I was crabby from carrying my heavy crockpot and Halloween decorations from the office to my parking ramp (we had a chili cookoff at work and no one else from marketing was able/willing to make the chili, so I took one for the team – and while it was delicious and we won first place — I was feeling bitter about having to make the chili, do the dishes, and carry the crockpot back to my car), and then, when I was feeling sweaty and my arms were quivering like I had just done 50 push-ups, there was an accident/traffic back-up getting onto 94, causing me to be 45 minutes late to preschool—on a night when the boys had a school dance, no less, and I had promised I’d pick them up absolutely no later than 5 p.m. and I knew Adam would be watching that clock with the vigilance of an armed soldier outside Buckingham Palace. (And of course no one picked up the phone the first two times I called because they were most likely outside, but I needed to let them know I was stuck in traffic, which added to my irritation because I knew Adam was going to be worrying his little heart out.) After what felt like an eternity, I finally arrived at preschool, hurried to get the boys, hurried to get their backpacks from upstairs, and hurried back to the car, then hurried to meet Aaron at a fast food joint, where the boys scarfed down burgers in record time and I tried not to let my negative attitude affect everyone else (because it wasn't their fault I was in a bad mood). We didn’t want to be late to the dance—this was an annual event, and it only lasted two hours, and they could be missing out on something great (like hearing the “Whip Nae Nae” song for the fifth time?!), so we hurried, hurried, hurried. They were so excited! A Halloween dance! At school!
This whole time I was picturing that one bottle of Alaskan Amber I have left in the fridge, patiently waiting for me on the top shelf, between a jar of almond butter and a container of Greek yogurt. It was taunting me: I’m right here. I’m cold and refreshing. I’ll make your bad day better.
It was going to be a long two hours.
When we walked into the gym, it looked like a traditional dance with one of those plastic disco globes flashing green, red, and blue circles of light on the wall—and it sounded like a traditional dance with the DJ playing “Uptown Funk”—but the bored parents sitting in chairs along the perimeter of the dance floor and the kids playing tag rather than actually dancing quickly proved it was not going to be a traditional dance. The kids wanted money to buy ring pops and glow bracelets, and then they wanted some of those nasty nachos (that really only taste good as an adult when you are starving, watching a ball game on a hot summer day, or really, really drunk), and every now and then they’d check in with us for some bottled water. We were very clear about the most important main rule: Do not leave this gymnasium. Ever. Under any circumstances. With anyone or anything. If you have to go to the bathroom, get one of us first. I totally admit that I was paranoid following the recent news of Jacob Wetterling’s possible abductor being found … it brought all of those scary, can-never-feel-too-safe feelings back to the forefront. It would be so easy for a person “posing” as a parent to snatch one of the kids when they least expected it. I mean, I would hope they’d scream or protest and someone would notice, but you can’t rely on other people to pay attention to what’s going on with your kids when they have their own kids to keep track of, ya know? And it was hard to keep track of the kids, with all the running. For some reason, though, it never occurred to me to tell them to stop running, that’s not safe. They were all playing tag. I even saw a teacher good-naturedly join in the fun.
After bringing Ben to the bathroom, I struck up a conversation with one of the moms while Aaron talked with one of the dads. I was on door patrol, while Aaron was keeping his eye on the kids inside the gym. I remember asking the mom what time it was, and feeling surprised when she said it was 7:45. My stress/anxiety from earlier in the day had somewhat subsided; but I still wanted a beer.
Five minutes later—10 minutes before the dance ended—Adam’s friend Michael’s dad came frantically running up to me. “Your son just got hurt really bad!”
Before I had a chance to process what that meant, Aaron and a hysterical Adam came rushing past me—Adam holding his hands over his bloody mouth while Aaron steered them through the crowd to the bathroom. I can’t remember ever seeing Adam so hysterical. Or seeing so much blood. I followed them into the boy’s bathroom and shut the door. Adam was still screaming/crying/hysterical. “What happened?” I asked Aaron, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.
“He collided with another kid,” Aaron said while trying to rinse the blood from Adam’s mouth. The running water in the sink mixed with Adam’s blood and splattered red droplets on the mirror, on the wall, on the back of the white sink. So much blood. It looked like a scene from CSI.
“Do you think he cut his mouth open, like he might need stitches? We might have to take him to urgent care,” I said, trying to mop up some of the blood with a paper towel.
“I don’t wanna go there!” Adam shrieked, still spitting out blood. “MY TOOTH!” he screamed and pointed in the sink. Sure enough, there was a little white tooth in the sink, here one second, washed down the drain the next. “I LOST TWO TEETH TONIGHT!” he screamed. “TWO OF MY TEETH ARE GONE!!!”
Two teeth?! Like, two adult teeth or two baby teeth?
“TWO BABY TEETH!” he cried. “It hurts!!”
(Can you imagine colliding into another person’s face so hard that you lose two teeth?! OMG. They must have both been running fast.)
My next thought was: “I hope the other little guy is ok.” (Aaron had seen him on the ground, screaming, before he realized that he had collided face-first into Adam and well, he couldn’t dwell on the other little guy because he had his own little guy to worry about).
