Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Darla's First Cut (I'm to Blame)

I feel too guilty to post a picture of the cut!
Darla's learning to grab things.  She can pick up small toys.  If she's sitting on my lap without something bright and colorful to reach for, she starts to cry.  She pushes her hand into those of whoever is holding her.  My least favorite part of this development is how she fiercely claws at my chest when I feed her.  I have little purple scratch marks up and down my chest as a result.

Typically, I avoid cutting her nails for as long as I can for fear of what the clippers will do to her delicate fingers.  Most recently, however, I allowed her nails to grow long because I was too damn busy.  Between keeping her fed/diapered, the house clean and planning a wedding (post to follow), incidentals like that fell by the wayside.  With the wedding behind me and our bags unpacked, I couldn't avoid it any longer. 

I sat her down on my lap, the dryer whirring in the background, and began cutting her nails.  I got cocky.  After nearly four months of cautious nail clipping leading to no major disasters, I decided I was an old pro.  I chatted with her as I worked.  She babbled back at me. 

For a moment, I thought, "I feel bad for those people who accidentally cut off a piece of their baby's fingertips."

Not one second later, Darla began to howl.  I didn't even move the nail clipper for fear of what I knew I'd see.  I took a deep breath and looked down.  Blood flowed from her tiny thumb tip.  She flailed her arms, smearing blood on her arms, onesie and my face.  I carried her into her room to grab the first aid kit.  I was dizzy.  The world was spinning around me. I was short of breath.  And the blood continued to pour out.

I put antiseptic and a band aid on her finger.  I fed her to keep her from screaming.  She ate to soothe herself.  I wondered if I were teaching her bad habits. Would she forever calm herself by way of food? 

The blood wouldn't stop. 

"On no," I thought, "I have to take her to the hospital.  She's so tiny. She doesn't have that much blood."

My phone wasn't charged and I had no other way to contact my sister's but through email.  With a shaky hand, I typed out: "I cut of part of her fingertip! What do i do.  ,y phone is out of bats and have no ones number~!"

I looked down at her hand as I got up to walk her around.  The band aid was gone.  

"No, no, no, no, no," I thought. 

I looked in her mouth to try and pull it out.  There was nothing there.  Had she swallowed it?  I quickly thought over everything I'd learned in my CPR class.  My mind was blank.

"Please, God.  Please help me find the band aid."

I walked in circles, with her screaming in my arms.  I stared at the floor.  I found a flower petal, a plastic tag, lint and a bottle cap.  No band aid.

"Please, please, please, please," I said out loud.

I looked down. It was by my foot.

I sat down on the bed and fed her some more.  Her cries were completely gone.  The blood had stopped dripping.  In Darla's world, the cut was but a distant memory (or, at least, that's what I kept telling myself). 

In my world, my guilt steadily increased.  My heart pounded and there was a pit in my stomach that wouldn't go away. I wondered whether the cut would get infected.  I wondered whether she would have a scar.  She would tell all her elementary school friends about how her mother had cut her when she was a little baby and that's why her thumb was disfigured.  I wondered whether I would ever get over this.  I wondered whether she would ever forgive me. 

As I wondered, I sat Darla up, looked at her and kissed her chubby cheeks.  She clasped her little hands together and gave me one of her big grins.  My heart ached for her.  She didn't realize she was smiling at the enemy.   I wished she would just yell at me and get it over with.  She just continued to smile.

I had only clipped three of her fingers and left the other one's long.  I couldn't run the risk of hurting her even more.  As her nails dig into me when she eats, I just assume I'm paying penance for my sin.    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Today's Top 5 "I Feel Guilty Because..."

1. I sometimes fake laugh to get Darla to giggle.  She'd feel so dumb if she knew!

2. I think everyone at Starbucks thinks I'm a horrible mom for talking on the phone and typing while Darla babbles next to me.

3. I have to drive long distances with Darla in the back seat.

4. I kept her out two hours past her bedtime. 

5. She has a cut of unknown origin on her finger.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mom Time

This story gives Darla and I a headache
Nowaday, I lose everything.  My card isn't an exception.  This is why I made sure to have cash on hand in order to pay for the Mommy and Me movie (Super 8) that I had plan on going to with my new mom friend.  I left it in the car so I would know where it was when I left the next morning. 

Darla was strapped in her seat and calm.  We were ready to roll.  I looked down in the cupholder to make certain the cash was there. 

It was gone.

I tore the car apart.  Sweat rolled down my temples.  I knew I only had a finite amount of time before Darla grew frustrated and started to scream.  I threw all the dry cleaning on the floor.  I knocked plastic cups out of their holders. I threw paper everywhere.  I even checked the glove compartment (clearly, the most unlikely place because it's the most logical spot to put cash). 

