1. Chop two carrots, two celery stalks, and two onions.
2. Blinded and weeping from the onion fumes, avert your eyes while chopping. After all, you’ve done this a million times, you know where the knife is supposed to go—
3. Drop to ground, holding what’s left of thumb.
4. Hold thumb-remnant under running water. Marvel at the amount of blood.
5. Search counter for rest of thumb.
6. Realize all of thumb is attached; what you’ve done is create a meaty flap you can’t look at too closely without feeling nauseated.
7. Think about the words “meaty flap” and feel nauseated anyway.
8. Wrap thumb in paper towels and lie on floor for a minute. The cool, comforting floor.
9. Push dog away. Consider whether the dog smelled your blood and thought you were offering yourself as a tasty snack. Decide your dog never loved you—all those times he gazed upon you with those watery eyes, he was just thinking, “Someday you’ll slip up with that knife—and on that day…”
10. Push dog away. Repeat as necessary. Stupid dog.
11. Look at thumb. Get up to replace blood-soaked towels.
12. Lie on floor again. Feel sorry for yourself. First Ted Koeppel’s cruel, gratuitous rejection; now this.
13. Does anyone even watch ABC/Nightline? And what’s with all the “-line” shows? Dateline? Frontline? Is there another –line?
14. Look at thumb. Get up to replace blood-soaked towels.
15. Staggering to bathroom, swaddle thumb in Blue’s Clues Band-Aids.
16. As the vegetables (along with part of your body) are already chopped, decide to just finish the damn thing.
17. Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a skillet.
18. Put 2.5-lb bottom round in skillet.
19. Apply ice to the teensy 2nd-degree burns covering your face and neck.
20. Brown meat while weeping softly to self.
21. Open bottle of wine ineptly, causing cork to break off.
22. Push rest of cork into bottle while cursing.
23. Consider drinking wine. Realize that child is sleeping now, but soon child will be awake, and a drunken and bleeding you will not be sympathetic to his needs.
24. Put stupid meat in stupid slow cooker.
25. Do the other dumb shit that you have to do to make goddamn pot roast. Turn on the fucking slow cooker.
26. Look at thumb. Stagger back to bathroom to replace blood-soaked Blue’s Clues Band-Aids.
27. Lurch toward bed for much-needed nap.
28. Hear child calling you from his crib, a full hour before he’s supposed to wake up; you had an understanding, damn it. Decide you hate child.
29. Remove child from crib. Child offers to kiss the boo-boo on your thumb. Decide you love child. Politely decline offer.
30. Wince as your child repeatedly kisses your ravaged thumb.
31. Attempt to entertain child for 4 hours, even as blood loss and pain takes its toll on your mood and energy level.
32. Enjoy overcooked pot roast with husband. Glare at him when he offers, “The extra thumb means extra yum!” Announce that you’ll be ordering take-out for the next two weeks.
1. Chop two carrots, two celery stalks, and two onions.
I know, I know. It's just that I’m all over the place these days. I haven’t been able to sit down long enough to figure out what’s on my mind. Should I share more Tales of Henry, such as his obsession with Star Wars (not surprising, as our home is awash in Lucasian detritus)? Tell you that Finslippy.com is now mine all mine, thanks to my kind friend who bought the URL and had it redirect to this address, all without my asking? Or should I mention that I’m going to be interviewed next week on national television? See, I can’t decide. Besides, I have to go purchase some flattering pants.
TRAGIC UPDATE: Henry and I got bumped--bumped!--from ABC/Nightline. Apparently there wasn't enough time in the segment to justify including our antics. In protest, I intend to storm Ted Koeppel's hair.
Here on the Internets, some or other bloggers have been criticized for talking about their troubles when others have it worse. This is an all-too-familiar routine on many blogs—the ol’ My Pain Beats Yours So Shut Up number. It goes a little something like this:
1. You shouldn’t be sad because your child has a scraped knee—my kid had to get stitches.
2. You can’t be upset about your kid’s stitches; my child is sick.
3. My child’s disease is worse, therefore you don’t deserve to bitch.
4. Shut up. My child is sick and I’m sick and also I’m writing this on a computer made out of cardboard because that’s how poor I am.
5. At least you’re alive. I’m writing this from my grave. Stop whining. Stop it. Booooo.
6. God, can you shut up, dead person? At least you’re not suffering. My life is a never ending festival of torment. Also I have hives.
