When I was little, my mom accidentally shut my hand in the door of our tan, wood-paneled station wagon.
Back in the days of no seat belts or fancy automobile safety features of any kind, I had been hanging out of the car door waiting for her to finish putting groceries in the back, when she came around and pushed it closed.
I don’t really remember much of what happened after that other than the emergency room doctor admonishing me for crying too much over what was obviously just a simple thumb amputation.
Nineteen stitches and a roll of gauze later, my mom brought me home. Riddled with guilt, she apologized, but not for having shut my hand in the door. Instead, she said she was sorry for having ruined my chances of ever being a hand model.
And she should have been. When I look at my stocky fingers, bleeding hangnails and the crescent-shaped scar on my right thumb, I mourn the loss of what could have been a lucrative career.
If it weren’t for my mom’s negligence, I could’ve been somebody, could’ve had fame and fortune as the Tyra Banks of hand models, draping pearls across my knuckles or gently rubbing lotion on age spots for magazine ads and commercials. I might have even had my own reality TV show where young hopefuls with tapered fingers and perfect cuticles compete against one another for a contract on “America’s Next Top Hand Model.”
I try not to hold it against her.
I also try to forgive the fact that of all the local pediatricians in my hometown, my parents settled on a German doctor named Mildred Schaffhausen, a woman who bore more than just a passing resemblance to her name. It didn’t matter if I was there for pink eye or head lice, Dr. Schaffhausen always insisted on ending every appointment with at least one shot, if not more.
Once after receiving penicillin injections in each of my legs for an apparent case of strep throat, I gingerly made my way out into the waiting room. “Don’t walk funny,” my mom sharply reprimanded. “You’ll scare the other children.”
In hindsight, I should have pulled the fire alarm and implored them to run for their lives, ear infections, croupy coughs and all.
But, fearing repercussion, I remained silent and did my best to walk as if Frau Farbissina hadn’t just plunged a couple of knitting needles into my upper thighs and then been ordered by my mom to pretend it never happened.
Of course, that was a long time ago and we can joke about it now. That’s probably because after having kids of my own, I’ve come to realize that my mom didn’t corner the market on what not to say or do as a parent.
When my oldest daughter was in 6th grade I volunteered to serve as a chaperone at one of her school events. Before long I noticed that a few of the girls were picking on her as girls sometimes do.
After she came to me in tears, I got down on my knees, tucked her hair behind her ears and told my daughter that everything would be all right and then proceeded to say that if the girls continued their bullying, I’d go over and kick their prepubescent classes, sans the “cl.”
It was meant to be reassuring and maybe make her laugh a little, too.
Sometime later I noticed that the mean girls had turned their attention to me. Trying to understand why they were whispering and pointing in my direction, I called my daughter over and asked what was going on.
“I told them,” she said.
“Told them what?” I asked.
“That you said you’re going to kick their (cl)asses.”
Even though this occurred a few years ago, I’m pretty sure that even back then, a playgroup mom threatening to beat up a bunch of 12-year-olds wasn’t looked upon favorably by school officials or local law enforcement.
I spent the next week in a cold sweat waiting for flashing lights to appear in my rearview mirror, or the fuzz to show up at the front door and haul me off to the slammer in my capris and sensible sneakers.
Thankfully, however, I managed to avert serving an extended sentence in the state penitentiary for attempting to cheer up my kid. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. I could have used the extra time to work on my manicure.