Tuesday, 13 September 2011


When I was sorting my loft out, I came across a folder of short stories and various bits and pieces that I had written nearly twenty years ago. If mainstream blogging had existed then, it would  have been the sort of stuff that I would have posted. The yellowed paper and hand corrected typewriter font seem so remote from my computer and high resolution monitor but the process behind the writing is identical. I would like to share one of my ramblings from that other time and have chosen this one that still feels very relevant to me today. It is about an accident involving my one year old daughter. Even now it is hard for me to read it. As I look at my one year old son today, the memory is all too vivid.

All I did was to close the door. As simple as that. I didn't even slam it. Just closed the door.

And there she was beside me, my child, looking up at me in pain and confusion. She was only one year old. Still a baby. How could she understand.

I realised at once that I had trapped her finger. I opened the door quickly to release it. I was ready, as always, as every mother is, with a kiss and a little bit of maternal magic to make it all better.

That was when I saw the damage. The damage I had inflicted on my child.

She was screaming now and the tears that flowed freely from her eyes were the judge and jury pronouncing my guilt.

She has beautiful hands, my child. Not the cute, pudgy ones of many infants. Hers are small with long slender fingers. She can perform remarkably dextrous feats with those beautiful, expressive hands.

Thinking this made the burden of guild impossible to bear.I'm not a demonstrative person, prone to emotional outbursts, but I screamed. Her pain was my pain. We screamed together.

My husband, white faced with fear, ran to us. My hysteria disabled me. All I could do was hold my child and shake uncontrollably.

He saw the finger. The tiny finger, cruelly crushed by the ordinary, familiar door. He saw the blood, oozing thickly from the wound. He saw the tiny bone, so clean and white. He saw the end of the finger, detached, misplaced, hanging by a thin band of skin, the nail already beginning to blacken. All these details are perfectly preserved in my mind like insects in amber.

He had to be strong. Of course he did. Our older daughter sat terrified, watching in silence as the scene unfolded.

I was breathing hard, trying to regain some control. I had to do the right thing. Television hospital dramas replayed at amazing speed through my brain. How well the physical barrier of the TV screen protects us from the reality of the incidents we view from our comfy chairs; our warm, safe living rooms.

A towel. Wrap the hand in a towel.

My husband made himself responsible for getting us to Casualty and I wrapped the hand and tried to comfort my child. I felt bound to her, as though the umbilical cord had never been severed. I re-experienced the pain and elation of childbirth and all the time I was thinking, what have I done?

My other daughter was bundled off to a neighbour. She is sensitive and impressionable. I know it upset her but children are resilient.

Blood was seeping trough the towel. Why had I chosen a white one? My child was sobbing gently. I held her close to me and kept the hand still. My mind relentlessly visualised the mess within the towelling wrap.

Where do all the people go? All the people in all the cars. Are their lives tainted with tragedy and disaster? What secrets are contained within each and every vehicle?

My husband was wonderful and I love him for it. Finding his way through the traffic, we arrived a Casualty. I felt a sense of coming home. I suppose 'home' is where we feel safe and I felt safe here. Here, there were people who would know what to do. 

The doctors and nurses were wonderful and love them for it. They were calm and reassuring and I began to feel calm and reassured.

My husband had not yet allowed himself the privilege of reacting emotionally to the situation, but now that someone else was taking charge, his suffering began.

As soon as the finger was cleaned up and taped together, the damage didn't look so severe. We were told that it would heal in no time, and a dressing was applied.

My child will be fine.

But what of me?

I somehow imagined that my loved ones would be immune to injury, physical or emotional. But they are not. My love can't protect them. They are vulnerable. We all are.

All I did was to close the door.

I remember coming home from the hospital. My older daughter who would only have been 4 years old, was afraid of the huge bandage covering her baby sister's finger. She had a  knitted toy kangaroo and we bandaged its tail together to familiarise her with dressings. My little injured 1 year old used the bandage to teeth on.

The finger did heal and part of the healing involved the nail falling off. I remember finding the nail in her cot and not wanting to look at the finger. It was not terrible. Despite being warned that the finger nail may never grow back, there was already definite signs of regrowth.

Today, there is still a very clear, thin white scar that goes almost all the way round the end of the middle finger of 20 year old Ivy's left hand. The radial bridge that prevented the finger end becoming completely detached is clearly visible. The nail is thicker than normal and there is a definite kink in the tip that has become more pronounced over the years. She says her wonky finger helps her to play certain chords on the guitar!

1 comment:

  1. It still makes me shudder to think about what happened. On a side note, I thought the thumbnail of baby Emily was Dylan. They are so similar! x


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