Frankly, I always thought it would be the bookshelves. There's a 9-foot niche in one of our living room walls, a perfect spot for some low, sleek, floating shelves to hold artbooks with a display shelf on top. So just a few weeks before the kid was born, I had a friend with a fabrication shop custom-cut a sheet of 10-foot birch ply into thirds, which I suspended on the standard Elfa bracket system from The Container Store. The shelves wrap around the edges of the columns exactly as I'd imagined, like they're floating; they really look nice.
And stupid. Unbelievably stupid, in the special kind of expectant dad-cluelessness that's untempered by any thought for what's in store. I mean, what kind of dope would suspend a hundred heavy, expensive, visually irresistable, untouchable books a foot off the floor, on a cantilevered shelf, with square-edged wings protruding into space, which happen to be spaced exactly at forehead height for crawlers and flat-out running toddlers? [They're pictured above next to the other woefully ill-advised child hazard, a sculpture made of 180 pounds of choke-optimized candy. It has since been removed.]
Three-plus years of vigilance and needless anxiety later, I'm sure the subconscious groundwork has been laid for the kid's lifetime of bookshelf-related neuroses. But no matter how well-conditioned she seems to be about Daddy's Books and The Shelves, every time she goes streaking from her room, through the hall, around The Column into living room, on her way to tag up at the front door in the foyer, I wait for her to slip and totally brain herself on one of those corners. "This shelf-corner-shaped divot in my forehead?" she'll reply to the college interviewer, "well, when I was little, my dad really liked plywood..."
But it turned out to be the door. Or more precisely, a little bracket nailed to the molding, a few inches above the baseboard, which tacks down the co-ax cable as it comes into the apartment. The kid was on the fourth or fifth lap of her Running Dance, showing off to a friend who'd come over for supper last night. He and I were still sitting at the table after dessert, and neither of us could stifle our initial, reflexive laughs when it looked like the kid had just run, Tom & Jerry-style, straight into the door. My wife was closest, and when she went over to comfort the kid, she goes, "Greg, I've got blood here." Sure enough, when she picked her up and turned her around, the kid looked like Carrie at the prom, blood streaming down her little face.
Paper towels. The woefully inadequate sterile pads from the artful Restoration Hardware first aid kid we'd gotten for Christmas one year. One of the muslin dishtowels we'd just taken out of the laundry. Ice cubes in a Ziploc bag. While the kid was crying on my wife's lap, and our friend called his ICU nurse wife for suggestions, the triage was fairly calm and gradually got more effective. One glimpse at the deep, red gash, though, was all it took to know this was the night the kid would be getting her first stitches.
I got the kid's favorite blanket, a Pull-Up, and a change of clothes, and stuffed them in my wife's bag, and put the soup in the fridge [the Barefoot Contessa corn chowder recipe makes enough for an army, btw. Even halved, it barely fit in our biggest pot.] then our friend helped them to the street while I brought the car around. [Note: at the hospital, we ended up putting a diaper on over the kid's underpants because the Pull-Up was too unwieldy. And we didn't need them in the end, but if you're bringing an extra shirt for a headwound patient, go for the button-up kind; all I was thinking was "what's expendable?" and so I grabbed a t-shirt with bows on that has been at the top of my purge list since it came in the house.]
The drive to the hospital was short and familiar--it's where she was born, and where we go for checkups--and while the kid was only sobbing a bit now and the bleeding had mostly stopped, and my wife was saying, "I guess it's a miracle it's taken this long," I couldn't help thinking of Ian Holm in the The Sweet Hereafter, having to keep his infant daughter's pulse down in the car so the venom wouldn't spread from the spiderbite.
[Wow, three TV or movie references already, and I'm only on the way to the hospital. Let's pick up the pace.]
We got to the ER a little after eight. It was slow [resident: "it's probably because of the rain"] we were triaged and coldpacked instantly, and the wife and the kid were in before I came back from parking the car. For people who don't like waiting, a toddler with a bleeding headwound is the must-have accessory. [Apparently, she was screaming, "Get me out of here!" at the top of her little lungs on the way in. The attendants were later very impressed by the articulateness of her bloodcurdling objections.]
The kid fell asleep in my wife's, then my, arms. She slept through the assessment and the topical numbing. She only woke up with the local anesthetic. The towel over her eyes to help with irrigation freaked her out, so she went into the restraining blanket. ["Get this burrito off of me!"] My wife held her and we talked to her the whole time, to little avail. We tried to distract her with stories. A recent favorite/obsession, Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," worked for a while as the specialist was doing the internal stitches ["I can't see! Get this tent off my face!"], but it quickly became tricky because, hello, it's a depressing, freaky-scary story. ["Put down those scissors! Don't cut me!" "I'm in charge!" "Stop fanning me with that thing!"]
You want to be calm and strong for your kid. It kills you to see them so scared, suffering, frustrated, mad. [In a debrief this morning, she told us she was really angry the doctors had wrapped her in that blanket; it was so sweaty, and she couldn't move.] You know it's for the best, but it's excruciating. At the same time, I felt bad for the nurses and the doctors, the objects and targets of the kid's rage. So I worked a Pharma joke into the kid's story. Seemingly relieved, muttered laughter. Then it was over.
Stitches in [six on top, three absorbable layers underneath, it was quite a braining], surgeon disappeared, the kid was totally chill. An attendant asked us to move so they could put a critical patient in our room. We were home by 10:45. All told, it involved less time or pain than sitting through a Harry Potter movie. And if the surgeon's as good as he was claimed to be, and we're careful about the sunscreen, there's no life re-oriented around a deeply meaningful forehead scar, either.