Henry fell. He didn’t fall far and he didn’t get badly hurt but he did skin his knee well enough to require two bandages. He does not like getting bandages and so when he fell and laid there crumpled in a ball crying, I let his father tend to it. There is something mesmerizing about watching Tim pick his child up. I don’t know if it’s his big hands, or strong arms, or the fact that Henry continues to stay crumpled even as he is being picked up, but you would think Henry was made of cardboard by the ease in which his father lifts him.
The next thing I knew, Henry was sitting across from me on his father’s lap, licking a popsicle in between sobs. I noticed he was squeezing his leg just above the bandages and told him he was doing the very right thing in transferring the pain. I do the same thing when getting a shot. I pinch or dig my hand to the point where I don’t feel the shot — but I do feel my hand for the rest of the day. It’s not a perfect science.
Neither the popsicle nor pain transference were stopping the tears — which was crackling my heart into splinters so I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk — to maybe see if the horses were out across the street. I was hoping to take his mind off of his pain. He agreed but walked across the yard as if he had just come from a war zone. I figured we wouldn’t get far.
The joy in this moment was that because we were crossing the road he knew he had to hold my hand. He’s not a hand holder by nature, nor is he one to cuddle so I treasured the feel of his small hand in my own.
The horses were not out so I turned to head back when he said, “Wait, you said we were going for a walk.”
“You want to walk some more?”
“Dat way”, and he pointed north. His mind was now on the scenery and he couldn’t stop talking about it. He chatted about a man on a roof making a repair, a tree that fell at the edge of the woods, a cute brown doggie barking in a doorway, and a parked car that looked just like Mommy’s.
We talked about clouds and houses and dirt. All the while he was allowing me to hold his precious, slightly chubby little hand, with no tugging to get away at all. He used the other hand to hold up his shorts so they wouldn’t touch his boo-boo, but since it was his left hand crossing to his right leg I offered to roll the shorts higher so he wouldn’t have to do that. I had to roll it with one hand because he was not letting go of my other hand — and I was totally okay with that. This hand holding in the road must be something he worked out with his mother so he didn’t have to get in a stroller.
Now here’s an embarrassing little secret: at this point in my life I can no longer walk very far without the added bonus of flatulence. Its a little gift Mother Nature invented that I’m sure keeps her in stitches. As Henry prattled on about the things he was seeing, I found myself relieved that I was with an innocent child and didn’t need to make apologies for my flaccidity. Suddenly Henry stopped in his tracks. “Did you farrrt?”
Well that got me laughing which made the matter worse, but he didn’t judge me. He was merely noticing a fact. I could have walked with this child all night, and I might, maybe would have but eventually Henry spotted a big black dog running free — off in the distance. And that’s when fear shot up my spine and I said it was time to turn around.
I told him I didn’t like dogs very much but that I liked his dogs so he talked about his dogs, his cats, his sister and brother, the moon, and that car that looked like Mommy’s that was still there. I told him I would show him how to tell Mommy’s car from all the other cars like it as soon as we got back. He continued on about his swing set and his monster trucks and how much he loves pena-budder samiches.
Sooner than I wanted, we were back. I showed him the sticker that only his Mommy has and then it happened. His beautiful hand slipped from mine and he ran off to play with his siblings. The air left my lungs and I wondered if I’d ever feel that kind of contentment again.
His parents thanked me for helping Henry get his mind off his boo-boo, and I thanked them for letting me be such a big part of Henry’s life.