I actually meant to write this as a post for this blog, but I accidentally wrote it on the Practice What You Pinterest site. I couldn’t figure out how to move it without ruining the format, so I just reblogged it. You get the idea.
A couple of weeks ago, we were on vacation at the Jersey shore, and we decided to go play some tennis. I don’t know why, but the latches for the gates to the courts were up really high, like almost six feet from the ground. The latch was heavy too. We had the kids with us, and they were running between our courts and the adjacent playground with a frequency that kind of messed with my game, but in the end it didn’t matter, Manfrengensen beat me in his usual fashion, 6-0, 6-1.
The latch was so high that The Princess couldn’t reach it at all, and Clooney even had a hard time, stretching to capacity to lift the thing, which must have weighed at least five pounds. When we had finished our match, we gathered up all of our things and left the court. Manfrengensen’s hands were full, and I didn’t realize that he was walking so close behind me, but when I let go of the latch, it came down right on his head. And his world exploded in stars.
Of course I felt awful, even more so as I watched the egg-sized welt rise on his pate. It looked angrier than he did. He takes pain pretty well, though, and he soldiered on through the day, complaining minimally about his cranium as the sun made its pass over our heads.
After dinner, we walked for ice cream, and then just as we were heading back, he mentioned that he felt light headed, so I said, “Oh no, maybe we shouldn’t let you go to sleep,” figuring that, though the possibility at that point was remote, if he had a concussion, he shouldn’t be allowed to go to sleep.
“What are you saying that for??” he asked. He reasoned that he was about to go to bed, and by mentioning the possibility, now he was freaked out and wouldn’t be able to sleep.
So, I tried to allay his fears. He’d been okay all day. In all likelihood he didn’t have a concussion, so it was probably safe to go to sleep. But then, as he got in bed, he pulled out the book he was reading, The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, and read, as incredibly as this sounds, about a character who gets shot in the face with a potato gun. Of course, he ends up with a concussion, and his friends and family express concerns that he will never wake up if he goes to sleep.
What are the chances of that kind of coincidence??
So, Manfrengensen kept catching himself nodding off, fighting it for as long as he could. He said that he had never been so relieved to wake up at 2 a.m. because he realized that he hadn’t slipped into a coma.
So, yesterday, we were visiting my parents at the shore, and my sister was down from New England to visit. She had a little accident on Friday night, twisted her ankle and had to go to the hospital. Kind of a bummer, since we only see her a few times a year, and here she was going to be holed up at the house while we enjoyed a day on the beach.
Because I had worked at my kids’ camp last week, I was exhausted, and looked forward to sleeping in on Saturday morning. Manfrengensen usually gets up early and goes for a run or a bike ride, picks up some breakfast, and then takes care of the kids until I wake up. He’s one in a million, really.
Yesterday, I felt his hand on my arm, rousing me from sleep. I figured, as I came up to consciousness, that I had REALLY slept in, that he was coming to tell me it was like eleven o’clock or something. “Egghead,” he said gently, and then repeated my name. I opened my eyes, and his face was an arm’s length from mine. He was holding his chin.
“I have to go to the hospital,” he said calmly. “I need stitches.” He then went on to explain that he had tumbled over the handlebars of his bike, and needed stitches in his chin.
Of course, I jumped out of bed, insisting on driving him. “I can drive myself,” he said, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes, got him an ice pack and we got to the car. It was then that I saw the other side of his face, which was swollen and angry-looking. It looked like he may have broken the orbital bone near his eye. His hands were all banged up, as were his knees.
He talked while I drove, explaining how he had been riding two towns over from ours, and had been forced onto the shoulder by a passing car, but then his tires hit an uneven part of the pavement where there was a lip and gravel, and he lost control of the bike. He flipped over, landing on his left side. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet, or I would have been awakened not by his gentle touch but by the call of the hospital.
As he spoke, I could feel my breath leaving me. My skin felt like it was on pins and needles. My vision began to go dark, so I pulled the car over. He got out, came around to the driver’s side and helped me into the passenger seat more kindly than I deserved, before I all but blacked out. He then drove himself to the Emergency Room with one hand on the wheel and the other with the ice pack against his face. Needless to say, I’m not too great in a crisis situation.
By the time we got to the hospital, I had pulled myself together. He got out at the ER, and I went to park the car. When I found him, ten minutes later, he was sitting in the waiting room, and having bled through his paper towel, was just sitting there with blood dripping from his chin like he had a crimson beard.
We got him all checked out, x-rays, CAT scan, five stitches, and thank God, he’s fine. Today his eye is black, but there were no fractures. We got a glimpse of how fragile life can be yesterday. Just feeling incredibly lucky today that we came out on the better side of what could have been.
Clooney began collecting Silly Bandz this summer. I cannot say when these things first put their rubbery feet through our door, but it built and built until he amassed a gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of them. I don’t buy them; he gets them at parties or at camp, and he’s been known to spend his allowance on them, at least until the Series 2 LEGO mini-figures were released a few weeks ago. But his eyes still get all glassy when he sees them in a store. The combinations of shapes, colors and other features (i.e. glow in the dark, tie-dyed, or sparkly) continue to mesmerize him whenever we pass a rack of them. And they are EVERYWHERE.
I have allowed it without encouraging it, because he’s into it, and because ultimately they are no more harmful than collecting baseball cards (though not as intellectually appealing), but I was a little disturbed yesterday when he came home and showed me two new ones on his wrist.
“Guess where I got these,” he began proudly. “Lucy and Gina dropped their Silly Bandz on the floor at lunch, and a bunch of people picked them up and I got these two!”
“What do you mean??” I asked, highly concerned.
