Broken Wing

Little Legs is a dancer now; he taps his toes, wiggles his hips, and shakes to the left and right. Sometimes, he even dances to the beat. He loves Ray Charles and wears sunglasses indoors. He bumps into walls, while bopping along to “Hit the Road, Jack.”

Adorable, yes. Dangerous, maybe.  

He was working on a new move that involved flipping from one side to the other while on the ground, we’ll call it the Fish Flop, when the Flop got out of control, and he landed on his outstretched arm.   

A heart-rending scream and an immediate flood of tears burst forth from the tiny dancer as he held his arm to his chest like a broken wing. It took a few minutes to confirm that this boo-boo was more than a band-aide, a kiss and a popsicle could restore.

The emergency room was at least a seven-hour wait, a few hours too long to only be turned away, as we heard happened to our neighbors. The community urgent care was at capacity for appointments. They graciously told us they were taking walk-ins but expected a minimum of two hours in the waiting room. The pediatric urgent care was the same, the waiting room was spilling over with sick kids (and their germs) with not enough time or staff to see everyone in a reasonable amount of time.  

All the while, Little Legs was crying, “Hurts, hurts, hurts” and holding his arm against his chest.

As parents, Daddy Longlegs and I are similarly yoked in that we would move heaven and earth for our boys. We don’t want them to suffer one unnecessary minute. Yet in this world of Covid, our choices are severely limited in what we can and cannot do to care for them out of sheer availability when it comes to treatment and healthcare.

We aren’t doctors or magicians.

But we are resourceful. And determined.

So, we drove to the next county and went to an after-hours sports injury clinic where the moonlighting foot doctor agreed to see our son for his arm injury and our sweet boy’s arm was set and cast.

Silently, Little Legs watched with wide eyes as the technician wrapped his arm in cotton and then with various layers of cast materials, hardly moving muscle as he allowed his arm to be mummified.

“You should get a treat,” the technician commented on his stoic bravery.

“You have lollipops?” Little Legs asked, blinking several times as he came to life at possibility of sugar.

“You have yellow lollipops?” he continued, very specific and very excited.

“We’ll have to see, but I think we might. Mom, Dad, is it ok?”

“After all this, you have can have all the yellow lollipops that you want,” I declared.

I was grateful for the ability to seek treatment, for the kindness our son was shown and that it was a relatively minor injury compared to some. Still, there remains a persistent irritation that borders on anger/rage for the people filling the chairs and beds in the hospitals and urgent cares that could have been vaccinated or masked to prevent the spread and mutation of Covid, again.

It is for selfish reasons that I write, get the dang shot and wear a mask, so in the future the next little boy with a broken arm can seek treatment and get back to dancing as soon as possible.

Amazing Grace

We were listening to the radio when the announcer began to discuss the terrorist bombing in Afghanistan followed by a soulful rendition of Amazing Grace for the loss of life.

The movement of the song, the tragic deaths and the plight of the Afghan people brought tears to my eyes, the suffering on all sides was suddenly right in our Tennessee home, from over seven thousand miles away.

Baby Brother continued with his work, picking up Play-Doh containers and trying to pry them open. Little Legs, however, stopped peeling and placing stickers on his dump truck.

He looked up and asked, “Mama ok?”

“People died in another country, and it is making me feel sad,” I muddled through an explanation of the events, carefully omitting words like suicide bomber and terrorist.

How does one begin to explain the way of the world to a young and impressionable person? What is too much, too soon, too little, too late? We are still working on things like the alphabet and wearing underwear. Death was only introduced recently after our beta fish, Blue, floated upside down and was flushed to fish-heaven.

Little Legs thoughtfully reflected, “People died.”  

He then repeated this to a random lady at Starbucks, Grandpa on a Google Duo call and then Daddy Longlegs on his lunch break, which brought the conversation, quite literally, back home.

Strawberry Fields Forever

The rows of strawberries stretched on forever, long ribbons of black and green, with serrated leaves and heart-shaped pops of red. Runners shot out and away from their mothers, landing in the soil between the established plants, and rooting where no berry had ever grown before in an exciting bid for independence.

Dark soil was carefully tilled between the rows in a continual fight against the weeds that desperately wanted the same nutrients, water, and sun as the berry plants. The prickly purple thistle and milkweed and ragweed remained blissfully unaware of their uninvited status as they continued to show up with friends and family only to be pulled and discarded, again and again.

This field was my first place of employment; my brother was my (only) coworker, and our mother was the site supervisor. Begrudgingly, we learned to till and turn the soil, to plant and pick strawberries. We learned how to quiet our minds and settle in to do the work. Quart after quart basket of strawberries passed through my red-stained fingers as I grumbled about the things I would rather be doing.

