It’s always worth it to play

Saturday was an absolutely perfect day.  Cloudless sky, 75 degrees.  I took Whit to soccer and then he and I joined Matt on the sidelines of Grace’s game.  She had only been on the field for a few minutes when she took a simply heroic fall.  She literally went flying through the air before crumpling to the ground on her left shoulder.  There was an audible gasp.  And then, worse, she was slow to get up.  All the players on the field sank to their knees.  I watched her coach approach and ask her if she wanted to keep playing, watched her shake her head, and watched her walk off the field next to him with her head bowed.  I purposely didn’t rush over to where she sat with her coaches and team on the other side of the field.  I felt like I should stay out of the way.

But at half time, Matt and I went over, and Grace was in quiet tears, holding a tiny bag of ice to her shoulder (one of her teammates had scooped a few ice cubes out of her water bottle and put them into the bag that had held the snack apples, a detail that charmed me).  I immediately announced I was going to take her to the ER for x-rays and neither coach fought me.  Yes, that makes sense, they nodded.  The whole way to the hospital, she cried softly.

After a long wait they finally put us into a room and I helped Grace change into a johnny and lie down on the gurney.  “Will you lie with me, Mummy?” she asked plaintively, and I did.  I curled my body around hers and rested my chin on top of her gold-streaked brown hair.  She whimpered quietly, and I could tell she was in a lot of pain.

“You’ve broken bones too, right, Mummy?” she said suddenly and I smiled in spite of myself.  For years and years I’ve maintained that if you haven’t broken any bones you’re “not trying hard enough.”  This is an obnoxious thing to say, I realize, and I think mostly I’m trying to explain to myself why I’ve broken one ankle, one arm (both bones, both compound fractures), three ribs, and assorted fingers and toes.

“Yes.  I’ve broken a lot of bones.  Unfortunately I think getting hurt is part of the deal.  It’s going to happen sometimes when you do sports.  I’m pretty sure there will be more injuries to come in other games.  And in general, in life.”  I hesitated.  “But I promise,” I blinked back the tears that sprang to my eyes.  “I promise you it’s always worth it to play.”

We lay there quietly for a while.  Then it was time for x-rays.  She was very freaked out by being alone in the dark room, by the lead apron, and by the big machine aimed at her shoulder.  By the time we were finished there she was weeping in my arms again.

Then we went back to the room and onto the gurney.  It was quiet in the ER on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, and I could hear our breathing.  “Mummy, you know what?”  Grace turned her head slowly to look at me.  “This is like when I had something in my eye the other day.”  (After a protracted effort to get an eyelash out of her eye, she had been in real pain for hours; my guess is that she somehow scratched her eyeball).  “You know, I realize how much I’ve been taking for granted all along.”

I tried hard not to cry.  I looked right in her mahogany eyes, nodding, biting my lip.  I felt the feathers of holiness brush my cheek, the sensation of something sacred descending into the room, as undeniable as it was fleeting.  There have been a few moments like this in my life – more than a handful, but fewer than I’d like – when I am conscious of the way divinity weaves its way into our ordinary days.  This was one.

That night when I tucked her in her arm was propped on a pillow pet and her eyes were wary.  She was very worried about rolling over and injuring herself more in her sleep.  I smoothed her hair back from her forehead and kissed her cheek, murmuring again how proud I was of her and how brave she had been.

“Mummy, I just want to say thank you again.” With her good arm, she clutched her teddy bear to her chest as she spoke.

“Why, Grace?”

“Thank you for being there with me all day.  For always being with me.”  Her eyes brimmed and mine did too.  I hugged her because I didn’t have words to express what I wanted to say.  Which is that there’s nowhere I want to be but right here with her.  That I don’t want to miss a single second of this season of my life, or of hers.



17 thoughts on “It’s always worth it to play”

  1. Oh… and this is yet another example of the fact that it is ‘worth it to play.’ To play at this whole mothering thing. What an amazing day for you both…

  2. I’ve broken a lot of bones, too: a collarbone (like Grace), fractured vertebrae, an arm, a toe. I’m not a particularly “risky” or athletic person, and it surprises me that I’ve broken as many bones as I’ve had — a lot more than many people. I’ve never thought of it in terms of “trying hard enough” or “playing hard enough.” It’s an interesting thing for me to meditate on. Especially given the circumstances around which I’ve broken those bones (dramatic, almost all of them). In the meantime, quick healing to Grace. You can tell her that collarbones heal fairly quickly!

  3. I woke up this morning super early with a sore throat, read these words: “I felt the feathers of holiness brush my cheek, the sensation of something sacred descending into the room, as undeniable as it was fleeting.” read the rest through tears then promptly went in to snuggle my daughter. Heart aching and soothed at the same time.
    Love to you and your wise, loving girl.

  4. I should have said that! I’m sorry. Broken collarbone. Four weeks in a sling but otherwise uneventful, though painful right now.

  5. Wow, what a brave girl and a brave mama. I love your message here. It’s easy to say I just won’t ever take any more risks … I need this lesson more often than I like to admit!!! xoxo to you!

  6. Oh Lindsey, I echo all of these comments. What an amazing mom you are, and what a brave and beautiful daughter Grace is!! I hope she is on the mend VERY soon and back on that soccer field in no time. I also read through my tears after reading “I felt the feathers of holiness brush my cheek…” and at the same time felt guilty for being gone so much of the time recently (due to my work schedule/demands)…And even when I have been present and with my children, and trying very hard to be a good mom, I feel I have been less than stellar lately. It’s never too late to get a reminder to start fresh and try again – hard – immediately. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  7. I think I would be sobbing if by myself (or at least not out in public). Grace’s “thank you for always being there” hits me at the core of my mama-soul. I hope my daughter always feels that way. Love to you both and speedy recovery wishes to the amazing Grace.

  8. I love that you were able to be there with her–and that she noticed. That’s what can be so hard about mothering, that our presence is like air–so obvious it’s invisible.
    I love that she could see you–and all her blessings–so clearly in that moment. Truly divine. Truly holy.

  9. <3 <3 Bless your little girl, and bless both of you for meeting the moment with such awareness and trust. The broken parts of experience are often where we find the essentials, too.

    That's how the light gets in, right? <3<3

  10. Oh my, in tears, feeling contemplative and full to the brim with love for my little ones – as I always am after reading your blog Lindsey. Big hugs to Grace – I hope she is feeling better soon. xoxo

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