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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Child of the 70's, Part 3: This is Why We Now Wear Helmets

One time when my sister and I were about eight, my family was playing pond hockey down the road from our house and my dad (he was a little competitive) accidentally knocked my sister down flat on the ice.  Since no one was wearing a helmet (my dad’s sole protection consisted of  my mom's square, white gardening knee-pads, which he tied to his legs with clothesline), my sister nailed her head pretty hard when she fell. Dad was absolutely horrified, Mantha was nauseous, and the game was over. Mom was happy for any excuse to pack up and go home, as it was like four degrees out and snowing. We all sat down to take off our skates.  Samantha was fumbling confusedly with her laces, so my dad untied them for her, put her boots back on, and gently hoisted her to her feet. Then he went to warm up the van.

My sister held on to my arm as we walked through the snow to the van. Getting in the van, she seemed unable to locate the door handle--she kept grabbing the side of the van in the wrong place. Finally (I guess it did not occur to me to open the door for her!)  she said, “Jesseca, I can’t see.” 

I thought about this for a second and responded, “Really?” 

She said, “Yeah.” 

“Huh,” I said. 

I opened the heavy sliding van door (this was 1979!) and guided my twin into a seat. Meanwhile, our parents loaded up the hockey nets, Thermoses  of hot cocoa, and canoe cushions we used to sit on in the snow. On the 2 minute drive home, my sister stared straight ahead.

“Can you see yet?” I whispered. 

“No,” she whispered back. 

For some reason we had no inclination to tell our parents she had been blinded. Nor did we ever consider that this might be an actual medical emergency! We did not, in my family, go to the ER--ever. Even when my dad cut his thigh open with a chainsaw, all he said was, "Tell your mother to bring me a towel." (The one and only ER visit of my childhood occurred when my mom sliced her Achilles tendon by kicking a trash bag with a broken wine glass in it, and even then, she only went because my aunt, who is a nurse, was there and made her.) 

When we pulled in the driveway, Samantha  still couldn't see,  so I held her elbow and steered her inside to the couch. She promptly started puking, which she continued to do for a good two hours. My mom mused that she  must have “hit the throw up spot,” and went to make dinner.  Some point that evening--which I recall as being really boring, because my sister couldn't do anything, being both pre-occupied with vomiting and blind--she regained her sight. My mom probably did call our pediatrician, Dr. Pitelli (in those days, she could call her at home!) who, not knowing about the blindness, probably said to just let her get a good night's sleep. 

Years later, we told my parents about this, and they were absolutely astonished.  My sister, by then an internal medicine physician,  mused that she had probably cracked her skull. My dad felt awful all over again for  knocking her down. My mom just said, “Huh.” 

Now, when my sons play hockey, it takes them twenty minutes to put on everything from what they call their "nut protector" to their neck guard. (We also have to sign nine pages of waivers,  including  statements like "Parents will not drop objects over the glass onto the bench of the opposing team,before they can get on the ice.) I have to confess that by March, I find the whole hockey thing just a wee bit wearisome, and wish my kids were only playing on a pond across the street. But I am sure am grateful for the helmets. 


  1. I was a little nervous when I started reading this as you see so much posted on Facebook about "way back" when we didn't have to wear helmets. We have definitely have become over involved and over protective on many child-rearing issue but this certainly isn't one of them. Thanks for a great blog Jess.

  2. Okay, the storyteller in me requests more. I feel this is not so much about your sons as it is about you and your sister. Holy smokes, she was BLIND! This is terrific, but I want more! Keep going . . . maybe with a link to the concussion tests that all us parents now have to take in order to allow our children to even play chess at the local schools? (I'm not kidding--it's a little daunting.) Anyhow, love it as usual!