*** Turn back now if you are weak-stomached!***
On the last night of our trip, we left the nine cousins under the care of three very capable family members and headed to downtown Cincinnati for dinner and a concert. It was the first time all six of us had gone out together since before we had kids 7 years or so ago. We made it through dinner and were just getting settled into our seats as the opening band played, when we got word of Oliver’s accident: he had fallen down the entire flight of basement stairs (the kind edged in metal) and had a nasty cut on his eyebrow that would likely require stitches.
Andrew and I raced back in what was the longest car ride ever, knowing that Oliver was in good hands, but wanting desperately to be there to comfort him and see for ourselves that he was alright. We arrived to find him chatting away, partially lying down on Andrew’s cousin’s lap while she held a towel against his eyebrow. She uncovered him to reveal an inch-long gash on his eyebrow that was not deep, but gaped in a way that made me queasy. It was obvious that he needed stitches.
The whole time, Oliver kept talking in an animated, excited voice about how he had been allowed to have a Christmas tree cookie (!) after he fell down the stairs! He didn’t complain once about his head or eye, which was slowly swelling shut. We checked the rest of his body for broken bones while we waited for Andrew’s mom and stepdad to arrive (both doctors, thank goodness) and assess the situation. When they arrived, they quickly got to work. Michael had brought with him enough supplies to stitch up five little boys. They got some clean towels, washed up, and opened sterile supplies. The worst part of it all was when they had to give him shots to numb the area. I stood behind his head, tears stinging my eyes as I knew I could not take the pain away and even being in his view made everything somehow worse. I stood back and watched.
Seeing everything from a step away was really amazing. All of these people who loved Oliver and knew him were helping him in the most intimate and basic way. They were stitching him back together and telling him stories to distract him. Gina and Andrew held his focus, telling him elaborate stories with details only Oliver would appreciate. Gina made him giggle and soon the stitches were complete- 5 of them to hold his baby skin together while it healed. This was when I grabbed my camera.
Maybe the desire to document this event in photographs disturbs you. And that is fine. But it comes from a place deep within me. A place that, once my mothering instincts were satisfied, took over. It seemed important to me in a way that I can’t explain, other than the observation that there was so much love and attention and careful tenderness coming from these people who are part of Oliver. Their hands holding his, not only to keep him still, but to reassure him. The relationship between father (sewer) and daughter (assistant and headlamp-holder) was touching. The concern and interest on the face of Oliver’s youngest uncle, Austin. It was beautiful and I couldn’t resist.
And mostly, my need to document this comes from a place of love. I want Oliver to see the story, not just hear about it. And I think that when he looks back on these photos, he will not be disturbed. He will see their faces and gentle hands and feel so loved and cared for. Because he is.