(Please note: I’m not trying to make fun of anyone’s suffering. I cannot fathom how much suffering is out there, and I can’t begin to imagine the pain that other people withstand. Imagining such things would mean weeping and that would make the keyboard soggy, and the circuits and the whatnot would short out and cause some kind of Electric Dreams scenario, and people, I cannot afford to have my computer fall in love with me. )
And now for a story:
A while back, a friend of a friend was injured in a stupid, tragic accident that resulted in the loss of her leg. At the time she was also writing an advice column for teenagers. After I heard about her accident, I would at times wonder if she had ever responded to another complaint about the Tragedy of Bad Hair or The Heartbreak of Loserdom with, “I know how you feel. Because I LOST MY LEG. Which is just like losing your homework and getting a D. Except, you know, it’s a LEG.” Because I like to kill time with pointless activities, one day I went online and read a bunch of her columns. Week after week, she gave patient, compassionate advice to problems that the best of us would deem awfully silly. She never compared anyone’s pain to her own; she never even mentioned her pain. I know part of this was just her being a professional. But also, she clearly knew that pain is relative—just because you could hurt more doesn’t mean you don’t hurt.
That’s the thing about pain: perspective doesn’t necessarily ease it. Say I stub my toe: if you grab me and scream, “What if I had chopped that toe off with a cleaver! THINK OF IT!” I may be distracted by your odd behavior, but the pain in my pinky toe will not miraculously dissolve. When someone writes in their blog of some misfortune that’s befallen her, she is not necessarily writing her definition of the Worst Thing That Could Ever Happen to Anyone. Just because she could hurt more doesn’t mean she doesn’t hurt.
When I spoke to the New York Times, most of what I talked about was how the parenting blogs are, most of all, authentic. That’s all we’re after (I think)—some representation of authentic experience that we’re not getting elsewhere. We sure as hell aren’t getting it from the parenting magazines, which provide canned information about vaccinations and discipline and baking nutritious muffins that look like kitty cats, but will never help you feel less alone, less stupid, less ridiculous. This is the service we try to provide—we share our lopsided, slightly hysterical, often exaggerated but more or less authentic experiences. If one blogger writes about her traumatic doctor’s visit, then maybe at some point, some freaked-out new mother is going to read that and feel a little better—less stupid, less ridiculous—about her own breakdown at the pediatrician’s. Or maybe not. But what service are you providing when you tell her to shut up?
I now return you to your discussion of my son’s itchiness. He’s itchy! It’s the worst thing that could ever happen!
The above is a statement uttered by Henry. I was going to provide the anecdote that would put it in context, but the hell with it. You might think you can figure out why he would say such a thing but you won’t be able to figure it out. Henry is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, side-by-side with a conundrum, across the way from a bugaboo.
In other news, my son is covered in rashes. This is not new. For lo these many months he has been bedecked with eczema and bespeckled with hives. As he himself put it, he is "itchy, itchy Ichabod." I haven’t done much about it because—well, I blame the liquor. Whoops! Actually I am sober 89% of the time, and we’ve done everything we can to figure out what the problem is, and everyone’s conclusion is that there’s no real problem. Except he’s all scratchy and hive-y. The hives bloom and then fade of their own twisted accord, with no apparent connection to anything he’s eaten or done or said or thought. One doctor posited that it might be a reaction to our wool rug, so we no longer let him lounge pantsless on said rug. We apply medicinal salves and unguents on a regular basis, and we dose him with Benadryl. Our detergents are everything-free. No longer do we enjoy bubbles in our bath—instead we add soothing but decidedly un-festive baking soda, or as Henry calls it, “baby soda.” After the bath, instead of rubbing him like a Jedi knight, we pat him softly like a Sith lord.
Then he spent the weekend with my in-laws, and returned with smooth, rash-free skin for the first time in, oh, since he was born. My in-laws denied doing anything special for him. So the only reasonable conclusion is that his skin benefited from their lack of squalor. That a weekend in the suburbs meant a blessed reprieve from the dust mites and chiggers that usually gnaw on his infant flesh as he slumbers. In other words, we live in filth. Which I guess means I should vacuum or clean or whatever, but I’m so tired! And self-absorbed! Oh—and drunk.