Crouching beside my granddaughter who was sitting on the trail, my wife looked up at me.
“Tim, do you have a handkerchief?”
I didn’t say anything as I reached up to release my daypack’s sternum buckle, allowing the bag to slip easily from my shoulders. I moved it to lean against the front of my body and reached into the pocket where I knew I had stashed a clean bandana before our hike.
I didn’t say anything because this was a crucial moment. My granddaughter, who had seconds ago crashed and burned while skipping down a north Alabama trail, was looking down at the scrapes on her knees that were starting to ooze blood. Leaving her knees, her gaze then went to her hands which were also battered from the fall. My wife and I waited, not wanting to encourage an outburst by revealing our concerns. Were there going to be tears?
Nope. Not that day.
My wife distracted our granddaughter by dramatically pouring a bit of water into the cupped handkerchief and then wringing it out before starting to clean the first knee.
“Ooh, you’ve got blood on that one. That’s one knee. Give me five!” she said, looking expectantly into the damp eyes of the six-year-old. On something akin to autopilot, she raised her hand to slap the one offered by Lisa.
“Ooh, look, you’ve got blood on your other knee. That’s two! Give me ten!” Again, their hands came together, this time twice.
“And your hand,” my wife said, wiping a smear of blood and dirt from one of the little palms. “You’ve got blood in three places! Give me 15!” Three hand claps this time, with a smile starting to form beneath the teary eyes.
“And your other hand, too! Four places! Give me twenty!”
I waited for them to slap their hands together four times before I offered more information.
“Umm, your left elbow, too. There’s a bit of a mess there,” I said quietly. They both looked down in unison.
“Wait,” my wife said, wiping the mud away. “There’s no blood there, just mud. That doesn’t count.”
By now the tears that almost rolled down her cheeks were starting to subside, and the kiddo wiped them from her eyes before taking the back of her hand to her nose for good measure.
A bit more time was taken to examine the wounds, then they both returned to their feet.
Our granddaughter had already turned back to the trail, not wanting to lose position with her sister.
“Be careful,” my wife and I said together, but our admonition fell on ears that were already moving away at a faster pace than was wise for the rocky trail.
With my eyes rolling, I tucked the handkerchief back into my pocket and we were on our way, just hoping to keep up.