Now, Rachel, she walked on up to us, moping along with skinned knees. Stiff-leg staggering like a Frankenstein, flapping her hands to stay balanced or else stay away the pain, I can’t tell. I don’t know.
And she said moms, I can’t wear pants today and moms, I can’t wear jeans ‘cos… skinned knees.
From where I was sitting, there was not a single drop of blood… or at least none that I could see. Maybe two little matching shiny spots, you know, like where the skin kinda got rubbed away? Maybe, if I turned my head just so, maybe… Well, it was nothing to call the paramedics over.
But still she was holding back the tears and none too well. And then the color, it drained right out of Dana’s face, and I could see what way things were headed, so I swept up the girl in my arms and I rushed her into the bathroom like she’d come to us with her arm severed or with a sucking chest wound and massive head trauma, instead of just with these… skinned knees.
And I fell back on what I knew. I reached on back into my own past and I brought out what I had seen when it comes to skinned knees. And what I’d seen was that Neosporin and a Band-Aid can cure pretty damn much anything. It can yank a body right back from the very precipice of certain death, hanging on by the fingernails, breaths shallow, whimpering low or screaming out in pain if they’ve still got it in them by then.
But if you’ve got yourself some Neosporin and a Band-Aid or two or maybe three, you slap ‘em on there and then give the tyke some attention and they just might be as right as rain and as good as new to go.
It is something that’s always worked when it comes to skinned knees.
Thing is, it only sort of worked with Rachel.
I said Rachel, have you never skinned your knees before? And she stared on down at the Band-Aids – one on each knee – standing there vacant like she couldn’t walk out and was going to need crutches or hell, I don’t know, a full-body cast or something, and she shrugged.
That’s right, shrugged! This nine-year old girl… Precocious. Boundless energy. Athletic, even. Yet she did not know… she could not recall… she was unsure whether she’d ever before suffered from that old ubiquitous childhood affliction known the whole world over as the skinned knee.
I spent all my early years running around with skinned knees. Half my life, and every time they’d almost heal to where I’d have those dark, horizontal scab lines coming in, I’d pick them off and let the healing start all over again.
It was the circle of life.
I said as much to Dana, and then Dana said Katy, what the hell were you doing as a kid that you were always getting hurt?
And I thought it over a little and well, I hadn’t really been injured per se. They were only skinned knees. But looking back it seems now like back then it was a whole lot of skinned knees.
What in the world had I been doing?
How does one, in the normal course of one’s daily activities, so to speak, happen to come by quite so many skinned knees? D’I have some kind of balance problem? An equilibrium thing that was never properly diagnosed?
And to be honest, that started haunting me – for a day, for two days, for three days – I’d lie there at night and try to reconstruct in my mind the circumstances leading to those skinned knees of my childhood.
And then, wouldn’t you know it? Roundabout the fourth day of this, they all started coming back to me. All those knees. The skinned knees. I recognized some of them. You were summer of ’91, weren’t you? Or Hey, June of 1994, how ya been?
They’re all kind of like snowflakes, I suppose. No two skinned knees quite the same.
Like there’s I-thought-that-branch-was-strong-enough-to-hold-me skinned knees.
Lookin’-back-to-see-if-that-dog-is-still-chasing-me-while-I’m-running skinned knees.
There’s climbed-up-one-side-of-the-fence-no-problem-but-had-some-trouble-getting-down-the-other-side skinned knees.
And who-the-heck-loosened-my-bike-seat? skinned knees.
No-no-the-side-of-the-bayou’s-not-too-steep-for-me-to-run-down skinned knees.
There’s the my-brother-unexpectedly-launches-a-basketball-at-the-back-of-my-head skinned knees.
Can’t forget the at least fifteen variations on your classic treehouse skinned knees, which I would be glad to chart out for you someday by sub-class, height and time of day incurred.
And then there’s the skateboard skinned knees. All told, I probably I left a pound of flesh and three quarts of blood on various Houston-area half pipes before the day that I turned fourteen. And you know, skateboarding was probably just a bad idea for someone like me. We oughta take some time and compare scars when we get a chance…
But there’s also got-shoved, got-kicked, got-pushed-down-the-stairs skinned knees, and fell-while-doing-various-blatantly-stupid-things skinned knees, not to mention the unicycle, pogo stick, dirt bike, big wheel, and trying-to-ride-the-dog-but-the-dog-doesn’t-want-to-be-rode-today skinned knees.
Why, after a few days of all this recollecting, it was starting to seem like there were more ways for a knee to get itself skinned than there were for a knee to remain unskinned. Like unless you were living some kind of boy-in-the-bubble, padded hallways, Little Lord Fontleroy existence, there was just no way for your knees not to look like the remains of some eighteenth century battlefield by the time you hit puberty and started giving some serious thought to wearing skirts.
Like if you were doing anything at all that was worth the doing, it was practically an inevitability that your knees were going to bear the brunt of it.
And this led me, in turn, when I followed the bouncing ball, to two distressing questions: One was with skinned knees being what they were, how was it my own daughter missed out on them altogether? Two was what had happened to me that I’d now gone so long without skinned knees?
Don’t we take chances? Don’t we do anything outside our comfort zone?
Don’t we ever try and ride the dog?
So here’s a little something, I guess… A little tribute or maybe a toast of sorts in honor of skinned knees and the knowledge that tomorrow, my daughter and I are taking a sheet of cardboard down to Buffalo Bayou so we can sled down its banks.
Our knees don’t stand a chance.
I have stocked up on the Neosporin and Band-Aids.