It would be safe to assume that every parent’s worst nightmare would be that someone else might think they were hurting their own children. I can’t speak from experience, but I remember one time an acquintance of mine felt the need to let me know they thought I was not nice to my six-years-younger brother. The buck stopped there when I stopped being her friend and immediately stopped telling new friends the story of how I dressed him up in my “My Size Barbie” ballerina outfit.
My mother was a caring mother. However, as I recall, most of the time my cousins and I ran amuck. I was probably blind to the fact that my parents were watching our every move, but we pretty much did as we pleased: we wanted ice cream before dinner? Okay. How about three cokes? You got it. My parents weren’t so much “no” types of parental units. They were more like “let’s let them figure out” kinds of people. So after advising us plenty of times to not run around in the tree-filled front yard as we recklessly played tag, I think they realized the “figure it out on their own” aspect of parenting sometimes comes to fruition once someone gets hurt.
In this instance, that someone was myself. I was on the verge of turning seven-years-old. I was in first grade and had made my first best friend, Jennifer. It was a crisp day in October, and I remember all of the Halloween decorations were out, so it was almost time to get dressed up as my favorite Disney princess. The decision this year? Cinderella.
My cousins, Ashley and Chase, and I were frolicking around the front yard we had been so many times warned about. “Be careful,” our parents would say. I should have known better, given I had many terrible experiences in the front yard, mostly falling off my bike and getting bitten by millions of fire ants.
I was being chased during a very aggressive game of tag by (ironically) Chase. In true rookie fashion, I turned my head around to look at him and yell, “Chase! Stop chasing me!” as I attempted to run faster away from him. This didn’t prove to be the most effective approach, but it definitely got him to stop chasing me: as I turned my head back around, I ran directly into a gigantic oak tree, face first.
I don’t remember much about the incident except that I had fallen down and my head hurt. I was on the ground, lifted my hand to my head to rub it and realized that it felt wet. Pulling my hand away, it was covered in blood.
Cue the screaming.
For whatever reason, my mom was not as dramatic as I thought she was going to be, which is probably why I turned up the waterworks in an effort to make it known that this was a BIG DEAL. Ashley ran inside to grab her mother, my mom and my grandma and notify them that I “ran into at tree.” I’m sure they all thought it was hysterical, but thank God they didn’t let me know or else I probably would have gone ballistic. As I walked up the stairs to my mother, she grabbed me and took me to the upstairs bathroom to wash my scraped up face.
When I think about what I looked like, I can only compare it to Two-Face in Batman. Half of my face was scabbed up, the other half as soft as my bottom. My mom and Aunt were trying to figure out what exactly to do: douse me in Neosporin? Wrap gauze around my head? No idea seemed ideal (to me). I guess they moved forward with the Neosporin bit because I would have remembered looking like a mummy so close to Halloween.
The next day at school I had to brace myself for pointing and whispers; I was going to be the freak show of the first grade. I was already ridiculed because I had very short hair at that age and the idiotic boys in my grade would tell me I looked like a boy. I really did not need another reason for harassment, but there was nothing I could do to not draw attention to myself: if I stuck a bunch of bandages on my face, people would wonder what happened. If I left the wounds unwrapped, people were going to look at me with absolute disgust. Being six, this was the end of the world.
I was dropped off late, which was a blessing because nobody was in the hall to see me before class. Phew. As I walked into Mrs. Jenkins class, everyone turned around to look at me because I was late, but their reason for inspecting me slowly changed once they took a gander at my mug: what the hell was wrong with Kirbie’s face?
I didn’t cry. I acted like nothing was the matter and took a seat at my desk. Jennifer looked at me. “What happened?” I didn’t respond, just pretended like I had no idea what she was talking about. That’s when Mrs. Jenkins excused herself from the board and came over to me, gave me a hug and took me outside. She bent down to my eye level and asked me what had happened and if I was okay.
“Nothing happened, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I was playing with my cousins and got hit.”
Clearly Mrs. J wasn’t buying it. It looked like acid had been poured on one side of my face and I’m telling her I was innocently playing around with some friends? Yeah, right.
After a moment of confusion, she grabbed my hand. “Honey, are your mommy and daddy hurting you?”
I had no idea what she could possibly mean. I had a spanking or two in my life but I never even had soap put in my mouth. My mom, while we were all terrified to get her upset, was harmless. Her bark was definitely bigger than her bite. And my dad never laid out punishment — he might have thought of the consequences (getting grounding, housework, etc.), but he never told us himself. He let my mom do all the talking. He’d just offer a solemn “I”m disappointed” and then we’d feel crappy enough to never disappiont him again.
“No, no they aren’t.”
After a few more minutes of interrigation, she escorted me to the principal’s office, whom happened to be a friend of my parents. I’m almost positive that Mrs. Jenkins was going to call the CPS. When I walked in to Mr. Zenner’s office, he gave me a little chuckle. “Well Kirbie, what do we have here? Did you run into a tree or something?”