It happened, just as I had thought. Six kids swooped in and stole the girls’ Silly Bandz off the floor. You always imagine that your child will be Superman, or the hero, the one who steps in and tells the others that what they are doing, if what they are doing, is not the right thing. So, I was more than a little shocked when not only didn’t my son do that, but he was also an eager participant in the crime. He and I had a long talk about what it meant, and how I saw the situation, and I hoped that he understood that what he had done was wrong and why. I tried to make him feel empathy for Lucy and Gina, and he promised to return the bracelets, but I wonder what he really learned. Did he learn that it’s wrong to do what he did, or did he just learn that it’s wrong to share stuff like that with Mom?
It’s a fine line. How do you teach kindness and morality, right and wrong, without choking the open line of communication between parent and child? Obviously, he’s never seen Manfrengensen or me take something that doesn’t belong to us, so it’s not a learn-by-example situation. I can only imagine that it will get tougher as he gets older and the pressure to really fit in plays a factor.
Have you had any experience with this kind of thing? Please share below if you have. Thanks.
The other day, I had the garage open, the garage where we keep all the outdoor crap. Clooney was playing in the alley with the kid across the street. I went back inside, and by the time I came back, they were starting to play frisbee with this HUGE disc. The thing is like an enormous 30″-in-diameter plastic ring covered in sheer stretchy fabric. So, I was coming through the back gate when Clooney started his swing, and BAM! He let go of the thing right in front of me from about a yard away, and in the straightest throw this kid has EVER made, he nailed me square in the jaw, and the world exploded in stars.
The feeling reminded me of when I was 15 years old. I was down at the beach with a couple of girlfriends, and we were staying with Calista’s parents. I had to leave earlier than the rest of them, work, or some other commitment, and the plan was for Calista, who had turned 16 in February, to drive me home. This plan didn’t sit too well with Calista’s parents because at the time, Calista was dating this guy who was twenty-two and worked as a mechanic at the garage where they’d recently had their tires rotated. They weren’t too happy about their sixteen-year-old taking a near-three-hour drive in the first place, but they were even less enthusiastic about the prospect of their daughter having their empty house back home to herself and all of the opportunities that might afford her and her current interest.
I had known Calista since the first day of kindergarten, when she walked up to me and introduced herself in a fashion that was uncharacteristically assertive for a five-year-old. She said, “Hi, my name’s Calista. It means beautiful in Greek.” To which I likely retorted something characteristically five-year-old like, “My cat’s breath smells like fish sticks.” Somehow we were inseparable for years, though by sophomore year of high school, the writing was on the wall.
We were out late, two of the girls were chasing their future boyfriends, guys from the football team. I’d always been on the fringe of that group. My friends were cheerleaders, cheerleading being something I was genetically incapable of doing. They’d tried in vain to get me onto the squad, but I just couldn’t do the jumps without landing in a pigeon-toed stance. I didn’t really mind. Being pigeon-toed kept me from being pigeon-holed into any particular clique, so I could float around between the jocks as well as the theater crowd, the nerds and the dweebs.
They were the kind of crowd that had fake ID’s at fifteen, who tried, sometimes with success to get into bars and sneak beers. That weekend, I had tried as well, and was disappointed to be turned away for looking too obviously underage. I took one step into the crimson light of that little dive when the bartender stopped me cold with his shrill whistle. He said nothing, simply glowered and pointed at the door behind me. I dropped my chin, turned on my heel and made for the exit, the mocking laughter of my friends ringing in my ears.
Today, I still look like I’m in my thirties while some of them look like the leather chair my father-in-law’s been pressing his ass into for the last twenty years, so who’s laughing now?
Anyway, we were out late, two-o’clock-in-the-morning late, and as soon as we came in the door, Calista’s mom was ready to pounce on her. In my memory, I see her mom standing there in a full length housecoat and fuzzy slippers, a pink haze in the middle of June, her hair in curlers, hands on her hip, with steam coming out of her ears. In reality, we likely never saw her though. She probably just called Calista’s name from down the hall in a tone that didn’t make it sound like it was beautiful.
While Calista was with her mother, the rest of us took turns making our evening toilets, and by the time I got back, Calista was already crying on the others’ shoulders. As I closed the cheap hollow door of their newly manufactured house, the wood touched its frame and went click. And for some reason, this set Calista off. She came toward me, obviously hot and angry, her face red and scrunched, her fists clenched. She said something about the noise I’d made waking her mother, and I pointed out that her mother was already awake. The ensuing conversation remains a bit of a blur, but I do remember clearly the fist gaining altitude, momentum even, and thinking Oh wow, Calista, what are you going to do? Hit me? And then she connected with my jaw and the room exploded in stars.
I didn’t hit her back. At the time, I felt that the violence was beneath me, too contemptible to retaliate. I’d spewed a few expletives, and made it known that she’d crossed a line, but it was the end of Calista and me. The next day, I hitched a ride home with one of the football players, a nice guy who was a bit iconoclastic in the clique department. And then, we all drifted apart.
As it turned out, when I got home, my father was waiting with a letter from school basically asking me not to return (another story, for another post….) I don’t think I spoke to Calista three times after that.
Recently though, I was sitting alone at Panera, reading a trashy magazine and knocking back a latte, when Calista slid into the booth across my table. It was good to see her. As much as that moment is frozen in time for me, everything that came before it was what I thought of that day, the sleepovers, playing pool in her parents’ basement, the way she tried so hard to teach me those cheerleading jumps and the laughs we shared over my lack of coordination. Calista and I have lunch now on a regular basis, catching up on our lives now, sharing stories of our kids. There are no hard feelings, though we have never really discussed that night. It’s so vivid for me, so fixed in my mind, perhaps because it did kind of mark an end of that time in my life, with those people at that school. I wonder, does she even remember it?