Monday, September 9, 2013

Taking Chances

I recently read Covered Bridges by Barbara Kingsolver, and I reflected on the author's motif of taking chances. 

Here's what you need to know about the short story: An older couple is contemplating starting a family, but they want to test out their parenting skills beforehand. To do this, they babysit their friend's child, Melinda, for a weekend. Things are going okay until the narrator's wife Lena, who is deathly allergic to bug stings and bites is stung by a hornet. The narrator must inject an EpiPen into her arm to save her and amid all the chaos and healing in the hospital, Lena realizes that she does not want a child, and that her husband is enough. 

Taking chances is a motif that Kingsolver used throughout the story. The narrator and his wife, Lena, have different beliefs when it comes to taking chances, but their beliefs flip-flop over the course of the story. 

The narrator remembers the first time he called his wife, back when she was just a random poison hotline operator. He had gotten diatomaceous earth in his eye, but after he healed he called her a second time and set up a date with her. He recalls, "And to think I nearly didn't. A person could spend most of a lifetime in retrospective terror, thinking of all the things one nearly didn't do" (Kingsolver 46). The narrator is glad he took this risk, now that he is married to Lena; however, he seems unsure when it comes to having a child. 

Lena has never been more sure about anything in her life and she is constantly taking chances. Every day she takes a chance by going outside and being exposed to insects that could end her life. (She is extremely allergic). Yet, she senses her husband's anxiety about having a baby and together they care for Melinda for the weekend. Eventually her husband agrees that they should have a child, and even says he would quit his career to raise him or her. However, the tables are turned when Lena is stung by a hornet and her throat starts swelling, causing her husband to inject her EpiPen into her arm. In the hospital, she explains to her husband that during her near-death experience she realized something: "Having a child wouldn't make you immortal. It would make you twice as mortal. It's just one more life you could possibly lose besides your own" (Kingsolver 59). 

I found it interesting how their views on taking chances reverse as the story progresses. It also made me think about how my own views have changed when it comes to taking chances. I have forced myself over the years to take more and more chances in an effort to be more outgoing. A few days ago, I took a chance by going to the Acahti Players' Open Improv with my friend, Joel. I had never done improv before, so I was extremely nervous. I didn't know what the heck I was doing, but I hoped that what I came up with on the spot was funny enough, or that my chronically confused expression got the job done. After the fact, I was glad that I went. Even though it was awkward at first, and the Acahti Players' level of experience was super intimidating, I had a lot of fun. I'll probably go back next week and do it again, a little less awkward and nervous. 

Ithaca College's Acahti Players

Taking chances is scary, but crucial when it comes to learning new things. How will you know you about something if you've never tried it? This year I've committed myself to trying new things. And if some of those things don't work out...well, at least I'll have some funny stories to blog.  

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