Week Six: Peter Combs

Write about your most embarrassing moment

When I was fourteen years old, I lived in a group home for boys. The home consisted of approximately four cottages, in which housed no less than eight and no more than twelve boys per house. Each cottage employed one set of permanent “house parents”, and an alternating set of “relief parents”. The permanent house parents lived with us for two weeks straight, and on the third week the relief house parents would arrive to take their place. The incident I’m about to describe happened during one of the relief periods.

It was always a crapshoot whenever the permanent house parents took a break, because you never knew who was going to relieve them. Sometimes, the couple that took their place was awesome. So awesome, that at the end of the week you found yourself wishing they were the permeant parents and not the relief. Other times, it was painfully obvious that the relief house parents were way in over their heads. I can’t really blame them. The way in which they rotated them, and the rate at which boys came and went, it was very difficult for them to learn our behaviors and us theirs. One January, the permanent house parents were on duty for four weeks straight.  Evidently, the relief house parents had had more than enough and had resigned, leaving the group home in a bind. I remember overhearing a phone conversation between my foster mom and someone at the office. She firmly, yet respectfully, informed them that they’d better provide someone to relieve them soon. The way in which she said it made it seem as if the sentence should have ended with “or else”, although it didn’t. The person on the other end of the line must have thought so too, because within the hour, they had a brand new set of relief parents to take their place for the week.

The relief parents were an older couple and seemed nice enough. They never seemed none too bothered whenever one of the guys would act out or push the limits. In fact, the foster dad even took us to a building site to help cleanup one of the new cottages. That’s where things went downhill. Literally.

I am, by far, more fascinated by the written word than I am by a power tool or hammer. I realize now that the foster dad was trying to connect with me, and for that I am grateful, but it was on his level and not mine. Still, I  honestly do appreciate it. I would give anything for that type of interaction with a male role model now; but at the time I just felt like a fish out of water.

That day at the building site was a long one. By the time the sun began to dip behind the mountain, I remember feeling as if the day had stretched on for an eternity. Despite how long it had felt, I was happy that I hadn’t managed to totally embarrass myself. By the time the window began to cast long fingered shadows across the floorboards, it became obvious that the foster dad was beginning to wrap things up for the day. This probably added an extra spring to my step, no doubt, so when he asked me to carry some bags to his truck, I am sure that I was more focused on what was for dinner than where I was stepping, and what I was stepping on.

About midway to the truck, I suddenly lost my footing. It was one of those moments when you flap your arms like an unsteady gymnast on a balance beam. For a very small moment, I actually believed that I had steadied myself, but this thought proved to be wrong. Before I could react, my feet flew out from beneath me and I landed on my back and began to slide down the hill. Have you ever seen those slip and slides? It felt (and probably looked) very much like that. What had seemed like solid ground, was in fact, mud. And I was navigating through it quite nicely. About midway down the hill, I managed to dig my heels into the mud and brought myself to a halt. I took a look around and felt some sort of relief that no one had seen the tumble. Feeling the urgency to get back up the hill before anyone had time to see me, I slowly got to my feet and began the trek back from where I came. That’s when it happened… again. This time, not only was I headed down the hill at a rapid pace, I was also rolling. I think at some point I gave up trying to stop myself and just rode it out to the bottom. Once I rolled into a stump at the foot of the hill, I allowed myself a moment for the world to stop spinning. Again, I noted that no one had seen the spectacle that I must have made, although I don’t know why it would matter. There would be no way to pretend this moment never happened as I was covered from head to toe in thick cold mud. That’s when I noticed a water spout at the top of the hill, on the other side of the house. I remember thinking that this side looked more solid than the one I’d just rolled down, but I made sure to walk up it with caution just in case.

I managed to make it to the top of the hill without making a bigger fool of myself than I already had. I remember looking all around me anxiously hoping that I could at least save some face by washing off some of the mud, to where it would at least not look as bad as it had felt. The water spout was the kind that you had to pump, and so I pulled and pushed the lever a couple of times. This only produced a small stream of water – barely enough to clean the mud off of my thumb much less the rest of my body. I assumed this meant that I needed to try harder. So I pulled and pushed the lever with all that I had, and about the third time I pulled up, the dang thing snapped off and I fell back once again. This happened right about the time my cottage’s 15 passenger van rounded the corner, and it was full of the boys from my cottage and some from the neighboring cottage. I am sure they had a good laugh. I don’t blame them, I must’ve looked ridiculous.

When we arrived back at the cottage, the foster mom seemed genuinely concerned about me.

“Is he hurt anywhere?!” she asked, checking me over for cuts and bruises.

“Nope, just his pride” the foster dad had replied. He hadn’t really said much during the ride back to the cottage, although I could tell by the laugh lines his eyes made that he was trying really hard to allow the moment to pass.

So there you have it – my most embarrassing moment. Not so bad now that I look back on it. But at the time it was pretty humiliating.

Have you ever done something that at the moment was humiliating, but the passing of time has allowed you to view it from a more humorous perspective? Share your embarrassing moments here!


Peter Combs is a 28 year old husband, writer and former foster child. He currently lives with his wife, Renee, in Atlanta, Georgia. Peter is the author of the blog Home.


One thought on “Week Six: Peter Combs

  1. Pingback: My Month as Editor for the3six5 | Home

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