Saturday, January 14, 2006

Milk teeth

A second tooth is lost in Mexico. Shortly before arriving yesterday to pick up Allison from school, she took a tumble in the concrete courtyard and knocked out a front tooth. Looking at the courtyard with it's uneven surface and curbing it's easy to imagine how she lost her footing. Lucky it was only a baby tooth we said. From what I could tell she wasn't receiving much attention for it, no ice bag, nothing to wipe away the blood. I immediately found the bathroom and discovered the water was not running ( I learned today that it was a temporary condition.) All I had was a few tissues in my purse and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Not knowing what I should expect from a school in Mexico I refrained from pitching a fit but made lots of mental notes to myself regarding better preparations on my part. I think I'd be wise to carry a small cooler/first aid kit in the car that includes ice, washcloths, bandages, antiseptic. It is clear to me that 911 begins and ends with me.

For her part, Allison handled it with grace. She was definitely distraught, but also too embarrassed to lose her composure. She looked pathetic, her upper lip bruising and swelling, her hair coming loose from its ponytail, ribbons missing, her knees scraped and dirty. Her friend, J., had found her tooth and someone with English had wadded it into a green paper napkin and handed it to Robert saying in consolation, "milk teeth." On the way home I consoled her about this being a really bad day but tomorrow will be a good day. "No", she retorted,"It may be a medium day or another bad day, you never know, Mom." She's grown a little more realistic since the happiest-day-of-my-life at Disneyland. Mexico ain't no Disneyland. Here she's had the experience of being poked in the face with the sword tip of a yucca plant, choked by a butterscotch candy, poisoned by some intestional germ, thrown into a non-english speaking school where on her fourth day had her front tooth knocked out. That night the Mexican tooth fairy left 60 pesos, up 10 from the first tooth.

One thing I have learned about Mexico: it is easy to get hurt. Every day, every step can lead to disaster. The streets are riddled with holes or uneven spots in the pavement. The curbs are either overly steep or too narrow so as to be out of proportion to the human step. Sometimes an elevated sidewalk will end abruptly, depositing one over the edge. Animals roam freely causing motorists danger. Electric wires hang from store fronts and extension cords snake across wet sidewalks. Tree branches over walkways grow unmanaged and ready to poke out an eye. Wooden steps are rotted, chairs in restaurants are wobbly, door latches and iron trim readily snag clothing, nails pop up from flooring and stub shoes, plants with thorns lurk everywhere ready to stab or poke a passing shin or forearm.

They say if you get hurt in Mexico it's your fault. You should be more careful. This is true. Nothing here is designed with safety in mind. If you hit a cow or goat in the road, if you fall into a hole, forget looking to blame the irresponsible livestock owner, or the municipality for the absence of marked construction hazards. It's so easy to become annoyed at this glaringly unreasonable lack of standards. And I do quite often, especially after the pinch of pain. But it does no good. Better to just adopt the stance of personal responsibility for one's own safety and ramp up the awareness level. I know better than to read a note while driving for fear I'll ease out of my highway lane and unto the gravel towards a possible roll-over. I also can't stroll around town with my head in a daydream; I might stumble into the uneven crack in the sidewalk and sprain an ankle. I am required to be fully awake--and to do it without the help of a neighborhood Starbucks.

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