Sunday, September 20, 2009

The bruised up building blocks of childhood

There are few things as unnerving as when the phone rings and the caller ID comes up as the elementary school where your child attends. What’s worse is when the phone conversation starts with “I don’t want you to worry, but…”
It’s enough to send a parent into a whirlwind of well, worry.
Such was the situation that I recently went through, but I’m happy and relieved to say that it wasn’t much of anything.
“I don’t want you to worry, but your daughter fell at recess and is a little scraped up. Just wanted to explain the four hundred bandages before she got home.”
She went on to tell me that once the teary eyes dried up, my kid, the academic trooper that she is, asked to go back to class. She later told me that walking up the flight of stairs was one of the hardest things she ever did.
“I had to limp, mom. Like this,” she said, and hobbled around the kitchen after the administration of magic creams by Nurse Mommy and experiencing the healing power of a chocolate chip cookie.
I told this entire story to my mother, laughing the whole way through. My daughter, as wonderful as she is, sometimes has the coordination skills of the Bozo the Clown. Apparently she tripped on a rolling ball on the playground, and that’s what caused her to kiss the pavement in a speedy fashion. I explained the injuries to my mom: the scraped knee, the sliced hand, the elbow that took the brunt of it.
“Oh, poor baby!” and so on and so forth, the good grandmother gushed. “Is she OK? Does she need stitches? Did you put some cream on there?”
Funny, I don’t remember her being all ga-ga over my own gashes and lesions that shaped my childhood.
Like the time I fell at Girl Scout camp, and my mom was a co-leader. I believe an entire case of glass bottles made its way under the skin of my right knee, and there I was, sitting on a picnic table in the middle of the woods with my mom trying to pick out each and every piece with a pair of tweezers and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I remember howling in pain and someone stuffing a washcloth in my mouth to muffle the sound. In fact, the only other sound besides my screams was the giggles of the adults.
“We’ve got to, hee hee hee, get this, ha ha ha, glass out! Ho, ho, ho!”
Or then there was the time I turned quickly to go upstairs and in preschool-aged fashion, ran smack into the corner of the wall. My forehead swelled up like an egg was under the skin and both of my brown eyes had gone to black and blue.
How do I know this? My. Parents. Took. Pictures. About two dozen Polaroids, to be exact.
And who could forget the time I, at the unstoppable age of 4, picked up my father’s accordion and pulled something or ripped something that shouldn’t have been pulled or ripped in my neck, and had to walk around wearing a most unattractive brace?
Again, photo proof.
I’m sure my parents were concerned about me, just as I was concerned about my own kid’s clash with the playground blacktop. But they knew, just as I know now, that kids are amazingly resilient. They cut, they scrape, the bruise and bleed. Sometimes they even attempt to lift polka instruments well beyond their size.
But they live and they learn and they grow, and they have the battle scars to prove it.
And we love and we laugh and we put on cartoon bandages, and we have the photographs to prove it.

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