting him. Fair enough. But of course, since I’d already forecasted 8 years into the future together, I was devastated. We left Pizza Hut at the same time, but Eric opted to walk back to school, and I numbly got back into my Jeep went to my family's Red House, just a few minutes away and I got in bed. Not a good time for school with the state I was in.
The next day I returned to class and I knew instantly word had spread of Eric and my relationship change back to friends. But what did this breakup mean if we were in the same circle of friends? Would I get ousted from the friend group as well? And did my invite to prom still stand? Can ex’s who are now friends go together? Those and many more questions circled through my head as I navigated the school hall doing my best to smile.
I could tell Eric was avoiding me because he was not present at all the next few days, when usually he was everywhere. But I got my answer regarding prom; I heard from a mutual friend that he’d invited a gorgeous freshmen cheerleader to prom, so cliche. Her name was Kim and I hated her not only because she was going to prom with my date, but also because she had perfect legs, clear skin and was apparently not a distraction for Eric’s Olympic training. I felt sad, embarrassed, dismissed and lost; like I just wanted to wave a magic wand and disappear from this hellish small town high school life. I wanted to be somewhere that didn’t have such a well of complicated emotions for me to swim through, and somewhere that I didn’t have to bump into Eric and Kim holding hands and making out in the school parking lot. I’d also be fine with having a handsome guy appear out of nowhere, sweep me off my feet and agree to be my prom date.
And so the universe provided me what I asked for; a ticket out of my existing life.
On day 25, I wrote about some of the things I did for love and I shared how I met a hot older ski bum named Carl in the parking lot of Park City Mountain Ski Resort, and how for some odd reason I decided to tell him my name was Katie when I gave him my phone number to hang out. Maybe I intuitively knew our relationship would be fast, furious and life changing, so giving him a different name was a preparation for that; or maybe I just needed a detour from being Harriet. Either way, the plot for me to exit my existing life was thickening and on April 1st, 1994, also known as “April Fool’s Day” in the U.S., I (as Katie) was making the final preparations for a week long rock climbing Spring Break trip down to Moab, Utah with Carl, Carl’s bff Dylan and my bff Trish.
But of course that’s not the story my parents got. According to them, Trish and I were headed to Moab for a church trip with the group, “Young Life.” But at that point I’ve never been to a Young Life meeting in my life, but it sounded like a trip my parents wouldn’t question.
But Katie’s Spring Break trip ended on its second day. All hell broke loose and I (as Katie) ended up in a helicopter headed to the hospital in Salt Lake City and my parents were called by a nurse from my own cell phone telling them to go to the hospital and I may not make it.
More on that another day.
I’m going to go snuggle with my family ❤️