One of the drawbacks of living in temporary housing is not really knowing where the Emergency Room is. We had driven past a nearby hospital frequently, but I had not really registered exactly where it was. And this is precisely the reason I found myself snapping at the toddler that I could not hug him right now, reminding the pre-schooler to hold the towel to his head, and frantically calling their father to help me find the closest ER. And of course he was not picking up his phone. Then I was telling the toddler he had to stop crying immediately, shouting to the preschooler in the bathroom that we would be leaving for the hospital in a few minutes, and Googling Emergency Rooms in Santa Monica.
Turns out there was one three blocks away. That’s the funny thing about temporary housing; you just don’t notice your surroundings because you will be moving soon.
It all started because Zachary does not listen to his mother. I TOLD him that he was likely to hurt himself or break a toy if he insisted upon balancing upon the tiny bunk beds from his fire station. But, due to the fact that I am his mother, he completely ignored me.
“Sometimes I wish she would break things, just to show her I am right,” my best friend said on the other end of the line, all the way across the country in Boston. “But she doesn’t seem to care when she does.”
“And he never hurts himself, either,” I added, as Zach giggled and balanced and then fell over. He started screaming. Of course, he always starts screaming. “Zachary, did you hurt yourself?” I asked as I walked over. “And what were you doing when you did?”
And then, my friend in Boston heard the following from afar, as I had placed the phone down on the coffee table that had assaulted Zach’s head. “Oh, my God! I’ll talk to you later.” And the line went dead.
Benjamin woke up from his nap when I was still trying to stop the bleeding. There was no question of leaving him with a neighbor because we have no neighbors. We are in temporary housing, an apartment in a building of anonymous people. And our car is parked in a garage about 1/8 of a mile from the apartment, so I put Ben in the stroller to get to the car while Zach walked, still holding a towel to his head.
By the time we got to the ER, the bleeding had stopped, and Benjamin was wailing because he had not had so much as a diaper change since getting up from his nap. I looked at the volunteer: “Actually, it’s the other one who’s hurt.”
And, although I had failed to remain calm and reassuring at home, although I had snapped at Ben in frustration because his father was not picking up the damned phone or complying with the email that instructed “call NOW,” I know that I am not a total wash as a mother in emergency situations. I know this because I had the presence of mind to pack pretzels in the diaper bag before we left. Which explains why both children were chipper by the time we had gotten through registration.
In fact, no one had any issues until half an hour later, when the “Fast Track” nurse came in and ebulliently told Zachary, “I have a Band Aid here for you.” Now, if you have been reading here from the start, you will remember that Zachary rates Band Aids as second only to spaghetti sauce on his list of Dreaded Adult Torture Devices. When I tried to tell her to ditch the Band Aid, she told me it had a numbing medication on it.
And this is why I held Zach on my lap for twenty minutes, holding the damned cotton ball with the medication onto his little cut, while his brother moved furniture around the waiting room.
Later, after we had pinned Zach down so the doctor could glue the small (really, very small) cut on his head, I asked him what he would like for dinner. I said he could even eat in front of the TV tonight, a crazy idea if ever there was one. He hemmed and hawed, but he finally came out with it. “I am not eating at home tonight.”
“Where are you eating, then?”
“I want to eat at a restaurant.”
Fortunately, I did know where the Denny’s was, since they are, after all, ubiquitous. I called my friend, leaving a message letting her know what had happened, so she wouldn’t worry that the child had lost an eye.
And, once we had returned to our temporary housing, the apartment so small and so ill-suited to children that the only way they can amuse themselves is with close encounters with the coffee table, I had to confiscate the fire station bunk beds, because the first thing that kid did upon returning home was to try to balance on them again, this time bringing his brother in on the act.
So much for his gifted intelligence.