Today I went to a neighbor's to pick up my four year old daughter from a playdate. The mom, her three young children, plus my Clara were all playing in the front yard, walking over the rocks and landscaping. From several houses away, I could tell they were all having fun and all seemed well. As I approached, Clara yelled, "Max!" and started towards me with a smile (I don't know why she prefers this to calling me "Dad" and the story about that is another Slice to write).
Just about the time I noticed that she had a scrape the size of a nickel under her eye, I saw her remember it too. The smile dropped, her arms came up, and she started to cry like it had just happened. Apparently she had fallen on their treadmill and scraped her face. Of course, it had been almost thirty minutes before, but now she was so inconsolable I had to carry her home. On the way to our house, she calmed down but the moment we walked in and saw "Mom" (who only occasionally gets called "Susan") she started up again. It took some silly stories and her dinner to get her to forget about it enough to be okay.
And the part where she was fine until she saw me, and later Susan, reminded me of a story from my childhood.
FLASHBACK FLASHBACK FLASHBACK
Evergreen, Colorado - Early 1980s
By an early age, my brother and I had relatively free reign in the woods behind my dad's house, so long as we took a whistle and let him know when we left. The orange plastic whistles, on their orange cords, hung on a hook next to the front door. There were few sins greater, in my dad's eyes, than being in the woods without a whistle. We could use them to call for help by blowing three times, although I don't ever recall having a real emergency situation. But dad would blow a long toot on a whistle from the front door and we were expected to answer back, acknowledging that we heard and were coming home.
One day, at age seven or eight, I grabbed a whistle, waved to my dad in the yard, and headed out into the pine woods to track elk, follow squirrels, and look for raspberries. It was a hot August day (it must have been with raspberries to pick). Large grasshoppers buzzed and clicked away in front of me, the wind whispered through the pine needles above, and dust settled onto the quick sweat that appeared on my skin. I was running down the old fire road, headed towards the first patch of raspberries, when I tripped.
I landed hard on my hands, elbows and knees, the rocks and pebbles, scraping a good amount of skin off all three areas. I remember looking around, seeing no one to cry to and taking stock of everything on my own. I may have had a few sniffles and I for sure examined my injuries, but I did not cry. The bleeding was pretty minor, although I had dug a good-sized chunk out of the palm of my right hand and the skin flap flipped back and forth over the welling blood. Being an active young person, I was used to cuts and scrapes. In fact, I already had permission to go into my school's office, to treat my playground wounds with hydrogen peroxide and bandaids on my own.
I must have decided I was mostly ok because I continued on to the raspberry bush and proceeded to eat what the bears and raccoons had missed. After 'some time,' indeterminate to someone my age whose focus was on berries, but long enough for most of my bloody scrapes to dry, I heard a whistle from the house. I reached for the whistle around my neck and gave an answering WHEEeeeeeet!
As I walked back home, I must have been a sight. Bloody scrapes in several places, a dried trail of blood down my shin, from my knee, and probably smears of berry juice stains on my mouth and hands.
I was surprised when, upon sighting my dad, my eyes started to well with tears and my breath became ragged. As I ran to him with sobs starting to come from my mouth, I remember thinking it was ridiculous that I was crying. I had been gone for a while and fell at the start of my adventure, so why was I crying now? He gave me a hug, checked me over and then we headed inside for some of the well-stocked hydrogen peroxide and bandaids.
What is it about hurts that allows us to hold them in for so long and then suddenly release them, even after the real pain is mostly gone? Is it so someone can prove they care? Is it because it's safe to show only certain people the hurt you've suppressed? I don't have the answers but I'm glad my daughter can cry to me and share her hurts, even as I know some of them are only remembered pain and that she's probably alright now.