As the emergency medical technicians pumped more fentanyl in my system, I stared beyond my contorted foot out the ambulance window wondering if it was the same fentanyl that killed a friend of mine just two years ago. How could something be both lethal and healing, I wondered. My mind floated to a long list of family events, travel and social engagements now jeopardized thanks to my stupidity. It was Halloween weekend and just moments before my husband and I were gliding home carefree from our date night on a pair of electric scooters. We couldn’t be bothered to wait for an Uber or Lyft and these looked way more fun, anyways. This impatience, combined with the tiniest pothole and an ill-fated decision to wear chunky heels that night led to a dislocated ankle that ripped through my skin. Eventually a young surgeon with a French last name and deep voice would stitch it all up to look like a creepy smiley face.
Word eventually got out about my accident, and almost immediately, an outpouring of love, support and offers to help came in. There were flowers and various soups, some cast signings and a few activities to do from the couch. (Calligraphy, anyone?) I was deeply touched. The one favor I wanted more than anything, however, was to have someone finish our matching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles outfits in time for Halloween night….maybe those high school aged neighbors who babysat sometimes? They seemed crafty and showered my kids with hand drawn cards and freshly baked cookies on our doorstep during the pandemic. I clung to that thought long enough to start a reply to their mother’s text asking if there was anything we needed. “Well, this might seem like an odd request, BUT….” I began. And then I let the idea fade. Just three dots pulsating on her end and then nothing. Finally, “We’re good! Thank you so much.” I had to let a lot of ideas fade since that fateful night- ideas that often kept me up all night during the most ungodly hours. Whether it’s creating the perfect Harry Potter birthday party experience, sending a photo-filled girl scout email newsletter to my troop, pulling off fully coordinated family costumes and posting proudly on my Facebook feed, I do it because it’s impossible for me not to. I love this stuff.
My problem isn’t the pressure to appear perfect for Instagram or outshine other moms in the Pinterest department. Motherhood scratched this weird creative itch and provided the perfect excuse to geek out obsessively with a hot glue gun from time to time. I cannot seem to shake an idea for a party, playdate or themed snack no matter how hard I try to play it cool or effortless. Since 2007, my husband Ryan and I have always planned out themed Halloween costumes, eventually we folded our kids into the tradition. We’ve been circus performers, Ghostbusters, the Wizard of Oz, skeletons, among other group ideas. This was the year of the Ninja Turtles. We watched the movie together, read the books, and visited Michaels to pick out fabric. I even had tiny gummy candy pizzas to hand out as we walked through the neighborhood, in what I like to call “reverse trick or treating.” It was going to be perfect. Until it wasn’t. Until my dislocated ankle yanked this 15 year tradition right from under me onto the cold hard pavement of Cesar Chavez and Evans.
The turtles were the first to fade, replaced by a fun-filled weekend in random costumes (a banana and a knight? really?) at my sister-in-law’s house while I spent the night in the hospital and then on my couch. I teared up when the kids returned with sacks full of candy, giant smiles and proudly announced that they had also taken a bath. It was the sweetest news a mom could hear. They didn’t need coordinated costumes. They needed a bath. When my husband went on his own with the kids to visit family back east for Thanksgiving, I enjoyed a rare week alone in my own home with my two parents, where we talked about all the things that truly mattered and laid their end of life wishes out on the table. Self-care and healing for me during this crisis meant letting go and telling all the creative mom-noise to zip it. It meant trading in Pinterest-perfect for good enough, get-the-job-done, phone-it-in or call it off entirely. The gummy pizzas will get turned into a class set of Valentines next month. At some point we’ll come up with the perfect “pizza my heart” pun line to include. Rest assured the glue gun hasn’t been retired forever, just paused for now. I need to work on wearing shoes again.