This story is dedicated to Left Pinkie Toe, who I now like to call Gasira -Swahili for “brave.”
It was a sunny Tuesday and I decided it was the perfect day to take the kids I nanny for (Madeline -age 4, Caroline -age 3, and Barrett -age 5 months) to the park for play time and a picnic. The day was hot. The kids were great. The park was crowded, as usual for near noon on a weekday.
After a great hour of play at the park, it was time for lunch. I had the girls stop in the bathroom in the rec building before we began our picnic. Barrett was asleep in his stroller.
Instead of exiting the way we’d come in, I decided to go out the back door. It would take us to the picnic hill faster. That was a mistake. The kind of mistake that ranks far below my wardrobe in junior high, but far above choosing the wrong coffee on a Monday morning.
I pushed Barrett’s stroller toward the glass door and the girls walked next to me chatting away. I wore flip flops, not a mistake until that moment. (I’d debated that morning over tennis shoes or flip flops. I’ll stand by the flip flops for the most part -excepting this portion of my day, and they really can’t be blamed for it.)
As we neared the doors, my foot -more specifically Gasira- collided with a hard metal object. Tempted to moan, “Oh crap, that hurt.” I opted for hopping on my uninjured foot and moaning a more kid friendly version, “Oh man, that hurt!”
We continued toward the door and I was still holding it open for the girls when I glanced down at my left pinkie toe, my brave little toe, and saw blood.
I bent, still holding the door open, to inspect the toe. A park and rec worker came into the building and I explained I hit my toe on some sort of black metal frame on wheels that was on the floor (lurking), then I asked for a band aid. A little rattled, she went into the office for rubber gloves and a band aid.
As I looked back at my little Gasira, I saw that blood was trickling in a pretty steady flow, only increasing in its pace. I called to the girl in the office and said, “Maybe you should bring a first aid kit if you have one.”
Bringing over the first aid kit, she and I both inspected my toe. Blood was running down my left hand as I held the toe. The top of my toe had been sliced pretty deeply. The girl helping me was in a real state of agitation by this point. When I shifted my foot to the side, we found the puddle of blood, thick and red, lying beneath it.
By this time, other workers came in, all a little freaked out. I spoke calmly, not wanting them to worry. I tried in vain to stop the flow and clean the wound.
Barrett was blissfully asleep in his stroller. Madeline and Caroline stood close, watching in fascination. The scene went something like this:
Me applying pressure to the bleeding cut. The girl helping me frozen as she watched the amount of blood grow. While I still have the door propped open against my back. Of course this would all have to take place in the doorway. I can’t come back in or I’d bleed all over the floor. I can’t go all the way outside because there are now three workers “helping” me from different areas of the room. The one filling out paper work is farthest from me. The one aiding me was close. The one observing was… at an observable distance, occasionally throwing out advice.
Madeline says, “Jill, veins carry our blood, right?”
I smile and tell her she has a great memory.
The 18-year-old rec worker in charge starts filling out an incident report. I use sterile wipes to try to clean the area but it’s soaked in blood immediately and I wonder if it sterilized anything at all.
The Observer says, “It looks like it’s bleeding a lot. You should clean it.” I’ve already cleaned it twice since she sat down to observe. Not a very observant observer.
My helper gets me toilet paper because she apparently couldn’t find anything better in her first aid kit. I hold the tissue over my cut, applying pressure.
Caroline and Madeline step as close to me as they can, looking for comfort. I smile up at them and Caroline says. “I have veins just like leaves have veins.”
“Some of my veins are red and some are blue because of oxygen.” Madeline adds.
I wonder how they can remember so many things I’ve told them over the nearly two years I’ve nannied for them and also vaguely wonder if I’m turning them into weird kids.
“What’s your first name?” Shouts the kid filling out paper work.
“Jill.” I say. “Thanks” I then say to my helper who brought more tissue.
“What did you hit it on?” Observer asks for the third time.
Rather than answer for the third time, I point at the offending black concoction and wonder what it’s used for. She looks at it, hopping down from her perch on nearby equipment and inspects it as if to find more answers.
I pull off the tissue, which clings to my toe, and inspect the cut. It isn’t bleeding as much.
“Jill, is that skin?” Madeline asks and points at tissue that has stuck to my bloody toe.
“No Madeline.” I reply as I ask for the fourth time -watching them bend over the blood puddle for a better look, “Please, girls, can you move back a little? I don’t want you to step in the blood.” A phrase I never thought I’d use.
“What’s your last name?” The kids shouts.
“Reed.” I reply as observer says, “You could take your flip flop off.”
“How do you spell Reed?” The kid calls.
“R-e-e-d.” I say to him and to her, “I already took it off.”
“I mean your other one.” Why would I need my other flip flop off?
Enter Mom #1. “Oh my!” She looks at the blood and her eyes widen in shocked concern. “What happened?” I shrug it off and say that I cut my toe. She backs out the door, looking a little queasy.
