Sammy Nightingale

>> Friday, August 10, 2007

Samantha likes to throw her head backward and look up at the sky (or ceiling). Often, while standing next to me, she throws her head back with such abandon that she loses her balance. She doesn’t worry, though, because she knows I’ll catch her. Most of the time I do.

Yesterday, our family climbed on top of each other in our bed after work; wrestling, laughing and playing. During these moments, I’m usually on constant guard for some body part to hurl itself against my head; for a sharp elbow to lean into my ribs; for a finger to make it’s way to my eyeball.

But like they say, it came out of nowhere.

Samantha threw back her head, confident that someone or something would block her fall. She was right -- the bridge of my nose broke her fall. In the battle between her head and my nose-bone, her head won.

There was no blood, which was disappointing. When something hurts that friggin’ much, I expect a little visual evidence in order to extract the appropriate sympathy. But nothing. It didn’t even swell. But it really, really hurt! (whaaa...)

Upon impact, a dizzying flash exploded in my eyes followed by a compulsion to scream curse words. Intense pain obviously placed my mental censor on full alert and I only yelled, “Damn!” -- which was not nearly as satisfying as what I wanted to yell. In an attempt to curb any violent impulses, I ran from the room to collect myself and assess damage.

For some reason I went to the girls room and sat on Samantha’s bed. There’s something comforting about a little girl’s room. I guess I associate it with my own childhood sanctuary.

After a couple of minutes a little voice came up to me.

“I’m sorry, Mommy.”

“Thank you, sweetie,” I say, rubbing my nose.

“Are you OK?” Samantha asks softly, her voice higher than normal, like the sound of a butterfly.

“Well, it hurts.”

“It does?” she asks in the same soft voice and tilts her head to encourage my response.

“Mmmhmm.” In this room, with this comfort, I am suddenly a little girl again.

“Do you want some ice? To make you feel better? Ok?” She reaches for my hand. “We can walk slow, OK. Very slow.”

I smile and nod and let this small two year-old take care of me. Very gently, she takes my hand and leads me to the kitchen. She looks up at me, “Can you get the ice for me for your head?” After all, I am a little girl who towers over her “mommy” by about 3 feet.

I nod and pull the ice pack from the freezer, then I hand it to her and sit down. She then hands the ice back to me and I put it on my nose.

“No,” she says sweetly, “It goes on your head.” She carefully takes it from me and puts it on my head.

“But my nose hurts -- not my head,” I say and put the ice back on my nose. My nose is really hurting and I’m relieved by the cold.

“No, it goes on your head,” Samantha insists. Her voice has lost some of its softness.

“Honey, you didn’t bump my head. You bumped my nose.”

Her brow furrows. “No, your head!”

“My nose!”

“Your head!!”

Goddamnit. (sigh) I put the ice on my head. She is happy.

The pain in my face will eventually subside (right?), but perhaps she will gain more from being my Sammy Nightingale. As she took care of me, I wondered: Where did she get this language of comfort? The soft voice? The tilt of the head? The gentle mannerisms?

And then, much like her hard head, it hit me -- she got it from me, of course. It doesn’t end there, however, because I got it from my mother. And what about Samantha’s stubborn refusal to put the ice on my nose? Her complete conviction that she was right, even though she was clearly wrong? Well, she probably got that from you-know-who, as well.

Well, so long. I’m leaving, now, because the mere act of recalling this event has caused my nose to ache. Like I say: Life is good. I really love them all. Now, where’s my Excedrin...

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