Living in Oakland has dulled me to certain sensations. When I hear a car alarm, I do not scramble to the front window to see if someone is breaking into our neighbor's Lexus. The sound of helicopters in the air are no longer a point of fascination for me or my Oakland-bred son. He tends to sigh and turn up the television. Then there are those moments when urban living still gives me pause.
I got an e-mail from the director of our after school program late one evening. I read his concerns, passed along from one of his staff, that one of our kindergarten students might have ringworm. There was dry, scaly skin on her neck that may or may not have had a circular pattern. It was good of that after school mentor to take the time to notice this. This wasn't a shock. Over the years I have discovered any number of cases of ringworm, lice and assorted other issues with our kids. So much so that I tend to ask, mostly in passing, if mom or dad have had that looked at. If not we make a quick visit to our school nurse, who comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays, or to our secretary who hands out ice packs and motherly advice while making the necessary phone calls and keeping the process moving.
I forwarded the e-mail to my principal. The next morning she wrote back, letting me know that this little girl was "fine." She had just come back from having surgery to remove a bullet that was in her neck.
It took me a moment to let that sink in. She's five years old. She just had surgery to remove a bullet. From her neck. All the car alarms in my neighborhood went off at once. A dozen helicopters hovered overhead. This was going to forever alter my definition of "fine."
Welcome to the Big City.