Friday, May 14, 2010
I woke up Monday morning and looked at my planner. Sister had her well-child check-up scheduled for 11:00 that day. Sudden shame and dread gripped me by the back of the neck. I had chills and flashbacks of last years well-child where my daughter was asked to answer questions about her address, phone number and fire escape plan. She had just smiled blankly and shrugged her shoulders shyly and all eyes had turned on me. I took a sudden interest in my shoes. I left with a long ‘to-do list’ of skills and data bits to teach my daughter. The list was subsequently stamped to death, covered in stickers and ingested by the baby. So we were forced to cram a year’s worth of learning into Monday’s space between breakfast and the waiting room.
I used a singsong voice and cheerleader enthusiasm to hide my panic. “I have an idea! Let’s learn our address this morning! What a fun thing to know!” A few minutes in, Sis decided to write things down. She returned with a small pad and a crayon and dutifully recorded all the important facts of her life.
Armed with string cheese and blankies we waited for the doctor to see us. She finally arrived, checked hearing, vision and reflexes. “O.k., Sis, I have a few questions for you,” she said, gripping her clipboard with a sinister smile.
“Mom, hand me my pad of paper!” Sis said loudly, sensing the urgency and seriousness of the situation.
“What is your address?” The doctor asked.
“I live at 5 – 5 – 5 – 5 S-O A-N-D S-O L-A-N-E” she answered with great concentration and the pad of paper nearly touching her nose.
“O.k.” the doctor replied slightly caught off guard. “What would you do in an emergency?”
“That’s easy,” Sis replied casually. “Call 911.” Everyone with a little brother and a library card knows that. “Do you know what, Doctor? We just got a trampoline!”
An icy wind blew through the room, sweeping out all sound and friendliness. I started lining up the crayons on the seat next to me.
“Do you know the rules of the trampoline?” the doctor asked.
Sis looked at me and shook her head indiscriminately. The doctor answered her own question. “The first rule is ‘one child at a time’.” The eyeballs in my daughter’s head darted sharp left to assess my response. Sis nodded and pinched her lips together to hold in her thoughts and I could see her eyelids flexing to restrain visions of her and her brother jumping away together in their pajamas earlier that morning. I, of course, was studying my cuticles.
In all the excitement questions about flossing and fire safety were forgotten. The nurse returned with five shots and three stickers, and we finally left, leaving behind broken crayons and the confiscated Good Mommy badge.
They brush their teeth. Eat vegetables. Play outside. Is it really that important that they know where they live? And how to call home? Perhaps it is. Because sooner or later we all get lost. And need the help of a stranger to find our way. And in order for that stranger to help us, they would have to know where it is we want to go. In fact, we would have to know where it is we want to go. And to whom we belong. And the numbers, in order, which we would need to enter to hear the voice of home on the other line.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth . . . Instead they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16