I called Greg, not knowing what else to do.

"I took out money so I would have cash today and I can't find it anywhere," I said.

"Ohhhhhh...Was it a few bills?" He asked.

"You didn't," I said.

"I thought it was a bad idea to leave cash sitting out like that, so I picked it up on my way to work," He said.

"I have no money!" I said.

"Sorry," he said. 

This was when Darla started to cry and I realized I was going to be over 20 minutes late meeting my new friend, whose cell phone number I didn't have because we'd only ever emailed each other.  I remembered the humongous bag of change that sat on the floor of my car.  I was just going to have to bite the bullet and use those.

I raced over to the the theater, reaching into the backseat every few seconds to shove the pacifier back in Darla's screaming mouth.  I, panic stricken, rolled her stroller into the theater and apologized profusely to my friend.

"One please," I said to the person selling the tickets.

"That's $10.50," she said.

"I'm so sorry about what I have to do, " I said as I started counting out stacks of four.  "One, two, three, four....Crap, I don't know if I have enough...five, six, six seventy five, seven, eight twenty five, nine...How much was it?...ten, ten fifty."

Mortified and ashamed, I collected my ticket.

"I'm so sorry," I said to my new friend.

She waved her hand as if to say get over it, but I couldn't.

We watched the movie and, after, she bowed out of lunch (which I would've had to pay for in quarters anyway).  She claimed she had a stomach ache.

I knew better and worried the whole way home that I had lost a potential friend.  I decided to write her an email in which I lied and said: I am usually far more put together.

She replied back that in Fiji everyone is late and they have something called Fiji Time.   We're on Mommy Time, she reasoned.  She then moved on to tell me that Ian Ziering (Steve from 90210) was the celebrity actor the woman in our mom group was referring to as being her husband.

I told her I had figured that out through a one handed google search within an hour of leaving the Mommy and Me group. 

My flakiness from that morning wasn't acknowledged any further.  All was right with the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The McKenna Family's Road Trip

Mama’s Losin’ It 
Thank you Mama Kat for the inspiration!

Kids wear sweatshirts tied around their waists and stand in front of beaming parents who “accidentally” dress in matching khakis and white collared shirts.  These are the pictures that sit on mantles or line the walls that lead up to the second levels of Middle America houses.  They stand next to Anne Getty calendars and mugs that read, “I don’t do mornings.”  The people who take these photos are the ones who store memories of family vacations in the parts of their brain marked “precious” or “beautiful.”  Parents remember the orgasmic rush of the seemingly bottomless Grand Canyon.  Kids only have visions of lines, boxes and zigzags burned into their retinas from their Gameboys.  Families look back on childhood and laugh at how the kids incessantly asked, “Are we there yet,” in nasally, lethargic voices that pinched eardrums with obnoxious cuteness.  They were probably on their way to Florida or Grandma’s house.
These memories are mundane and fade quickly.  The trips frequently orchestrated by my dad still burn bright in my mind and I can only hope to create vacations half as memorable for Darla. 
We would travel to Julian to pick up an apple pie.  We would trek to Anderson’s to enjoy their famous split pea soup. The highlight and motivation for every trip was food and usually required at least an hour’s worth of driving.  One of his favorite vacation spots was Knott’s Berry Farm.  He would throw out a net to catch as many of his twelve kids that he could and toss us in his Station Wagon.  Typically, this number hovered around eight, as the oldest ones had the good sense to hide or move out of the house.  

