Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Of panaceas and real pain

Passover started this weekend, and Grams and Gramps and Uncle Traveling Matt were all in town, and so we kept the girls home from daycare yesterday, and we stayed home from work. And E spent a lot of the long weekend running around the house partly to very undressed, thereby exposing all sorts of body parts to danger. On Friday afternoon she ran into a corner of the wall, and the back of her naked leg turned red for a short second at the point of impact. "I need lotion, Mama. I'm hurt. I got a boo boo and it needs lotion." There was a time when a kiss would have sufficed, but no longer. Lotion saved the day, and her leg, so we had no amputations on Friday. And everything was okay.

On Saturday afternoon a small scratch needed lotion, and everything was okay.

On Sunday morning it was raining hard outside, and the front door was open, and suddenly M was grabbing a bunch of paper towels. I asked him what was wrong and he said it was raining inside the house and the floor was all wet. E is the Guardian of the Paper Towels. Whenever she notices that the roll has been removed from the holder, she yells "Put that back! Put the paper towels back!" until order is restored to the universe. So, when M was walking through the house with A Lot of Paper Towels, she was intrigued. And possessive. And jealous. And then creative. "I need a paper towel, too, Daddy!" "What for?" he innocently asked. "For my boo boo. On my leg." And then she made him bandage an invisible wound the size of her whole calf in a "big big" (two square rip) paper towel. And everything was okay.

Yesterday several maladies were heroically cured with paper towels. For one meal, E sat still long enough to eat two bowls of chicken-removed-from-chicken-soup-with-no-soup-or-matzah-balls-or-carrots (I NO LIIIIIIKE CARROTSSSSSSSS!!!!) because she was sitting still so as not to disturb her paper towel bandage. Later in the evening, she briefly imitated a charm school student in miniature, slowly walking erect while balancing a paper towel on her head. And we buy them in bulk, so everything was okay.

This morning was our first day in three days trying to rush out the door for work and school. E was following me around the garage as I worked in a circle around the car: I put her bag in the middle of the back seat, L's bag in the back door on the drycleaning hook, my keys on the front seat, my lunch on the passenger seat, and E's blanket and extra tushie wipes in the trunk. She knew the routine - that once I had all of our belongings in the car, I would pick her up and put her in the car, and then return into the house to get her baby sister, and put her in the car, too, and then we would all go to school. The last door I had to close was only open a few inches, and E reached up to investigate the locking mechanism just as I closed it. Yes, I closed the car door on her fingers. Everything was not okay.

In my head, I'm panicked. In one second, I think a million things. I think about the guilt of breaking her fingers. I think about dropping everything and rushing her to the hospital. I think about the guy I was nicely giving a ride to in college even though I thought he was really a jerk, and in using the button on the driver's door to close the passenger door window, I got the tip of his right pinky finger stuck in the window because he was an idiot and didn't move his hand or because I wasn't paying attention because I thought he was a jerk, and how he claimed he never had feeling in the fingertip again and then I thought he was an even bigger jerk because I found out he was lying but first for a month I believed I had done that to him, and broken fingers are bad enough but what if I've somehow damaged her permanently. I think about being late for work or missing a day and I have no leave, having just returned from maternity leave three weeks ago. I think about my poor baby, and her unstoppable curiosity, and how I just want to protect her but surely this is not going to be the first time her impulses will put her in a bad position, and what do I do about that without squelching the essentially wonderful part, her unstoppable curiosity.

In less than a second, though, I see that even though she's screaming, it's in reaction to the event more than from pain. I see that she's moving all of her fingers. I see that the back of her hand is a little red, even a little swollen. But there's no cut, no bleeding, I think no broken bones, and I see, I think I see, that everything is okay.

I take her hand in mine, and she doesn't flinch. I kiss it, and I hold it, and I bend every beautiful little finger. And she doesn't flinch. I ask her to make a fist. And she does. I ask her to give me a high five. And she says NO!, but I see that she could. I ask her if she's okay. She says "yeah," but quietly. She abruptly stops crying. "I can't get in the car now, Mama. I need something inside the house." (I love the way she says that word right now: sohmfink.) I ask her what she needs, and if I can get it for her. "I need a Band-Aid. With Big Bird. A BIG Big Bird." Meaning: we won't settle for a Band-Aid (pronounced: benndy) with just some yellow neck and feathers, or one where Big Bird is off to the side, or one of a big cast of characters. We're going to need to unwrap many Band-Aids until we find one whose relative Big Bird prominence sufficiently reflects the severity of the injury. And who am I to argue right now?

Coda: I take E and L to school and tell E's teachers about what happened, and ask them to call me if they notice anything unusual about how she holds or uses her left hand. When one of her teachers calls around 11, I panic at the sight of the daycare extension on my caller ID. But Ms. Latoya is just calling to ask if, since it's Passover, E is allowed to eat the Jell-o and sorbet that Rita and LulĂș's moms have brought in to the class to celebrate their respective birthdays. Sure, she's two, and it's not in our house, and she'll be so happy. I'm just so glad that this was the reason for the call.

I pick the girls up after school and the first thing E says to me when I enter her classroom is "I don't need my benndy anymore, Mama! My boo boo's all better!" It's flapping off her hand, dangling by only one sticky side, but I can't convince her to just throw it out, so great is the prominence of this particular Big Bird. But I'm glad to see that she's as wild as ever with both of her hands, and that Big Bird is just a trophy.

As I slide E's arms into her pajama shirt at the end of the day, the bandage finally comes unstuck. It's somewhere in her sleeve. I don't want to call attention to its disappearance but I would like to fish it out. Under the guise of tickles I give it my best effort but without success. So somewhere in her tight-fitting jama shirt is the most disgusting Band-Aid: redolent of pickle juice (from lunch), and encrusted in red Jell-o, yellow Gak (party favor) and purple Play-Doh (after-school activity). I'm unabashedly grateful that sleeping with such rainbow crunchy filth pressed against her skin is the worst lasting effect from her day, but dude, that's really gross.
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