Speak Eagle

The Night we had a Ball- in the ER

I’m just a middle-class country girl. I don’t own a fancy gown, and if we ever have steak, we have to use our steak knives to cut it. Chew it long enough and we call it “steak gum.” With 4 boys and 5 pets, I do things like clean stinky feet with wipies and walk around with birdseed chaff in my hair.

invite to ballLast Thursday, however, when I get an email from my friend, Dayna, inviting my husband Brian and I to join her and her husband Jeff Saturday night for the Nashville Symphony, Invitation-Only, White-Tie Ball, I’m ecstatic.  Since two attorneys declined at the last minute, this is my one shot at living the life of royalty!  Well, for a couple of hours anyway.

Brian races to a shop to get fitted for a tux with tails and I send a panicked FB message to my Nolensville friends. Within hours I have a gorgeous gown, mink stole, and sparkly heels from 3 different friends. Every time Brian and I pass each other in the house, we whisper incredulously, “We’re going to the BALL tonight!

And then it happened. 4:30pm. Bloodcurdling scream from the backyard. A teenaged neighbor carries in our 7-year old. “I’m so sorry. I accidentally kicked him in the knee when we were playing soccer. I’m so sorry.” He lays him on the couch.

Brian ices the knee for 20 minutes. I’m choosing to believe it’s a bad bruise. I pat his dark head. He’ll be fine. I’m heading upstairs to get ready.

“Honey, he can’t move his leg.”

I blink. I didn’t just hear that. “What? No, I’m sure you can move it, right, buddy?”

He tries, cries out in pain. I reach to comfort him.  “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Brian’s face looks concerned. “I think we need to take him in.”

I look at the clock. It’s now 5pm. The ball starts at 7pm. If we go to the ER now, then…no, no, no! I’m starting to breathe fast and shallow. My vision of candles and roses and swishing ball gowns starts to crackle like the sound you hear when you empty the trash on your computer.

And then I feel guilty. Here’s my son in pain and I’m thinking about a ball? Yes, I’m thinking about a ball. This chance might never come again!  Did I mention that these tickets which were free for us, actually sell for $750?  Each?  Together, it’s more than I paid for my first car.  And I am going to be a princess tonight, for crying out loud!

Through clenched teeth, I ask Brian, “Can I please talk to you?” We go to the bathroom and lock the door. And then I cry mad on his shoulder, and stomp mad like a little girl who is determined to get her way. He is understanding, but much more ready than I to forego the ball.

Back in the living room, my oldest son throws a dagger, “Remember when I was 6 and I broke my leg and you didn’t believe it and went to community group anyway?”

Gulp.  Oh…yeah. That’s right. We’ve been here before. The sitter had already arrived and we were headed out the door to lead our small group from church. I propped Josiah up in his bunk bed and told the sitter to bring him his dinner there. I was sure he was just being dramatic. He wasn’t. At the ER later that night we discovered his leg was broken in two places.

And now I’m being reminded of my VERY BAD MOMMY MOMENT.

Fine. I will do the right thing. I text Dayna to tell her the bad news. She is understanding, “Please don’t worry about the ball.” But I want to.

We wrap our injured boy in a blanket and carry him out to the minivan, propping his leg on a cooler with a pillow on top of it.

On the way to the ER, he asks excitedly, “If my leg is broken, will I get to use the crutches?” He’s been practicing with his brother’s crutches for years and sounds WAY too happy about this. He has no idea what I’m giving up.

Weeeeellll, sort of giving up. But not compleeeetely giving up.

Before we left the house, I had snuck my gown and mink stole and sparkly heels and Brian’s tux in the van and threw in a few bobby pins- just in case I had any reason to put my hair up that evening. Can you say “Optimist?”  On the way, I braid my hair and wrap the braids around each other on top of my head.

My dad, who lives around the corner from the hospital, meets us at the ER. He knows how much I’m looking forward to the ball and hugs me. Even though I’m a grown woman, some days I just need my dad.

photo-7From that point on, the minutes tick by. Loudly. We check in, go through the initial eval, then wait in the waiting room. And wait. 7pm passes without fanfare. The grand ball has begun. And we aren’t there to make our royal entrance.