With all his kids loaded up, he drove North on highway 5 as two layers of brothers and sisters endured two to three hours of sore knees, numb limbs and a mild claustrophobic panic.  We might’ve ignored the spasms in our legs had we been allowed to play music, but my dad said he would get in an accident if we turned on the radio.  How could he be expected to pay attention to the road AND sing along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline?”  We respected his desire to not kill us, so we stared out the window or at his comb over to pass the time.  Usually, right when I thought I was about to have a panic attack because Sarah had been pinching my arms for the past two hours, we would pull off the freeway.
Entrance into Knott’s parking lot was just as long and tedious as our journey to it.  Cars slowly snaked through the packed parking lots hunting down a spot.  We eight pressed our noses against the window of the car and watched ravenously as the rides swooped, jiggled and plunged.  I would hear the sound of fading screams and my heart would fall.  I wasn’t destined to enjoy the rides or even step foot in the park.  Despite the fact that we traveled there bi-weekly, we only went inside a handful of times.   
As my dad reasoned, “Why da hell am I gonna pay $400 for all yous kids to sit on rides when you can just experience da lord’s splendor every day.”  This came from a man who would later spend $60 on fresh squeezed orange juice in one sitting.  His frugality was selective.
We had made the trip not for the rides, but for the long deceased Mrs. Knott, whose restaurant was typically a side note on anyone else’s vacation.  Before we could make it to the restaurant, however, we had to go through the ritual of showing the parking attendant his two-toed foot so we could park in the handicapped spot.  A disability placard would’ve remedied this need, but he derived too much pleasure showing it off. 
My dad and my sister Sarah
Here is how it would typically go down:
As we entered the parking lot, my dad quickly spotted the parking attendant.  He slowly drove over to her. The high, hot sun beat down on her large straw hat and ray-ban sunglasses; beads of sweat ran down her abnormally tan nose.  The woman glared at my dad as he interrupted the steady flow of traffic.
Our mom, who up until that moment, hadn’t said a word, decided to speak up, “please, Frank.  Not today.”   
He, intentionally ignoring the woman’s irritation and our mom’s request, waved the parking attendant over.  Instead of beckoning with his index finger, like most people would, he utilized his middle finger.  The gesture, which crosses all cultural and linguistic boundaries, told her, “I’m not dicking around.  Come talk to me right now.”
The previously agitated parking attendant shifted gears and cautiously approached the car.
I, six years old and in my usual spot on my sister Mary’s lap, screamed silently. I knew I wasn’t the only one who was afraid of what was going to happen next. I fidgeted with the frayed hem of my daisy dukes and kept my face turned away from the parking attendant; I nervously ripped out the string until it began to make tiny cuts in my hand.  That pain was more tolerable than the anxious anticipation.
Our dad said, “Sweetheart, it seems we have a problem here.  Err, I’m a man whose got a lot to deal with, like da twerlve kids sitting in da back.”
It didn’t matter that this point failed to drive the story forward in any way and there weren’t twelve of us in the backseat.  As long as we roughly looked like that amount, everything was cool.  The woman peered in the window and was confronted by an unkempt, bitter group of pale, freckled, buck-toothed kids.  She probably wondered why he was showing us off.  
He paused a moment both for dramatic effect and to let the parking attendant process the information.
“The reason I tell ya dis, sweetheart, is because I have a bit of a praablem with my foot.  I had a little boomp boomp and, well, I can’t walk too good.  Here, I’ll let ya see.”   
He quickly threw the car in park and we all watched with horror as he pulled off his black tennis shoe.  He peeled off multiple layers of torn, black socks to expose the most memorable foot that parking attendant had ever seen.
He thrust his exposed appendage through the window, right under the parking attendant’s nose.  (For how round he was, he was astonishingly limber).  The bright sun illuminated the foot perfectly and the moist puss and scabs glistened. It was a glorious body part, peppered with scar tissue and gashes.
The woman looked as if she were going to faint and I am pretty sure I saw her gag.  She wanted us out of her face and she waved us into the disability section as fast as she could. 
I took a sidelong look at her as we passed and saw she was holding her head in her hands.  Her eyes were squeezed shut as if she were trying to erase the gory image from her head as we pulled into the parking spot.  We headed into the restaurant.
Groups of tourists wrapped around the waiting area in the log cabin-esque restaurant.  I would’ve assumed they had made the trip just to eat like we did, but their sunburnt noses, souvenir Knott’s Berry Farm cups and large plastic pencils/piggy banks told a much different, far more exciting tail than my own. The only thing we had to look forward to was watching our dad devour her famous fried chicken, fluorescent pink rhubarb and mashed potatoes.
Once seated, we’d listen to the lighthearted, high-pitched screams of the adventure seekers faintly in the background as we watched our dad rip into heavily breaded fried chicken with intense passion.  As I looked around the restaurant, I could see he enthralled all the other patrons.  Were they admiring how he was able to spread chicken all over his face?  Or, maybe, they were wondering how he got so much butter on the back of his neck.
My dad could lose himself in a meal.  He was a prize-winning gurgitator that made Kobayashi look like a snail and outshone fireworks on the Fourth of July. (One of my brother, Patrick’s, friend specifically requested that he be put on alert when my mom purchased corn. He wanted to be sure he could make it over to our house in time to stare at my dad with wonder.  A kernel could somehow shoot across the room, make a lap around the dinner table and wind up on his forehead in a matter of seconds).  Us kids, however, had grown bored of his skills and immune to the fascination of this sight. We wanted to ride roller coasters, not watch grease drip down our dad’s chin; we could do that at home.
             After fifteen minute, he had left a mess that spread all over the table, his face and a five-foot radius of his chair.  He would pay the bill and usher us all back in the car.  He wanted to get us home in time for dinner.