Cradling her arm and bracing it against her stomach, she asked, “Where are we going?” A river of blood began at her knee and snaked down her shin and into her sock. She leaned on her right rumpus to prevent the oozing gouges on the back of her upper thigh from sticking to the car’s seat upholstery. The left side of her body had taken the brunt of the blow.
Sweat matted her bangs to her forehead. Long strands of wet hair adhered to the sides of her face. A single sweat bead broke surface tension and descended to her chin before evaporating. Its path parted a patch of dirt on her cheek. Cakes of black mud formed between dirt-darkened fingers. Her eyes narrowed and I suspected she was revisiting the details of the disaster.
“We’re going to get your arm checked out,” I said. The situation warranted caution in the way that surprising a sleeping dog does. I kept my tone even and my eyes on the animal. No need to evoke bark or bite if both or either are avoidable.
“Now?” she exclaimed.
“Where?” she asked, her voice rising.
Summer was on our side. Our luck pleased me and I gloated over the good fortune. The horse threw her – my daughter prefers that I clarify for all that she did not fall off, since it implies rider error or projects an image of her listing off balance and tumbling to the ground; the horse took three strides, dropped its head, shot its back feet out and up and twisted its body with intent and force. It dismounted the child with laudable efficiency.
The event transpired in ten seconds at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, giving me plenty of time to identify a doctor who could fit her in. My daughter’s emergency could not have been more convenient if it had happened in the ER parking lot.
“I’m taking you to the doctor’s office,” I answered.
“Looking like this?” she fretted and freaked. “Where’s my helmet?”
“I need to make sure it didn’t get any scratches. I’m so mad at that horse. It dumped me and ran back to the barn. Do I have to go straight to the doctor? Can we go home first so I can change?”
I told her no during a brief pause in her tirade. She huffed and winced and mumbled again that she was mad and begged me to please take her home and splinted her wrist between her right forearm and her belly. She negotiated, “Can you at least fix my hair before we go in?”
What a relief to hear her say that. The poor child was born at the tail end of a string of boys. Expecting her to be a boy, too, I failed to equip myself with supplies or sensibilities for raising a girl. I’ve worried that I’ve omitted important points of belle basics.
But no more. Her emergency response indicated that she may even be ahead of the curve for a 13-year-old. She’s bypassing belle, collecting credentials and going directly to Southern matriarch. Not only did she straighten her face and clench her jaw as soon as she pulled herself out of the dust, she also cared about how her hair held up. Only a Southern lady can weather a calamity with a dry eye and a refreshed up-do.
The bloody knee still had to be reckoned with, but, y’all, I was just too proud for words. Her mettle and my mothering had been tested, and we both passed. It was one of the best Mondays of my