A couple of nights ago I was presented with a situation with one of my children where I was sure that she needed a hug and a kiss to feel better and as I often do when encountered with these situations I thought of the little yellow baby and a kiss I’ll never forget.
When I was nine years old I broke my arm. Some of you know the story already. Others don’t. I will relay the gist of the scenario quickly in order to embarrass myself yet again.
We were playing Star Wars. To be more specific we were re-enacting the final scene at the end of episode IV, the one where Han, Luke and Chewy are getting their medals. I had arrived to the make believe scene late as it were and all the male parts were taken so my friend playfully pushed me in the chest and said, “You can be Princess Leia!” The back of my foot caught on a small lip that resided at the top of a 3 foot wall, I fell backward and my elbow cracked down on the driveway. I stared down at my arm, angled awkwardly in the wrong direction and I noticed a small protrusion that hadn’t quite broken the skin but was sure as hell close to doing so. I pushed on it once with my finger and it slid back into my arm. It was at this time I felt it was appropriate to scream.
My friend’s father scooped me up, my mother was in the car after that and we went to the hospital. Them with a screaming kid in the back and me with a broken arm and a bruised ego from being injured while playing Princess Leia.
As luck would have it that day the fracture in my arm was a “clean” break. I thought it good when I heard the Doctor say that but he didn’t know at the time was that the sharp bone had sliced clean through the artery that carries blood to my arm and hand.
I was taken to Mass General in Boston for what I think was nine days while I underwent three surgeries and had the distinct possibility of losing my arm. Pity, pity…scary, scary!
It was just before one of these surgeries (and I am assuming it was at least the second operation because I already knew to be scared shitless of “pre-op”) that I met the little yellow baby.
I was in the hallway outside my room on the hospital bed where I had been wheeled and the nurse had something else to do at the time and left me there for a moment. My mother was there and she was taking a young mother who was holding a little yellow baby. The babe’s skin was tinged yellow, the whites of his eyes were the shade of slightly dehydrated urine. I was crying quietly and tears were streaming down my cheeks as my mother conveyed to the yellow baby’s mother that I was going in for surgery and I was scared.
I remember the baby’s mother telling me that I’d be ok and being a bit dramatic that it only had helped my tears flow thicker.
At some point, in some way, the baby’s mother had decided that a kiss from her little, yellow baby would make me feel better and I remember her holding the baby close to my cheek and I just looking at his perfectly round if discolored eyes. He kissed me on the cheek; quickly, gently.
I immediately smiled. I felt better. I don’t know why but that little yellow baby made my day-so much so that it is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. Perhaps it was because that even scared shitless and only nine years old I realized this baby’s issues were somewhat more severe than mine. I learned later about dialysis, kidney failure and jaundice.
Perhaps that kiss made me so happy because I knew that while adults and official people like nurses will always tell kids that “everything will be ok” even if it’s possible that it won’t be. Maybe it was because this little yellow baby didn’t know to lie to me or try to calm me-he was just kissing a boy because he felt it was the right thing to do.
I don’t know what the little yellow baby’s name was or what became of him (I do remember that it was a boy!). I would love to think that everything turned out well for him and his family but to be honest…he didn’t look well at the time.
But I’ll never forget the little yellow baby.
And he came back to my thoughts the other day as my eldest daughter cried in front of me and I hugged her and kissed a couple of times on the top of the head. I told her it would be alright and that she’d get over it. It didn’t quite have the same effect on my daughter as the little yellow baby’s kiss had on me when I was a boy but then I remembered…
I was an adult now. I was clumsy with my emotions as it is let alone in this situation where a heart is broken.
It is our need to talk and lecture at young people that ruins our credibility with them, I realized. As adults we sometimes feel the need to impart wisdom when it is not needed. We often jump to young people’s protection by wanting to fortify them with positive words whether they are the truth or not. My daughter isn’t stupid. My kiss wasn’t going to stop the hurt. She would feel it the next day and for a long time after. It would happen again in her life.
Sometimes we just need to shut up and be a little yellow baby.