“MOLINARI!” the ER nurse bellowed, jolting us out of our waiting room stupor. Tearing our eyes from hypnotic crime show reruns playing on the wall-mounted television, we scrambled to move our 12-year-old daughter, who’d been placed in a wheelchair to elevate her lacerated foot.
“So, what happened?” the nurse asked.
“It was the blender,” I blurted, nervously.
“The blender?!” the nurse looked in horror at our daughter’s foot, wrapped in a dishtowel.
“Well, no, her foot wasn’t actually in the blender . . . it was on the floor . . . and the blender was in the freezer.”
“In the freezer?” the nurse asked, confused.
“I . . . it was me . . .,” I mumbled culpably, “I put the glass pitcher in the freezer. When my daughter opened the door, it fell out and cut her foot.”
“Ah,” the nurse seemed relieved to not be dealing with a frappèd foot, “let’s take a quick look.” As our daughter winced and whined, we carefully unraveled the dishtowel. “Hmmm . . . looks like you’re gonna need a few stitches young lady.”
The nurse fired questions at us – “full name, date of birth, address, phone number, insurance carrier, policy number” – while tapping away at her computer.
Then, after a pregnant pause, she looked intently at us and carefully enunciated, “Has your daughter ever had stitches before?
“No,” I answered immediately.
My mind waffled and my eyes darted as I thought, “Should I tell her about that face plant she did into the side of the backyard playset? She didn’t need stitches, but if I don’t mention that, will she think I’ve got something to hide? Why is she asking this question anyway? Does she think we’re abusive parents with a long history of suspicious ER visits? I guess the whole blender story does sound a bit suspect, and I was the one who put the blender in the freezer to begin with. I should’ve known it would slide off that bag of chicken tenders!?! It was my fault! I’m sure she’s alerting the police right now! I think I hear sirens!”
“Sit tight in the waiting room. When the doctor is ready for you, we’ll get you all fixed up.” the nurse said with a smile.
We settled back into the waiting room, just in time to see Matlock render a withering cross examination. Stagnating under the unforgiving fluorescent lights for another hour, we reassured our daughter, analyzed the people around us, leafed through dog-eared magazines, and watched an episode of “Hill Street Blues.”
Just as I thought cobwebs were forming, our name was called.
The x-ray technician, the billing rep, the nurse, the doctor – they all asked the same questions. First a battery of rapid-fire queries regarding tedious details were launched in robotic succession, followed by one carefully worded question delivered police-interrogation style.
I can’t recall if the final question was “Has your daughter had stitches before?” or “Are you the abusive parent who negligently put the blender in the freezer sideways?” but I am certain that they had it out for me.
I prayed they wouldn’t find out about our two older kids, who have had their share of emergency room visits. Three broken bones, two pulled elbows, and at least a dozen stitches; with such typical excuses — fell off the couch, fell off the playset, fell into the playset, fell down the stairs. It all sounded so textbook, I was sure that the police were on their way to haul me off to jail.
But finally, after 30 minutes of treatment and three hours of waiting, we were released. Feeling like some kind of middle-aged jailbird, I sheepishly wheeled my daughter back to the ER entrance.
Suddenly, “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!” blared from the waiting room. I considered bolting, but I was still a little sore from that body sculpting class, and besides, I would need to pack my fiber pills and contour pillow before I could lead a life on the run. Just as I turned to face the wall and spread ‘em, I noticed that the order had come from CHiPs Officer “Ponch” Poncherello on the wall-mounted TV, and I realized that I was free to go.
On our way home, while my daughter sipped a conciliatory Whataburger chocolate shake, I turned to her in an effort to relieve the still-fresh pang of guilt, “Lollipop, if I hadn’t put that blender in the freezer sideways, none of this would’ve happened. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s OK, Mom,” she said between sips, “it’s not your fault. It was just an accident.” Along with my heart and that chocolate shake, my mother’s guilt finally melted away.