At 7:15 a nurse comes out, “Are you guys still out here? I’m so sorry. We forgot all about you.” No, no, no! This doesn’t happen to princesses.

They take us back, and at 8pm the nurse announces, “We’re going to do some x-rays.” My son pumps his fist, “Yes!” This is everything he imagined and more.

For me, I’m still holding out hope. The dinner hasn’t even started yet. If it’s not broken, they can just wrap it up…and…

I have an idea.  “Dad, do you think if it’s not broken he could hang with you on your couch for a few hours?

“I’ll help you in any way I can,” he says. I hug him. He’s a rock star in my world.

I run out to the car for my gown and get dressed in the hospital bathroom, emerging as…the best dressed woman in the ER. Brian puts on his tux with tails. Now we are the best dressed couple in the ER.best dressed in the ER

At 8:30, the tech motions to me and points to the bones on the x-ray. He explains, “Your son has an avulsion fracture at the top of his tibia, right here.”

Wait- a WHAT? My mind wraps around the word “fracture” and my heart sinks, for him, our little athlete who will go nuts not being able to play soccer for 6 weeks while he’s in a cast. And my heart sinks for me- the middle-class country girl whose dream of being a princess for a night has been shattered. I guess that’s the end of that.

“Your leg is broken, buddy,” they announce to Josh. He pumps his fist again, “Yes! Do I get a cast? Can I pick the color?”  His attitude amazes me.

At 8:45pm they decide to do a CT scan for the orthopedist. As he’s being wheeled out, Josh is elated and pumps his fist again, “Yes! Mom, he said I get to go in a donut that takes pictures!”

“I know! That’s awesome! Have fun!” It’s okay. Forget the ball. We can have a ball right in the ER! And I can assure you, the ticket price here is a lot more than 750.

At 9:30 they wrap the leg with a temporary cast. We sign our papers and start to pack up our things.

My dad then says the words that every princess longs to hear, “Do you still want to go to the ball?”

“The ball?  Oh, Dad.  Could we? Do you think we could?  Just maybe dance one song?  Please?” He smiles and I’m suddenly awash with surprise and hope and gratitude and my vision of candles and roses and swishing ball gowns is starting to come back into focus and I look at Brian wide-eyed and whisper, “We’re going to the BALL tonight!”

We set our son up comfy on my dad’s couch.  He’s happy to get his Poppy all to himself.  Then we head downtown. We pull up to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and valet park our scratched minivan whose front end is held on with duct tape.

FullSizeRender-2But I don’t care. Once inside, we’re suddenly royalty, walking down the grand staircase arm in arm and now it’s my ball gown that’s swishing. And the candles and roses are everything I imagined.

Even though the guests are being served dessert, Dayna has requested that they still serve us dinner! I hunt for through the 7 forks in my place setting for a steak knife, only to find out that a fork cuts through filet mignon just fine. Who knew?

We listen to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill sing, and then we dance. Two glorious songs.FullSizeRender

The Cinderella clock strikes 12. I wrap my mink stole around my shoulders, we express our deep gratitude to Dayna and her husband for the invitation. And I walk on a cloud, out to our duct-taped minivan and our middle-class life.

It’s 12:30am when we arrive at my dad’s. We thank him profusely for his sainthood. Once home, we lay our little man on a palette next to our bed. I kiss his sweet, dark head, tell him he was very brave tonight and that I love him.  Then we do our “special kiss” he created, complete with 2 cheek swipes, a smooch on the forehead and 4 fist bumps.

And then…I look in the mirror one last time. Hmm.

What if…what if being royalty had nothing to do with a gown or a mink stole or sparkly shoes or filet mignon? What if…

I suddenly remember that my 5-year old made me promise I would see him when we got in. I tiptoe into his room.  Plant a kiss on his warm, sleepy cheek.

And I know, deep down, I really am rich. I’m rich because I love and am loved.  And if you ask, I have a feeling 4 boys…no, 5 boys in my house would tell you I’m already a princess, yes, even with birdseed in my hair.

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