Monday, November 19, 2007

The Near Miss

I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first? I personally like to hear the bad news first, so let's start with that, shall we?

The bad news: One of the kid's most prized possessions, her The Little Mermaid music box with 4 little snow globes on top, shattered into a million little pieces yesterday.

The good news: She wasn't seriously injured when the dresser said music box was perched on fell over on top of her.

It was not a good way to kick off a Sunday. I was leaving for a solo trip to the grocery store, and before I headed to the garage I told Ainsley to go get her socks on. To get her socks, she had to pull open a drawer in the tall, thin "Dresser of Death" in the corner of her room. Jason and I have been iffy about that dresser since she moved into that room. It used to be mine when I was a kid, and though it never fell over on me, it has a high center of balance and has always seemed a little wobbly. We tell her to stay away from it when mommy and daddy aren't in the room, and we help her get her socks and pajamas and undies out of it, but just as she ran into her room yesterday morning to get the socks, I hollered up to ask Jason a question. That was the moment he would have been in there supervising the drawer opening. In that split second, she plopped on the floor next to the dresser and yanked open the bottom drawer where the socks are. It toppled the dresser, and sent the large Ariel music box with its 4 glass domes flying overhead.

I heard the boom in the garage. I thought something was going to come through the drywall. It didn't occur to me what had happened until I heard crying.

Jason got to her room well before I did. When he went in, she was still seated with her knees up close to her head and the dresser leaning over her, with her head and arms and knees supporting the weight. She had kept it from crushing her. The snow globe was a couple of feet behind her, shattered in a kaleidoscope of glass and glitter.

So many things could have gone wrong there.

If she hadn't been seated where she could kind of brace herself against the weight, she could have been crushed. The 10-pound music box could have fallen right on top of her head had it not gotten some momentum and been thrown over her head. In either scenario, she could have died.

As it was, the only mark on her is a pale red scrape above her eyebrows where one of the drawer handles was resting against her head as she braced herself. And, of course, she was really frightened. It took 10 minutes of crying before she got calmed down and could talk to us.

When nothing on her body appeared to be broken, or smashed, or cut, I set about cleaning up the phenomenal mess a broken snow globe leaves behind. The first shard of glass I reached down to pick up lodged straight into my left index finger. It didn't go in deeply, but for a few seconds I just stood there, piece of glass sticking out, wedged into the skin so that even when I foolishly tried to shake it off, it stayed stuck. I expected a gush when I pulled it out, but it barely bled as I finished the cleanup.

And what a cleanup it was. The contents of her top dresser drawer, which mostly holds rubber bands, head bands, and toy jewelry, spilled into all the glass and liquid. Most of this was too big to just suck up in the sweeper, so even though I knew very little of it could be salvaged and had to get thrown away I still had to pick it up by hand, dodging glass pieces as I reached into the wreckage. I learned that the chemical inside snow globes that all that glitter and "snow" float around in has a strong smell and doesn't dry quickly. I had to vacuum over wet carpet, which I know is an electrocution hazard, but what are you going to do when you have a gazillion miniscule pieces of glass imbedded in the carpet? I vacuumed twice, and this morning could still see a few glints of light in the pile that make me think there's still some glass in there. And the carpet still isn't dry.

We're all upset that the music box/snow globes got broken, but we are grateful for the miracle of Ainsley not getting killed by the heavy piece of furniture. We are also grateful for the fact that when Jason ran into that room barefoot to rescue her, despite the massive amount of glass right in the middle of the floor, he didn't get a single cut.

By the time I had things picked up, Ainsley was running around in the living room throwing paper airplanes, none the worse for wear. I still had to do our grocery shopping. I was at the store when the enormity of what happened finally hit me. I felt a breakdown coming on right there in the produce aisle, and for 5 minutes I couldn't for the life of me remember what I had come there to buy. I made 4 or 5 circuits around the oranges, lettuces, and potatoes before I could think about where I was and what I was there to do. And I still had to keep going back to the produce throughout my trip because I kept forgetting the things I needed. In the canned fruit aisle, I had another moment where my brain buzzed out, and I caught myself standing slack-jawed and mouth-breathing in front of the applesauce, wondering at what my life would be like and how I could possibly go on had that incident gone differently.

Life is so incredibly fragile. One stupid mistake, one wrong move, one misstep, and someone you love could be taken from you. We try to child-proof our homes, to batten down the hatches and build safety nets, but we can't possibly foresee every possible accident. We knew that dresser was a little wobbly, but never seriously thought it could topple over after one tug on the bottom drawer from our skinny little kid. After all, I had had it in my own room when I was not much older than Ainsley, and I'm still here. But you don't always see the big dangers of your life, even when they're hurtling toward you at 60 miles an hour. I guess that's why they're called accidents.

Consider us warned. We will be doing something with that dresser (like chopping it up for fire wood) very soon. But what else is out there? What other dangers lurk?

No one really knows. And that, my friends, is the scariest realization I've ever had.

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