I don’t yet know how we remember days like this in the long run.
This is A Day When Silas Did Not Die. As, so far, they all have been . . . so how do you mark the moments where your day, and your life, nearly became something else?
Our younger son is four now. Milestones of the age include: (marginally) prefers building cities to destroying them. Discriminates between food and non-food items. Understands, and wields, words upon words upon words. And, cause for true celebration for those of us who have experienced early childhood without it: Si now demonstrates a sense of fear.
If those milestones mattered today, it was only in their false sense of reassurance.
How do you assign meaning when the narrative arc of action and inaction, redemption and irremediable loss, runs so tightly that it takes your breath away as you consider it? What can we learn from being brought up short by what nearly was, laying out each “but for” as though it were a thing with teeth, a shade poised to lay claim to the breath of a now-sleeping child?
I don’t exactly know what to think, but I can tell you what I feel: sheer, incredulous relief. This day, the sheer boredom and minutiae of it, has been delivered back to me as I blink, confused, stumbling again into the too-bright daylight after escaping the brief horrorshow behind me.
As Silas explains the noteworthy event of the afternoon: “I wanted to jump, but without hitting the ground.” (Don’t we all want that, friends? Isn’t jumping-without-hitting-the-ground the simplest conception of flying?) Si’s jumping place of choice: his small dresser. The alternative to hitting the ground: it had something to do with the long, trailing cord of the wooden blinds that hang in Si’s window.
Ah, the blind cords. Craig and I have tied those strings in knots and stuffed them in specially-ordered “cord-keepers.” We have taken the blinds down and put them back up again. We have had more conversations than I can count about how the blinds aren’t for touching, ever ever ever . . . and now, in what feels like the “after” of the “intensive physical challenge” piece of our parenting life . . . we have largely forgotten about them.
I remember now, in a more zealous phase of parenting, sending an article about blind cord safety to all of our family’s grandparents. I did a bit of research, back then, finding common sense advice inspired by a number of tragic stories—but there is one detail I read that lurked, ever after, at the back of my mind. “The average age of children killed in blind cord accidents was four.” That always seemed weird to me. Why four?
I think, as the battle-hardened, gray-hair-sporting parents of seven and four year old boys, my husband and I feel, on a level both philosophical and cellular, that we have earned some peace. Or perhaps it’s simply that if they haven’t died by now, then surely, surely with additional common sense and an increasing apprehension of danger, we’re in the clear. At least with these things.
And also, there is this: at Si’s request, we hung curtains in his room about a year ago. Those curtains, a smooth celadon he chose himself because it matched his idea of his big brother’s favorite color, are the show piece. The blinds behind them hang, forgotten, squinched up to the top of the window frame since we can’t remember when. Out of sight, out of mind is a saying for a reason
And so, who knows where the cord keeper went?
Who knows when the pull became unknotted?
Who knew that that long beige cord would speak to Silas like the serpent in the garden, assuring him that he’d never have to worry about hitting the ground if he’d only twine that string around his chest and neck, like so . . .
I can tell you now that what separates the mundane ordinariness of a Thursday afternoon from the sickening terror of too-late is, at most, a few minutes. It’s enough air in the lungs, and enough space in a constricted airway, to scream. It’s a parental pit stop in a misbehaving older brother’s room, leaving only one underinsulated wall between me and my baby bird, rather than a separate story and a lack of consciousness—I am home sick today and so dearly wanted to spend afternoon rest time actually resting.
I would have paid good money, up front, for the promise of sleep at 2:00 in the afternoon. I might have traded my soul for quiet.
As it stands, there will be no nap today for anyone except Si. I wanted sleep; instead, I have breath, hot against my hand on his pillow. I hoped for peace, and instead I have the fury of a four-year-old who thinks band-aids are the answer for anything that hurts. And we have, for now, the angry red reminder of a livid mark across a baby sealskin neck, barely a line in back but bright and deep in front, the place where those thin cords chafed, rubbed, and then began to strangle my would-be flyer.
I don’t know what to do with any of this, not really. I still believe that tragic accidents happen. That not everything can be prevented, and that in that mistaken belief, we place ourselves on the opposite side of those who experience their turn with misfortune before our own, and that also, we forget to live.
And yet, there is another truth: that sometimes accidents don’t happen. And that other times, they do—the worst thing, it happens—and yet the pieces of your life are handed back to you whole, anyway. Sometimes we just get damned lucky, my friends.
I’m giving thanks for that, this afternoon. For all that I had, which sometimes continues for another day to be all that I have.
But there is indeed something to be said for prevention, not as the sole objective of our lives, but as a way not to miss larger moments for smaller oversights. And so I’m taking this opportunity to suggest, from our family to yours, that you take a moment to check those blind cords.
There is perhaps a story here about why it’s the four year olds who die. And I wonder how many of them are youngest children of parents who assumed they were done with this safetyproofing stuff.
And so, though I know you did it last week, last month, last . . . when was it? . . . check them again. I know you told the grandparents, the babysitter, your older son . . . tell them again.
We got lucky, so lucky, but Si is going to have the shape of that cord on the underside of his chin for a long, long while as a reminder of what we forgot. May the only reminder that your family gets be these words.
Blessings, my friends.