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04-23-2002 @ 11:00 p.m.
Nearly Shattered

There are moments that bring the fragility and ephemerality of life into laser sharp focus. My neighbor, and by association the whole neighborhood, experienced one of those moments yesterday. An afternoon that was supposed to be filled with homework and playing with friends and dinner around the kitchen table with the family. Instead, it was filled with screeching breaks and tears and sirens and lights. And in a split second, every parent's nightmare unfolded.

Little Moira, seven and a half years old, donned her helmet and hopped on her bicycle and sped off down her street and into the cross street, right into the path of an unsuspecting vehicle. She hit the front of the car and rolled up over the hood and onto the pavement. She was supremely fortunate that her helmet was tightly and rightly on her head. She knocked out a permanent tooth and broke 4 others and scraped herself up something awful but she didn't break any bones or sustain any internal injuries or hurt her head or neck. It was truly amazing that her injuries were not more extensive.

Her mother received the stomach-clenching call on her cell phone while she was shopping at Target 20 minutes away. She sped to the hospital and met the ambulance there. Mother and child spent the night at the hospital but were able to come home this afternoon. Moira will be out of school for a week or so while her scrapes heal somewhat but that seems a small price to pay.

We're all counting our blessings that the worst she experienced was road rash and broken teeth but more than that, we're all counting our blessings that it wasn't our child who rolled over the hood of that car.

And for that I feel both relief and guilt.

I suspect there will be very few, if any, helmet-less heads around the 'hood in the coming weeks and months. I'm one who yells at kids out my car window to go home and put on their helmets. It's so common that when Joey saw a biker on the road next to our car a few weeks ago she asked me "Mom, don't you want to yell at them to put on a helmet?" Perhaps, though, I won't have to do that for awhile. Example (and a brush with death) is the best teacher.

This evening when I was exiting the grocery store, I heard my name from across the parking lot. It was 10:30pm and most people I know in this town are in bed at that hour (how did I get saddled with all these early bird friends, anyway?) so I couldn't imagine who would be hailing me. I scanned the lot and saw two teenage-looking girls walking toward the store and one was walking very fast toward me. I couldn't believe my eyes--it was Carla. I've known her for 12 years now. Ever since she was about 9 or 10 years old. She was Joey's first nanny. Her mother and I were friends when we lived in the same town and we've kept sporadic touch over the past 12 years as they've moved around, in and out of the Portland metropolitan area. But now she lives in my town and she's a regular grown up. Last time I saw her was 2, maybe 3, years ago. It was great to see her again--I hope to see her again very soon. I invited her to stop over any time. It feels strange that the daughter of a friend is old enough to be a friend of mine but I think it will be fun to hang out with her and get to know her as an adult.

--L

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