God help me, child, never will I ever forget that evening. Once we got you safely home from the hospital and tucked ever-so-carefully into your bed, I was up for hours. Staring at the ceiling, trying to un-see it.
In the 14 years of raising your feral brother, his ER visits frequent enough that I joked about getting a loyalty card (6th visit is free!), you outdid him with one spectacular crash.
As your daddy drove us to Children’s, you laughed at my jokes. You made them yourself. For a kid who once screamed like she was dying because some mud touched her palm (no, really), this was something else. I know you had to be in tremendous pain, and you were still just hamming it up. I leaned over, set the humor aside, and told you how amazing you were. This wasn’t the time to “go over the tapes” and analyze the how and the why of your accident; how we could do things differently on the bike next time — would you even get back on a bike after this?! — this was the time to let you know I could see your strength. You played it off, but you squeezed my hand a little tighter.
All through the night, the nurses, doctors, your dad and I (and later, still more doctors), we called you Evel Knievel.
Through a good amount of discomfort, several examinations and lots of bandages, you’d grin and shyly say, “I can’t believe you’re calling me that.”
Through my worry, I’d grin back and say, “What? You so are!”
I thought I noticed a little spark in your eyes, but it had been a long, hard night. Perhaps it was just the fluorescent bulb flickering in your room at Children’s, or it could have been that I was tired and a little shell-shocked.
To quote a Ben Folds song, “You were not the same after that.”
I’ve teasingly asked you what was knocked loose, because you have been so different — bolder, more daring. Jumping feet-first into adventures I couldn’t have sweet talked bribed you into before. Encouraging nervous friends as you step forward to try something new together. You are sillier, you are more outgoing. You dance in public and you laugh louder. I find myself telling you to get down from high places, or unstable places, and I think, who is this child?
Maybe you saw that the worst happened, and you were okay. Maybe you heard the daredevil name we called you, and some part of you believed it for the first time. I can’t know for sure, but I know that there was a shift. I had seen a spark after all.
The wounds have healed, and I’ve been left with a daughter, changed.
I admire you, my dear girl; it may have been a rough way to do it, but you’ve broken out of your shell. I will always remember this as the summer you found your fearlessness, and when I’m not feeling so brave myself, I’ll think of you, and how speaking into someone can help them see themselves as who they were always meant to be. I’ll remember that sometimes the worst can happen, and we discover that we are still okay.