Two Seconds

Of course it happened. I knew it was going to happen. And I was about to stop it, but took just two seconds too long, two seconds of procrastination, of paying attention to something else, of thinking nah, it’ll be fine.

We were in the pool yesterday, late afternoon. I’d made a last minute phone call to my mom and my brother, who both live nearby, inviting them over for a swim and cook out (dijon-herb chicken skewers with lemon, which was one of the three of the billion Rachael Ray recipes I’ve tried that actually sort of rocked. Because I know you were curious, and somehow we had all the ingredients in the house. Oh, except for the chicken, which I ran out to get–my apologies to any neighbors who saw me and SK scurrying around the grocery store in hair like rat’s nests and grubby shorts. Because of course the lax vegetarian here forgot that we don’t normally keep meat products stocked in the house) enjoying the (FINALLY) warm water that is the only positive outcome of a heatwave so hot it actually made my contacts melt off of my eyeballs and pool up in little wells of whatever contact lenses are made of on the tips of my eyelashes.

No, that didn’t happen. And that’s pretty gross. But it really was hot, in case you live anywhere on the northern East Coast and hadn’t heard.

But what did happen was Quinn falling into the pool. She was standing on the pool deck (and by “deck” I mean the poured concrete that was there when we bought it, of course), so happy, tossing a ball into the water for me to catch. My brother was standing with her–had been playing with her, in fact–before he turned to my mom, who was in water, too. So Quinn started playing catch with me while David watched from the deep end. She was giggling, and so happy, and has a throw like a basketball player making a foul shot–knees bent, both hands gripping the ball. She was being so funny that I waited to warn her, waited to say something, when I saw her getting closer to the edge of the pool with each throw. And it was when I glanced at David to smile at him (“Do you SEE how cute our kid is?!”) that I saw, out of my peripheral vision (not bad for melted contacts), my younger daughter pitch forward, falling headfirst into the water.

No, she can’t swim. She’s two.

I didn’t think. I didn’t say a word. Before my brain knew what to do my arms were scooping her, following through with the somersault she started, picking her up out of the water so that she came up face first, bringing her to my body in one motion. I looked at David again. He’d witnessed the whole thing from his spot across the water, and I’ve never seen an expression like that on his face, like he was holding his breath–because what could he have done? He was too far away. My mom and my brother were still laughing, talking with Saoirse, oblivious to the near-awful, awful thing that just happened.

And Quinn? She cried. She cried for all of a second and a half–and not even a fear cry, or a shocked cry–it was more like she was pissed off that no one caught the ball–before she wiped the water out of her eyes and asked for the ball.

At the time, we were calm. The feeling was more of a whew and a “I can’t believe that just happened.” But as I type this, my hands are shaking. David said afterward: she could have hit her head. She could have hit her head. We were so lucky, he said. That could have been so bad.

How many times have any of us done that? Who has waited two seconds to warn a child before she touches the stove? Placed the baby on the bed while we ran to the bathroom, full well knowing he could roll at any time? Not grabbed the child’s hand immediately when she yanks it from yours in the parking lot?

Two seconds, if that. We were lucky. She was fine. Now it’s just a story to remember and share on this blog so she can read about it during her teenage years and guilt us into buying that car even though dagnabit, Quinn, you have a summer job for a reason. But two seconds meant the difference between her safety and my mistake. Between her happiness and a potential tragedy. We have a big safety fence around our pool, which we had erected as soon as we could afford to put it in after we bought our house, because there was no way we would own a pool and not have our children protected. But gosh. A fence can’t protect your child from everything. And, apparently, neither can her parents.

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