Tuesday, July 6, 2010

True Grit

This is the knee of my good friend's son, Harry, whom I've nicknamed Sharkboy. From that name and the sliced-up look of his wound, you'd think he got attacked by a shark or Wolverine of X-Men; instead, it happened on our pool slide, which cracked on the side as Harry was sliding down on his knees. The sound was horrific -- his mother, sister and our friend all cringed, thinking his shorts had ripped. It was like that sound, like nylon ripping, scree-scree-screetcchhh.

Harry didn't make a sound, just grabbed his knee after he'd splashed into the pool, and it was his sister's reaction -- Oh my god! Oh my god! -- that even alerted us that something was not right. Harry, who's almost 9, didn't flinch. Didn't cry. Didn't react when his mom and I felt like we wanted to puke or sit down so we wouldn't pass out. Just asked for a cold drink while we tended to his scary wounds. I scrambled to find Neosporin and band-aids in my new house, which has no real organizational system in place yet, while Harry's mom taped an old linen napkin around his knee.

After they left, Harry a little bewildered by the early departure, I took my kids down the road to see the new baby horses. To my surprise, when we got there, Harry and his family were already there. Harry was still in his swim trunks, walking shirtless and barefoot through the hay-filled area next to the horse corral. In the afternoon light, I admired the warrior god within him, his innate toughness and true grit. As the mom of three girls, I see toughness in a very feminine way -- my youngest fighting back tears as her dad helps loosen a tooth, my oldest daughter's mud-soaked soccer uniform after playing a quarter as goalie, my middle kid's bad-ass-ness on the handball court -- but this was some sort of primal testosterone-laden strength that I've only experienced in watching my husband walk through his life.

My husband had approvingly nodded in Harry's direction when he was with us on the 4th of July, bouncing on the trampoline and riding to and from the fireworks with his head out the window, eyes closed. When my friends and I got stuck on the other side of our backyard fence after a walk (I'm still getting used to the lay of the land and didn't know there wasn't a gate on the back side of the property), we had to climb over the chain-link fence and, as we hopped down, Harry ran up to us, saying, "I'll go next!"

I know we won't have a son and I can't say anything but "it is what it is." Still, despite my horror at being the owner of the slide that f-ed up Harry's little knee, I have to admit to a bit of gratitude at being there while he showed us what he's made of. Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, indeed.

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