This personal narrative was written by Franky Jebb, one of my students from Monroe Community College who was enrolled in my Comp-101 class during the Fall 2011 semester.
I’m pleased to share his words here.
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The Eight-Year Old Chimney Sweep
One summer day, my older sister, Michaela, convinced me to slide down a chimney. This isn’t as traumatic as it may at first sound. It wasn’t a roof chimney, just a stubby 7-foot chimney used for backyard bonfires and barbecues. At age eight, the thought of slipping down a chimney sounded positively intriguing. With Santa Claus as my main inspiration, you can imagine how a child might see shimmying down a chimney as the experience of a lifetime.
And it was.
I went in feet first: my arms reached up to the sky, my head just barely visible.
But part way down, I got stuck.
Which was pretty much when I realized there wasn’t going to be an easy way out.
After a few feeble attempts to free me, Michaela scampered inside the house to get my mother. Soon, it seemed the whole neighborhood had congregated in front of my chimney.
Stuck in my tight spot for close to an hour, I started to panic. People shouted muffled instructions and tugged on my hands. I didn’t think I would ever get out of there. I could hear people mumbling but could see nothing except the body of my neighbor kneeling over me and — occasionally — the summer sky.
Finally, thanks to the combined efforts of neighbors – some of whom slithered inside the chimney where the coals would normally be and pushed on the soles of my bare feet, and other neighbors who yanked my arms from the atop — I was rescued. Applause filled my ears and I was surrounded by a large group of friends, families, and neighbors who were relieved to see me back on the ground once again. With my skin sooty and the smell of charcoal in my nostrils, I climbed off the cement stone monument and slunk into my house feeling like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.
My father lectured me sternly about the dangers of putting myself into places not designed for people. Later, from the living room, I heard my father giving Michaela a lecture similar to the one I had received.
So I have learned to avoid tight places, yes.
And I learned about the dangers when one acts without considering the consequences.
But the real lesson that I learned from getting stuck in the chimney was an unforeseen one: I developed a humorous outlook on things. What I mean by that is if a serious situation occurs, I do my best to make a little joke out of it. Obviously, some things need to be treated seriously, but after the event had passed, my family proceeded to tease me. They poked fun at my “pleasantly plump” figure and wondered how I ever fit down that narrow passage. Ten years later, they still enjoy telling my friends about my most embarrassing moment. I learned that sometimes instead of making a big deal over everything, it’s better to go with it with a little self-deprecating humor.
When something has been bothering me, I simply remember getting pulled out of a chimney by my neighbors, being covered in ash and soot, and smelling of charcoal and burnt wood: it had to be hilarious.
Being the neighborhood chimney sweep is not something I share with everyone I meet, but when it comes to giving myself a reality check, it helps to look back on my most embarrassing moment, and remember my sense of humor. I truly believe that because I was more wedged than a slice of Gouda that day, I became more optimistic and fun-loving than other people. Finding the positive in things can be hard to do, especially in depressing scenarios but if you can, it often creates a better situation for everyone involved.
What do you remember getting in trouble for doing when you were little? Would you do it again?