It wasn’t that the work was hard, it was, in fact, easy to pluck a strawberry from the plant and put it into a basket. The hard part was to do it for an hour and then another hour. It was overcoming the boredom and tedium of doing the exact same thing over and over in the hot Indiana summer sun. I hated every morning that there were strawberries in the field. I prayed for rain and thunder and lightning, especially lightening, if only to strike me with a bolt to end my strawberry picking misery.  

Yet, now when I think of summers growing up, it always starts in the field, wiping the sweat from my brow, feeling the perspiration drip from the tip of my nose and chin and run down my chest. I recall my brother, in one of his protests, selecting a particularly fat and rotten berry, lining up his sights and launching it directly at our mother’s back where it landed with the most perfectly spectacular splat between the straps of her tank top.   

Now, the field is a dumping ground for old construction equipment. The old farmhouse is long gone, burned to the ground, rebuilt without a single bit of the original character. And the strawberry pickers are scattered around the world, left to reminisce about the old days and time spent together.

Old Man Turtle

A toddler sized turtle stared out from inside of the grimy glass. Its shell was battered and worn, a sharp contrast to the shells of its younger tankmates. The other turtles paddled along the top of the water, kicked from the bottom to the surface and crawled onto a rocky ledge to rest.

Two boys stared with mouths agape at the prehistoric looking creature. They shared the same light brown hair and dark eyes of wonder as they observed the turtle. 

“So big,” the older boy said.

“Whoa,” his brother agreed with a solemn nod, a boy of few words.

Their mother hovered nearby, a nervous hen clucking over her chicks, she agreed with her sons.

“I have never seen such an enormous turtle in a tank,” she reflected, excluding all previous trips to the zoo and Ripley’s Believe it or Not Aquarium.  

The turtle was unnatural in the aquarium where tiny, silver fish darted between the other resident turtles, ranging in size from a small pancake to a medium pizza. Old Man Turtle managed to survive the past fifty years of hungry birds, chemical spills, plastic straws and acid rain only to end up wedged between some fake rocks and algae covered glass, literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“Oh no, can’t move. Turtle too big,” the older boy observed.

“Whoa,” his brother seconded his concerns.

Then to everyone’s surprise and delight, Old Man began to move. He stretched one limb and then the other, wiggling his powerful claws as he prepared to leave his nook. He extended his neck, draped in wrinkly skin. He emerged a glorious testament to the years to stand on his back limbs, reaching all the way to break the surface of the water.

He stood there, breathing in air through his royal beakish nostrils, surveying his world and subjects; finding only chickens and turtles, he returned to the water for another long rest.

Finder of Lost Things

Little Legs raced through the house, streaked would be more accurate, as he flashed a full moon along the way.

It was rest time and, clearly, he was not resting.

“Poop,” he yelled as he traveled from his room to the bathroom.

I assumed he was on his way to do his business and felt no rush to jump up.

Our potty-training efforts were finally paying off. Diapers were dry in the morning, and he made it to the bathroom during the day almost every time. I laughed at how much easier life was with one in underwear and thought of Baby Brother’s remaining time in diapers. I considered starting him earlier than his brother, perhaps only by a year or so, if only to save the landfill from another 8,000 diapers.

Little Legs pitter-pattered out to me, interrupting my ruminations, curious why I was not in the bathroom with him.

“Mama, come see,” he encouraged.

First, he led me to the bathroom which was conspicuously free of the fruits of his labor which he was usually so proud to show off.

Interesting.

“Did you flush already?”

“No,” he said.

Very interesting.

He then led me to his room.

“Little potty. Me peed there.”  

“Wow, that is great,” I exclaimed in surprise as he had previously refused to use a potty that he considered “for baby.”

The only problem was the missing turd.

“Pooped in ‘Mater,” he explained.

He pointed to a crumpled pair of underwear covered in characters from the Cars movie and filled with what I could only assume.

Using my xray mama-vision, I knew that all lost things were now found. And that we were definitely still potty-training.   

Sicklings

A fever raged in both boys.

Free of shirts and energy, they rested on their backs, watching cartoons. It could have been a show on watercolor painting or Murders of Tennessee or Sesame Street. I imagine they would have watched with the same dull and uninterested eyes as their bodies fought the same infection.

I was their Leader, shivering and nauseous, smelling of vomit and ready to run back to the bathroom at any time.

We were a gang, bonded and branded by our shared symptoms of misery.

“So what are we doing tonight?” Daddy Longlegs asked failing to read the room.

We turned in unison to look at the perfect image of health who had just entered the room with rosy cheeks and shiny eyes. We made a chorus of sad moans before returning to the screen.

“You’re it,” I jumped up, feeling the sick rising in my throat, and tagged him on my way back to the bathroom.

I am still waiting for the tag back, however hopeful that as partners who share everything, in this, he is left out.

Tub Club

“First rule of tub club, don’t…”  

Daddy Longlegs did not get to explain the importance of sitting, not standing in the tub.

