Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 3-26-12
It took a while to get used to the freedom of living in the country. For several months after we moved out of the city, my 5-year-old daughter would remind me to lock the doors every time we got in the car. I finally told her that we didn’t have to do that anymore. The odds were practically zero that we were going to get car jacked on a dirt road.
For months, the kids would ask if they could go out and play, and exactly how far could they go. It was hard for them to realize that they could roam freely across 150 acres. When our city friends would come to visit, they couldn’t imagine letting kids loose on such a large unsupervised “playground.” They were used to setting alarms on their houses and cars even though they kept them locked up like Fort Knox. They’d incessantly ask where the kids were, if they weren’t right underfoot all the time. I’d just shrug and say that they were outside playing somewhere, hopefully having fun and not bleeding. That didn’t usually do a lot to allay their fears.
We lived at the end of a dirt road in a tiny farm house when our kids were small. It was impossible to keep it clean with a constant procession of kids and dogs and sometime bottle goats through the back door. I was a stay-at-home-mom and even home-schooled our three children for several years. It was often tedious work, but looking back on those years now, I’m glad I made that choice.
One summer afternoon I sent the kids out to play so I could shovel out the house before my husband got home from work. I had tackled more than a couple of loads of laundry and had the kitchen presentable when he arrived. We sat at the table and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a few moments of uninterrupted conversation for once. It didn’t last long.
We heard a terrible bawling and squalling coming from the back porch. After being a parent for so long, I had devised a full scale of kid distress vocalizations, ranked according to severity. They ranged from a whimper all the way up to hysterical crying and screaming. The really loud outbursts usually preceded a trip to the emergency room. The crying we heard that day was towards the upper end of the distress spectrum – definitely not something to ignore and say, “You’ll be fine in a minute.” We both jumped up from the table, knocking chairs over and tipping coffee cups.
We found our son Landon, who was about 4, standing on the back porch with his mouth wide open, wailing pitifully. His arms stuck straight out from his side. They were rigid but trembled slightly. We asked him what had happened. He hardly talked on a good day, but that day he was way too upset to answer. His sisters stood by dumbstruck.
Then we noticed a steady stream of thick red liquid oozing out of the corners of his mouth. “Oh my gosh! Look at all that blood!” I shrieked, as my husband and I knelt in front of our boy. As I looked into his gaping mouth, I couldn’t see his tongue. “Oh no! He’s bitten off his tongue!” I cried. My husband grabbed Landon’s arm and looked into his mouth. He couldn’t see any of his teeth.
By that time we were more hysterical than our son, who had not calmed down a bit during the tense moments. The red continued to pour down his chin and dribbled down the front of his shirt. As I looked closer, I noticed something blue mingling with the red.
“What happened to you?” I repeated. He sucked in a big breath, “I … stubbed … my … toe!” he managed to spit out at last.
Upon further inspection I found his teeth and tongue totally intact, all covered by a sticky red fruit roll-up. I didn’t know whether to laugh or start crying myself. We were so relieved. I was thankful that his generous freedom hadn’t gotten him into real trouble. He could have just as easily stubbed his toe living in the city. The next time I heard a loud squalling, I probably just sighed and said to myself, “Oh, they’ll be fine in a minute.”
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