Nikki Diana Smith
Drama, Mama, and “They”
My mother always succumbs to the dramatic side of her personality. A simple cough means pneumonia; a single pimple means I haven’t washed my face in months; an A on an Algebra test hints at Harvard; a B in Keyboarding suggests failure to graduate. “They” determined the appropriate measure she takes in mundane or complicated situations. Phrases such as: “They say coffee has antioxidants in it and can prevent cancer,” or “You know, they say if your second toe is longer than your first then you will have the dominate personality in your relationships,” and even “They say if you sit down while you are eating then you will fill up faster and lose weight.” I have spent many a wasted day wondering just who in the hell are “they” and why does she heed “their” advice so steadily? It wasn’t unusual for “their” advice to invade my mother’s theatrical overreactions causing the scene at hand to be even more melodramatic turning a simple scrape into a near death experience.
I played softball in high school and have always been a little clumsy. ‘A little’ may be a bit of an understatement. My feet have had it out for me since day one. Softball and clumsiness are a dangerous combination. It didn’t help that I made it a point to give every practice and game everything I had. This meant sliding, diving, jumping, and occasionally running into chain link fences. By the end of conditioning, my knees had built up so much scar tissue they no longer bled. I loved showing off my battle scars. With each cut and scrape and jammed finger there was a story behind it that usually painted me as a hero. Strawberries from sliding were my favorite type of scars to show off.
A strawberry is similar to a carpet burn, except usually skin has been broken and orange dirt is embedded in the flesh wound. It stings a lot more as well. I slid into home plate one day and produced the biggest strawberry on my left thigh I had ever seen in person. I had managed to outrun one of the best arms on the team, and I never outrun anything. Even though this strawberry came from practice and not from a game, I was still quite pleased with it and bravely sauntered to the dugout as though it was just a scrape and gauze was unnecessary. My coach wrapped up the blister appearing on my flesh, and we resumed practice that day. It stung a little, but it was worth it.
I rushed home to relate the exploits of the day to my mother. She was getting her hair cut at my great-aunt’s shop, just a little way past our house. I barged through the screen door to my mom’s smiling face and inquiry of the success of practice. Like a six-year-old with a missing tooth, I yanked up my shorts and ordered, “Look!” The flesh wound was bigger in circumference than my hand with the fingers spread out as far as they could go. It covered over a third of my thigh. The outer rim was an angry red encompassing brown gooey looking skin. It was swollen about half an inch high.
“OH MY GOD!” she exclaimed, jumping out the barber’s chair. Aunt Marion just barely got the scissors away from her head in time. She rushed over to get a better view, only to exclaim how disgusting it looked, and to feel around the abrasion. “Nikki, it is burning up. I think it’s infected. Marion, look at this, it has to be infected, right?”
“Mama, it’s not infected I promise.” Apparently I hoped my knowledge of ninth grade biology would convince her everything was fine. “Coach cleaned it and put some disinfectant on it and wrapped it up so that it wouldn’t get infected.”
“And what makes her the medical expert? They say infection doesn’t always have any visible effects. I have to take you to the hospital. Right now.” She frantically began looking for her purse, mumbling the whole time about Coach’s recklessness for not taking me to a hospital already. Grabbing her purse, she strode towards the door insisting I get in the car. She was still in the barber’s cape with clips stuck in her hair. I debated letting the hospital staff get a good laugh at her backwards superhero cape, hair reaching to her shoulders on one side and chin on the other. However, I was not in the mood for this dramatic scene to reach the public’s eye.
I turned to Aunt Marion, mother of three boys, who had most assuredly seen her fair share of scrapes and bumps, for help. “Aunt Marion, puh-lease tell her that it’s not infected? Please, please, please? I mean the Neosporin Coach put on there should protect it. Right?” Aunt Marion mumbled something about not being a nurse and backed slowly out of the room, as though one of us might attack if she turned her back.
We argued over the severity of the wound for about fifteen more minutes. I promised to clean it every day and keep it wrapped up. Eventually, she sat back down and let Aunt Marion finish her haircut. Adhering to “their” advice, my mother checked the injury several times a day, because “they” say you sometimes have to cut off an infected limb. In her mind, my mother had managed to save my left thigh when it was only hanging by a thread and infected with gangrene. It hurt to wear jeans, and I limped a little for a few days, but eventually the abrasion finally shrank down to a large scrape and then disappeared. I don’t even have a scar to show anyone.