Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've been doing a lot of substitute teaching this year. Lately I've been on a long-term assignment in a third grade classroom. These particular kids absolutely love Band-aids. They want one every time they get a bump or a sratch. I finally had to explain to them my mother's rule about Band-aids and then strictly enforce it. It reminded me of this essay I wrote many years ago.

When I was a little girl, I stubbed my toes a lot. And like most kids, I skinned my elbows and knees frequently. The first thing I'd do after one of these mishaps was check for blood. If it was bleeding, I'd run right into the house and claim my Band-aid. My mother had a hard fast rule about Band-aids. There had to be blood in order to qualify for one.

Our cousin, Joy, would sometimes come and stay with us in the summer for a week at a time. She was older than we were. She had two months on my sister, who had nineteen months on me. And she had a knowledge of the world that amazed us. We'd follow her around for days, listening intently to her stories. We were fascinated. The things she had done and the places she'd been. Sometimes I'd be skeptical of the doings she'd relate to us, but then I'd remember the Band-aids. This was a girl who truly had daring.

We'd be out playing and Joy would  hurt herself somehow. She'd gather herself up and head into the house where she'd confidently help herself to the Band-aids, even when there was no blood at all. My sister and I would exchange nervous glances, wondering what our mother would do if she walked in. Joy would just prattle on while applying the Band-aids (one was usually not enough), exploiting her thorough knowledge of first aid the whole time. We told her often of our mother's rule about Band-aids, and I noticed that her "hurts" were usually located under a sleeve or a pant leg. At the end of the week, she'd return to her home wearing a boxful of Band-aids of assorted shapes and sizes, artfully concealed under her clothing. In time, one of us would qualify for a Band-aid and our mother would discover a box stuffed with empty wrappers.
"Who's been wasting the Band-aids?" she'd holler.
"Joy did it!" we'd cry, tearfully defending ourselves.

I remember buying my first box of Band-aids as a mom when our first child was about a year old. I had plans to strictly regulate them as my mother had before me. Surprisingly, I found this wasn't necessary as all of our children were born with an unnatural fear of Band-aids.

One time when our two oldest children were small, we were attending a play group at a neighbor's house. My daughter fell and cut her knee. It bled. She came to me, crying. I took her into the kitchen where I proceded to wet a paper towel and apply it to the wound. Concerned mothers gathered to express their regrets to Carolyn.
"Poor little thing," they cooed as she bawled.
"She'll be all right," I assured them, "as long a nobody says..."
I had been about the spell the word Band-aid when suddenly our hostess appeared, waving the unmentionable item in the air before us.
"The poor little darling needs a Band-aid!" she exclaimed. I braced myself for what I knew was to come. Carolyn quickly upgraded her crying to hysterics. Her baby brother chose that moment to toddle into the room and, hearing me try to explain (over the shrill screams of his sister) about my children's strange aversion to Band-aids, and seeing for himself the aforementioned accursed article, he too began to shriek uncontrollably. Of course this triggered a chain reaction and soon more babies and toddlers were joining the chorus. Feeling embarrassed that we had caused such chaos, and fearing that somehow we had come across as ungrateful for the offer of a Band-aid (and just wanting to get my screaming kids out of there), I hurriedly scooped up both kids and our diaper bag and headed for the front door. The other mothers were busy trying to calm all the children we had upset. I tried to shout my thanks and an apology to our hostess over all the noise, although I'm not sure she heard me. As I glanced over my shoulder on the way out, she was still standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, holding the Band-aid between thumb and forefinger, gazing at it with a bewildered look on her face.

My sister and I still sometimes discuss resentfully how Joy used to waste our Band-aids. I've still got that first box I bought when our daughter was small. Maybe I'll send it to Joy.

1 comment:

  1. That is a darling article. I have a Band-aid king in our family - blood or not - here he comes.
    Susan Henshaw