My thought after that was “I should find ice for Adam.” Genius that Aaron is (the voice of reason) remembered that the PTA moms had ice in a cooler, where they were selling pop. (I’m not sure where I would have looked for ice otherwise.)
My thought after that was “OMG, I LEFT BEN AT THE DANCE UNATTENDED!!!!!!!”
After a moment of panic followed by a wave of relief when I quickly found Ben (who wasn’t too far away, with Michael and his parents, totally unfazed that his mom, dad, and brother had suddenly disappeared), I found the PTA mom by the cooler and breathlessly asked if I “couldgetsomeiceformysonwhohadanaccidentandheknockedouttwoteeth.” (“Yes, of course you can! That’s awful!” She was very, very concerned, and I promise I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, I was just giving her all the facts—like I was taught as a reporter). Ben and I took a plastic glove filled with ice back to the bathroom and shut the door, where Aaron had wadded up a fresh paper towel and stuck it in Adam’s still bleeding mouth. A very annoying little boy kept knocking on the door, and I had to open the door a crack and firmly tell him, “My son had an accident. Can’t you use a different bathroom?!” Thankfully the dance was almost over, and there weren’t many other boys waiting in line. (Seriously, go find a different bathroom!!! This is a school! There’s more than one!) At this point, a small crowd of concerned/nosey/”glad-that-shit-didn’t-happen-to-my-kid” parents had formed outside the bathroom. It seemed like the ice was helping to numb the pain, although we still couldn’t get a good look in Adam’s mouth to assess the damage (his mouth was mangled, but didn’t appear to be cut), and the bleeding had slowed considerably. Adam calmed down enough to wipe away his tears and leave the bathroom with us. (He had a reputation to uphold, after all. He was in second grade.)
“Is he ok?” one of the parents asked.
No, he is NOT ok, you dumbass! Teeth were just forcefully knocked out of his face!
“He’ll be alright. We’re going to call the dentist now,” I replied.
When we got to the car, Aaron called the after-hours number for our family dentist and explained the situation to whoever answers the after-hours line. That person had to page the on-call dentist, but reassuringly told us, “You’ll get a call back soon.” We didn’t want to leave the school and go home (even though Ben kept whining that he was SO TIRED and wanted to go to bed) because we thought we might have to bring Adam in to the clinic, and we weren't too far from the clinic, so we all sat in the car and waited, and waited, and waited. Adam looked sad; Ben fell asleep.
|Waiting for the dentist to call back. We were parked. Adam had to ask Ben to buckle his belt for him before we left.|
After waiting for 30 minutes, we decided to drive home. We put some gauze pads in Adam’s mouth to soak up the blood and gave him a new ice pack while he half-heartedly watched TV. After another 45 minutes or so, the dentist finally called. (So much for “hearing back soon.”) Besides the pain he was in, we were mostly worried that Adam’s two front teeth had been knocked out of alignment—they definitely didn’t look right. The on-call dentist listened to the situation, then told Aaron that at eight-years-old, a child’s mouth is still pliable. Teeth can shift back with a little manual manipulation. He asked Aaron if he was comfortable gently forcing them back into place. “You’re saying I should pull on one and push on the other one for a few seconds?” Aaron repeated the instructions. OUCH. He did what the dentist advised, Adam only protested a little, and then we gave him some Tylenol and let him pass out on the couch. (The dentist wanted us to wait until Adam’s mouth had healed before we brought him in.)
Once Adam was sleeping, I looked over at Aaron and announced, “I’m gonna have a beer.”
And let me tell you, that beer was heavenly.
On Halloween (the next morning), Adam woke up with a very swollen, very sore, very tender mouth. He did not look like Adam. He didn’t act like Adam. We cancelled plans to see the Anoka Halloween parade with Aaron’s dad, but Adam was feeling well enough to go trick-or-treating in Forest Lake that night. His best friend Michael was so concerned about Adam that he wrote him a heartfelt note after the dance/accident, and sent $2 from his piggybank. It was possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen one little friend do for another.
|Adam wanted me to take this photo so Michael wouldn't worry about him. |
It was the first time he tried to smile after the accident (more facial pain). Poor kid.
|I love this.|
|They did NOT like Uncle Nick's scary clown mask, but everyone thought Ashley made a perfect "crazy cat lady."|
|We threw together our costumes at the last minute.|
|My 87-year-old grandma Kate came over Halloween night. She liked seeing everyone, but I think it was a little loud and overwhelming for her. (We can get rowdy when we're all together.)|
It turns out that the other kid in the “head-on collision” (get it?! Ha ha) suffered a cut above his eye. I’m so glad it wasn’t much, much worse for either one. Also?
It rained while trick-or-treating, which really deflated our spirits. (Get it? Spirits?) Halloween was on a Saturday, so I was expecting more of a rowdy neighborhood vibe, but the rain really put a damper on that. The rain didn’t deter the kids, though. They understood that more houses = more candy. Funny thing is, they haven’t asked for their Halloween candy more than maybe twice all week. We’ll either donate it to my dad for hunting "fuel" or wind up throwing it away. On the bright side, less cavities, right?! The last thing we need in this family is another tooth crisis!