Unharmed

Those little girls are so adorable, those little girls of mine pushing their way out the front door padded with down head to toe, with their matching colorful lunch bags swinging from their fat-parka arms. Even Iris, my baby, has her own lunch bag, and makes a fishy-kissy face at me after I hang her coat in her cubby, and follows her big sister, her suddenly at-ease and in-charge big sister, when she takes her by the arm. When I peek through the window where I used to stand holding Iris and blowing kisses at teary Ingrid, I just see the backs of them, side by side in little chairs, spooning up cereal. They are beautiful, sturdy.

Yesterday I bundled us all up to go to the Y. We had a babysitting slot reserved, and I was going to run around the track. It’s cold enough that we needed all the clothes, just to walk from house to car and car to door: snowpants, coats, hats, mittens, extra vests. Even when they both cooperate and nothing gets lost, it takes a half hour. It was bright, brilliant cold.

Iris doesn’t want to be carried anymore; it’s a struggle to keep her in my arms through the snowy parking lot. On the sidewalk up to the big metal doors I let her walk, and she’s so steady now she can almost run. To go fast she bows her head down a few degrees and leaves her arms at her sides.

Long story short, I gave the oversized metal door a good swing to get us all into the warm faster, and Iris was barrelling up behind me and the thing slammed her in the forehead. It sounded like metal hitting wood. She fell down, she cried, but not as much as you’d think she might. She seemed fine. She had on a thick fleece hat. I can’t explain it, but for several minutes I had myself talked into business as usual: just a little head bump. After the tears, she was cheery as ever. I could still go running, right? In the lockerroom I finally took off her hat and saw how awful it looked. I slammed a door into my kid’s head and it sounded like metal on wood. I asked for ice; they made me fill out a form. We put all the mittens and snowpants and coats back on and went home to call the pediatrician and to watch, as directed, for lethargy, vomiting, and excessive pain. She continued to be fine, except for a minute of looking pasty yesterday afternoon.

We’re supposed to wake her up every four hours for two nights to make sure she can recognize us and move her limbs. When I went into her room at 10 last night she heard me open the door, scrambled to her feet and mumbled, Mumma. Ok, kiddo. You’re ok, I said, holding her, stroking her head, nursing her back to sleep. You’re ok.

Most of the time I can forget how much could go wrong. But when opening a door I hear how my daughter’s skull is not all that different from any other breakable object? I think about these gorgeous girls, so naked even in all their winter clothes, and all the things they could swallow, or get hit by, or fall through, or get crushed by, and all the things that haven’t harmed them but could have and all the times I haven’t been looking, and I get frozen on the point between grateful and terrified and have a hard time just getting on with my day. And yet also, there they are with their lunchbags. There they are, so content just being in one another’s little orbit, making their way just fine—just fine—through a day away from me.

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4 thoughts on “Unharmed

  1. Ugh, how scary! It is kind of dizzying when you think about how many close calls there are every single day. Glad she’s okay.

  2. That seeing their vulnerability is both so beautiful and terrifying, isn’t it? It’s not good enough that the odds are they’ll be fine, you want there to be no chance. None. And the only way to ever have succeeded in that would have been to not have had children to begin with, which, of course, is unacceptable. So we risk, every time be begin the day or the night, we start out knowing we risk, they risk. I’m just grateful for the brief times I can forget about it.

  3. Throughout human history children have been in such peril and survived. And sometimes it’s some little thing that’s too much for them. Hard to think about.

    Same for adults.

  4. There’s an old medieval prayer I heard in grad school that I’ve never been able to track down since that lists all the dangers lurking about – from slates falling off a roof and hitting one in the head to the plague. It ends something like, “Of all the evil things that could have befallen me today, Lord, thank you that they did not ALL.” For all that goes wrong some days, it’s amazing how many things do not.

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