Last night, I was chatting with a friend at the park. She also has a son Thing One's age, and she asked me at one point if I was going on their class's field trip today, with a laugh in her voice because the forecast for today has been dismal all week. (She and I were half-drowned in freezing rain on another class trip a few years back, and it has become somewhat of a running joke between us.) I told her no, that I had to take Petunia to the dentist for extraction of two baby teeth this morning instead. And that I would infinitely prefer standing outside in thunderstorms on the field trip to that!
But just then my gaze landed on another friend who was there, the reason we were there. Or more accurately, the mother of the reason we were there.
I met this woman and her daughter years ago, right after I moved to this town. At the time, Thing One was barely six months old and my friend's daughter only a few months older. Less than a year after that, her daughter was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer. She fought it with everything she had, but she lost the fight midway through first grade. Thing One was in her class that year, and had been for kindergarten too. Her final decline was rapid, and one terrible spring evening we received notice that she was gone. I still remember trying to find the words, any words, to explain what had happened to Thing One so that he wouldn't have to hear about it at school the next day.
It's a tight-knit community, and years later she is still lovingly remembered by her former classmates. Every June, we have a memorial gathering of sorts for her at the town park one evening: nothing fancy or formal, just her friends gathering to think of her. The parents bring treats and drinks, we raise a little money for a donation of art books to the school in her name, and the kids play. (While I was having this conversation, most of them were playing some crazy game that looked like tackle soccer on the field behind us, half the boys still in baseball pants from their earlier practice.)
So, when I looked up in the middle of that conversation and my eye happened to light upon the mother who lost her own beloved little girl, my heart convulsed. I've been pissing and moaning about the crazy schedule for days now, and I sure as hell didn't want to have to deal with a double tooth extraction in a young child. But in the grand scheme of things, I have my daughter, and a dentist visit, even an unpleasant one, is small potatoes. Sometimes I need a swift kick in the pants, and I got one.
And, as icing on the cake, the dentist visit was completely uneventful. She didn't cry, she was telling the dentist jokes, and she was perfectly fine with going straight to school afterward.
Reality check, anyone??