Like most Americans this past weekend, I honored those who died in military service to their country by sneaking out early on Friday, slippin' into my favorite white pants, and grilling any dead animal parts I could find. Usually we're graced with nasty weather and bad traffic, but Mother Nature must have been too distracted by the butter vs. margarine debate to send her usual gloom our way. It turned into a stellar weekend, and we did out utmost to enjoy it.
We went out to NoFo once again, but for the first time we had nice weather AND a fully ambulatory Cheeky in the mix. How would a child living in a modest three-room Brooklyn apartment adjust to sunshine, grass, a dock, and a pool? Ask instead whether how she'll adjust coming back.
The weekend was not without it's mishaps though, and as always they were more entertaining than working on my tan. Here are the highlights.
The Disquieting Dookie
The drive to NoFo takes a couple of hours provided we don't hit weekend traffic to the Hamptons. Our plan was to put Cheeky into her pajamas and to be on the road so she'd fall asleep in the car. The primary beneficiaries of this strategy were Oodgie and I, who would be spared a trip full of Mr. Noodle and, "Uh oh! Drop ban-kee!" every ten minutes. With speed and precision that would shame a Nascar pit crew we were out the door, and watched Cheeky slowly lose steam in the rear view mirror...right on schedule.
She was almost asleep, and if we kept going she would have passed out and left us with uninterrupted ride and an easy transfer once we got to the house. But that would also mean our car would smell like dumpster juice and carrots for the next hour.
We pulled over into a school parking lot and prepared for diaper triage. A woman was walking out of the school at the time, and she saw a scene that looked something like this:
- Two parents pulling into a parking lot and leaping out of the car
- Doors are left open, lights are on, and the engine is still running
- One parent emerges from the back seat with a listless child in his arms
- Both parents then rush to the grass and lay the child down, hovering over her
"Oh my god, do you need help!?!?!"
"Nope, just changing a diaper. I doubt you want to help with this."
To the untrained eye I'm sure that scene looked like the lead story on the evening news. But no, we just hate the smell of shit. And sadly (for us, and for three days or predictable sleep patterns) it turned into a grand adventure for Cheeky, who found it so entertaining that she stayed up and talked* about it for the next three hours.
* By "talked" I mean more specifically "emitted random words involving blankets, water, Grandma, and 'happy faces' in indiscernible patterns.
The Perilous Plunge
Cheeky took to the pool almost immediately. We were worried that she'd be scared of the water, but once we let her splash on the steps we couldn't get her away from it. "Go simming! Go simming!" was repeated like some tribal incantation all weekend, and by day three my fingers seemed permanently pruned.
On Saturday afternoon I'd convinced Cheeky to spare daddy yet another hour splashing near the dock, and we were instead near the pool playing with some toys. ECG had just stepped in the house to make
her third cocktail some chicken nuggets, and Oodgie was at the store. It was just me, Cheeky, and what looked like all the plastic beach toys in the world.
Cheeky spotted a beach ball near by and wanted to show it to ECG. Neither of us knew she was in the house, so we both rose to take it to other side of the pool where her
second cocktail chair was.
"Remember, Cheeky, to stay with daddy!" I called as she started toddling across the bricks.
(We had had long, repetitive discussions with her about this over the previous 12 hours, all of which she acknowledge with the sincerest "O-K" she could muster. That didn't stop me from shadowing her every move from a distance of no more than a couple feet the whole weekend.)
As I struggled off the ground she got a little far ahead of me, so I started to accelerate, knowing that some uneven bricks were just ahead.
The next few seconds happened in extreme slow-mo:
- Cheeky's sandal caught on a brick, menacingly rising just slightly above it brethren
- She stumbled forward towards the pavement in front of her
- The ball (approximately her size) came down with her, throwing her momentum...
- ...towards the pool a mere foot from her
As I came at her as fast as my saggy out-of-shape body could go I saw her roll into the pool and submerge, as if she were taking the Nestea plunge.
I don't even remember hitting the water. Since I weigh substantially more than
most land mammals Cheeky I sank beneath her like a mob informant. I reached my hands up, caught her arm, and started pushing furiously with my legs to get her above water. My mouth filled with water as I splashed above the surface long enough to heave her little torso over the pool edge. Then I scrambled as quickly as I could to the bricks with absolutely no idea what to expect.
Cheeky was sitting there, dripping and dazed. Her floppy hat was still on her head, hanging much lower to her shoulders than it had moments before. She looked at me, burst into tears and said, "Fall down! Wet!"
I reached out and held her for what seemed like an eternity, patting her on the back and said, "It's OK, sweety. You fell down, but you're OK. You're going to be OK."
In reality, it was probably about 20 seconds.
The screen door slammed above us and ECG came trotting down the stairs with a plate. "I've got lunch!" she said.
"Hun-gy!" stammered Cheeky, as she crawled out of my arms towards the chicken fingers and corn.
It wasn't until that moment, sprawled on the bricks by the pool, with my breath coming in ragged tatters and my heart racing like I'd just escaped a sinking U-boat, that it hit me how close she'd come to complete disaster, and how close I'd come to a loss I would have spent a lifetime grieving.
But more powerful than that was the incredible resilience and bravery of my daughter, who mere moments earlier had been channeling the baby from the Nevermind cover, and who could have emerged traumatized (or worse) but was now smearing ketchup into her still dripping swimsuit.
An hour later she was splashing on the stairs in the shallow end again, this time surrounded by four hyper-vigilant adults. Her luck and resilience had been tested enough for the day.
The Calamitous Contusion
I'm sitting in a little tent in the back yard (where Cheeky is simultaneously demanding and rejecting peaches) when I hear this noise.
I peak my head out of the tent to see Oodgie lying on her back under a hammock.
"I fell off the stupid hammock! I can't believe you didn't see it!"
Neither can I, because it probably would have been really funny.
Anyway, Oodgie was cursing the hammock and groaning for a while. Then, as is her wont, she started to ruminate about it. It went from "hurting badly" to "something serious" to "I think it's broken" in very short order. Normally when Oodgie has cancer or a brain cloud or some rare malady unnamed by medicine I try to comfort her and talk her through it until she moves on to the next injury. But this time it seemed a little more serious. "Maybe we should get it looked at," I suggested.
Oodgie dreaded telling a doctor about a hammock-induced injury, but after when she couldn't move it without excruciating pain we decided to drive to the local hospital. They were startlingly efficient at getting us through the paperwork and in to see a doctor, past the kid with the fish-hook in his arm and the old groaning man in the corner who, from the disinterested looks on the nurses faces, was a regular visitor.
"About time was it when you fell off the hammock?" yelled the nurse from an adjoining room.
"Can you maybe not ask that quite so loudly?" Oodgie asked.
"Yeah, what time did you fight off that bear this morning?" I offered.
"Wasn't I rushing into a burning building to save a child?" Oodgie asked.
"White fighting off a chainsaw-wielding psycho with kung fu, as I recall."
Eventually the x-rays came back, and the doctor came in to tell us that Oodgie had a "contusion," which is medical jargon for "a big boo-boo." There was nothing to do but put ice on it and try not to fall off any more hammocks. We asked for a sling just in case (i.e. for sympathy) and returned to the house to self-medicate. Another crisis (sort of) averted!
But I've caught myself glancing up in case a safe or piano was suspended on ropes above me. I'd hate this to be a trend.
I hope everyone had a great (and less-eventful) holiday weekend!