The great splashy thud informed me that words were not needed.  

Rule one of tub club made itself quite clear, with the imprint of a matchbox car on the backside of Little Legs as proof.

Kingdom of Boys

He wants up, he wants down. He wants in, he wants out.

And as his personal slave, I am all too happy to meet his demands and indulge in his whims.

“Yes, my tiny prince, I will do all these things over and over again. Should I toss you up in the air periodically and tickle your tummy, too?”

His dimpled smile melts my heart and ignites a white-hot flame of jealousy in his older brother.

When Baby Brother knocks the glasses from my face, I wag my finger and say, “Now I can’t see my naughty baby.”

Little Legs watches from a few feet away with a furrowed brow. He wants equal treatment for the same crime that recently landed him in a time out.

“Time out, Baby,” he declares, already a fighter of injustices everywhere, starting in his own living room.

He looks to me for action and seeing only a love-sick fool cooing at his brother, he takes matters into his own hands, quite literally.

Grabbing his brother under the arms, “Time out, Baby,” he explains as he attempts to drag him away to The Blue Chair.

“Release your brother!” I command and channel my inner Moses for this pharaoh-like face off.  

He drops him with a thud that makes his brother cry and stares at me in disbelief.

“Sorry, Mama.”

Order is restored, however temporarily, yet again.

I remain the Leader of my small People.

Day of Reckoning

Sunday afternoon, we settled into the playroom for a bit of pushing trucks, rolling balls and learning to share between brothers. There remains a steep learning curve for the two of them, even after almost a year of co-existing.

The usual squabbling died down as they focused on their own playthings; Little Legs loaded up random toys into the back of a dump truck that was really too big to be inside and Baby Brother wrestled with a squishy Dalmatian dog doll.

A sense of peace replaced my usual anxiety. I leaned back in my chair and flipped through the National Geographic that had been on the counter for two weeks, patiently waiting to be read.

There are some moments in life when time does funny things, sometimes it slows down just enough so that a careful observer may become temporarily clairvoyant and able to divine events in the immediate future. Not to intervene or change the outcome, just to know what is about to happen.

This was one such moment.

I looked up over a page about glass sea sculptures as Little Legs stood behind the fully loaded dump truck and directed it at his unassuming brother. He pulled it back and pushed it forward with an assertive vroom…vroom… that indicated only one thing. The vehicle was about to roll, monster truck style, over the only possible pedestrian in its path.

“Little Legs,” I growled. “Do not run over your brother!”

He was already racing forward, pulled by an imaginary force. He tried to stop at my request, digging his heels in as he shouted, “Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” and swerved to the side of his brother at the last possible instant.

“What did Little Legs just say?” Daddy Longlegs called from the next room.

This was my day of reckoning, I reckoned it was time to clean up my language because there was a pair of ears that let nothing pass, except requests to eat vegetables.

Definition of day of reckoning

a time when the consequences of a course of mistakes or misdeeds are felt

Daycare Cruddies

Finally, we beat the brain-rattling cough from daycare only to be informed of a potential (definite) exposure to RSV, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, and all the possible flus. It is almost laughable at the number of different germs fighting to infect Little Legs and Baby Brother. Almost, but not quite funny, especially considering the toll that each sickness takes on their bodies.

They lose weight, hours of sleep and their general sense of well-being. They bite and push one another, like little savages outside of their cave. At least the older one can grunt, “Me no feel good.” While his wordless brother is left with shrieks, squawks and other animal noises to express the same sentiment.

We understand, all the same. The thermometer helps to confirm what the back of my hand already tells me. A fever feels so much hotter on either one of their foreheads than mine has ever felt. Tylenol and Motrin are in regular rotation as we fight the fires burning within them.

Firefighting is exhausting work, but we must persevere.

This ongoing daycare nightmare started in the middle of March and it is now June. I question whether working is worth the constant stream of snot or the sudden vomiting or the development of a strange skin rash. I am not even including the shocking new words and phrases, such as shut up, that have tagged along to home with the toddler in my list of pros versus cons of daycare and working. Thankfully, the baby is too young to pick up anything, aside from every passing germ and most recently, picking his nose, which does not improve our chances for a healthy summer.

My brother said to expect six months of this and then it should be easy. Ha, I laugh, as easy as living with a tribe of tiny, irrational Neanderthals might be expected.

Yet, to quit now would be to throw all that time building up their immune systems away, only to restart in a few years with pre-k and kindergarten. In spite of our “progress” if it can be called that, I struggle with if it continues to make sense to expose them to other people, adults and children alike, in a quest to generate income, stay current with employment and to socialize them more than I could ever do at home?

I try not to dwell too long on these thoughts, but the questions repeat, the guilt weighs on me, and the sicknesses remind me of the physical cost to the time we spend apart. Germs and jobs make life hard and they don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.