“Jill, our teeth are bones.” Madeline offers brightly and bares her teeth for me to see. Caroline copies her sister’s actions and they both lean over the puddle of blood to show me their teeth at close range. Then look at each other’s bared teeth and laugh.
I nod and say, “You girls are so smart!”
“What’s your phone number?” The kid shouts.
“Do you have gauze?” I ask the girl helping me. Toilet paper is not my first choice.
“Yes.” She nods.
I wonder why she didn’t get it in the first place. Instead I say my phone number. He needs corrections twice while I again ask the girls to back away from the blood.
Mom #2 walks in and pales. She asks what happened. I casually say, “I hit my toe on something.” Observer tells her the story. Mom #2 leaves quickly, without using the bathroom which she came in for.
“Maybe you could like… put lotion on it.” Suggests the observer. Who is this girl? Comic relief?
This time I don’t reply, I take the gauze and tape from the Helper as she stands awkwardly and hesitantly near me. “I’ll do it.” I assure her. She looks relieved, and I’m positive I’m exactly not the kind of thing they were expecting today. I’m also sure I’m not the type of thing I was expecting today.
I ask the girls to step back from the blood again as the kid shouts, “Address? What’s your address?”
I begin to tell him, with the girls interjecting comments like, “When are we going to your house again, Jill?” I get to the part where I list Minneapolis as my city of residency and he doesn’t write it down. He looks at me like I’m crazy and says, “Minneapolis?” The park is in Edina. Like it’s impossible for a Minneapolis resident to be in an Edina park.
“Yep.” I smile.
Along comes Mom #3, as the kid is saying, “Okay… Minneapolis then.” And finally writes it down, shaking his head.
Mom #3 walks in as I’m binding and taping the toe. “What happened?” Thankfully she’s cool as a cucumber. “Oh, I just cut my toe.” I say casually.
“Oh.” She shows concern, but actually uses the women’s restroom she came in for. I vaguely wonder if the moms have been talking about it. Why so many moms so suddenly? Weak bladders or curiosity?
Mom #4 enters, as #3 leaves, and watches -not bothering to ask what happened, as I’m sure she already knows. I’m glad I’m finally done wrapping and taping. My helper is kneeling awkwardly nearby, but I’m glad she’s there. She’s like a buffer, or maybe it’s just that she’s near enough not to shout things at me.
Speaking of shouting things, the kids calls, “That’s it. That’s all we need.”
I’m being dismissed.
“Great.” I half smile at him. Maybe he’s comic relief.
Observer says, “You should get crutches.” Nope, this girl is definitely comic relief.
My helper says, “I don’t think she needs crutches.”
The observer shrugs. The shrug is saying, “She might. Or she might not.”
The girls chatter to me constantly in the background. As I clean up the sterile wipes, the tissue, the wrappers, etc. I wonder why the helper removed her protective gloves two minutes into all of this and why she didn’t get new ones on when dealing with blood, but then realize I’ve done it all on my own so she didn’t really need them.
She gets paper towels while observer quietly stares at me from behind her glasses. The kid busies himself with filing my incident report. Helper returns with paper towels and hesitates as she looks at the blood. I take the towels from her, with blood caked hands and say, “That’s alright, I can clean it up.”
She smiles. I wipe at the blood and the top of it is thick like the skim on pudding. The blood underneath is is still liquid. She pales. I smile. “Blood is amazing, isn’t it?”
The girls are bent over the blood, looking at it. I finish cleaning up my mess and we leave, calling, “Thanks!” to everyone.
As we walk away I limp a little. It’s time to go home -well, to the girl’s home. Barrett is still sleeping and the day is still bright and beautiful.
“Now for our picnic, Jill!” Madeline calls excitedly. I think I need stitches and I know I need to get home, not sit under a tree eating jelly sandwiches. If I tape it just right, I might be able to avoid the stitches.
“I’m sorry girls. We’ll have to do it a different day. My toe hurts.” Poor Gasira. “And I need to get back home.”
“Your toe hurts?” Madeline looks at me in surprise, as both girls crowd me while we walk -looking for assurance that I’m okay.
I laugh and say, “Of course it hurts!” Did she miss the last fifteen minutes?
“When my body has pain, I cry.” Madeline explains.
“Oh.” I say slowly and nod. So that’s what I did wrong. I should have cried. We walk home as I call Matt, looking for comfort and babble to him like an idiot. Meanwhile Madeline, talking to herself in the reflection of every parked car we pass, says, “I cry when my body’s in pain!” Over and over again. Caroline looks worried about me and asks a million and one questions until I’m ready to collapse and call it a day. Barrett, my hero, slept for two more hours.
Thank you Gasira for being so brave in the face of such pain and danger. You’re a brave little toe. But next time you want attention… just get a mosquito bite -or something- instead.