Today, this is what I will remember.
Picking you up at school, lip split, braces skewed.
Despite it all, you are chatting up the nurses in the clinic, regaling them with the same tale you’ll re-tell on the way to your long-suffering orthodontist.
Basketball hard to the face in PE class. Blood, tears, a nurse’s office slip prepared.
But you wouldn’t go. Not until you shot your free throws.
At the orthodontist, I see a look of panic when the rookie technician greets you. She’s the jabber of gums, who spent your last appointment poking you with wires, then apologizing, then poking, then apologizing. Rinse. Spit. Repeat.
I warn her that your mouth is hurt, please be careful. Be gentle with my tough free-throw shooting girl.
You come out in the lobby with a forced smile. Saying too brightly “OK, can we go now?”
I hear your voice begin to crack, and we rush together for the door. We’re not off the front steps of the office before the tears start.
“Mom, she’s still terrible,” you sob.
My apologies tumble fast. “I’m so sorry she hurt you. We’ll get you some Motrin. You can get a slush at Sonic.”
It’s my turn to talk too brightly, trying to dam the tears with false cheer.
“You did not protect her,” the good mother voice hisses.
To silence it, I call the dentist on the way to Sonic. Tell them to make a note on your chart, that hygienist can not work on your mouth any more. Ever. Not again.
“I’m sure she’s trying her best, and I know she needs to learn,” I say, as gently as I can. “But she is not going to do any more learning on my child.”
You smile at the vanquishment of the gum-poker, forgetting the tears.
The good-mother voice does not appease so easily, and reminds me I’m no better than Jabber the Nut. Doing all my learning on you, my first-born.
But I think, this is what I will remember. That even with a bloody lip, you stay to shoot your free throws. Even in the face of incompetence, you show grace, getting out of the office before you let the tears fall.
Maybe it’s enough to let you also remember that I came when you called, that I took your hurt seriously enough to call. Maybe you will remember blended root-beer floats from Sonic And that I said I was so, so sorry.
When you remember today, maybe that will be enough.