I thought she’d seen a snake. The terror in her eyes as she ran toward me made me want to jump over the shopping cart and snatch her up like a weightless doll.
Really, she’d stepped in a fire ant bed. This was her first time. Growing up, I remember a girl at preschool accidentally sitting in one. She screamed and they had to take off all her clothes, right there, on the playground. I’m sure she was embarrassed, but at the same time relieved to get every potential option for those ants to hide off her body. I remember wondering, where did she actually get bit?
I did have to take off my daughter’s shoes and pants. She was wearing a dress, so it wasn’t embarrassing. She didn’t seem to care. And I didn’t either. I went into protection mode, every last piece of energy of that day pumping through me, trying to make sure she got the least amount of bites possible.
Thankfully, she only got a few. Thankfully, only on her feet.
The event occurred outside of Ikea. We’d just finished buying her a new bed. Her big bed. A twin size, along with a new comforter, sheets, and pillow. We love the European style and affordable prices.
The bed frame, we already own. It belonged to my husband before we got married, which was about eight or nine years ago. Who says Ikea furniture doesn’t last? I think she found it special that the frame was once her daddy’s.
Going to Ikea with a three-year-old is not stress-free. It’s a child’s paradise. All the beds and furniture to get on and try out. The cabinets to open and close. Even the toy section to explore. While it’s not that fun to have to keep saying, “come on. Let’s keep moving,” it does bring me joy to see her feel safe enough to explore.
I remember going to Furrow’s as a child. Remember that place? It was on Garth. Now it’s a storage facility. As if we need any more of those. They had a section of doors. Each set was made into a square so that when you opened one, stepped in, and closed it, you were in what seemed like a small room. My sister and I pretended it was a house and we would have visitors. It was so easy to play pretend back then. Now, I find it a struggle to go along with whatever game my daughter is wanting me to play.
We were in a bit of a time crunch at Ikea because we were set to meet a friend at a restaurant in Bellaire. I think the rush of the visit, along with the fire-ant saga, and having gone to church earlier that day, zapped my energy and I wasn’t much of a presence at dinner. My meatloaf sandwich was good, though.
By the end of the day, my nerves were shot. I went to bed feeling guilty for being short with my daughter before bed. I had, what I’ve learned to call “compassion fatigue.” I’ve only recently learned the term. Once by a pastor, the second by licensed counselor, David Arabie in a column in the Baytown Sun. I had it that day. I’m grateful I had my husband to lean on.
I don’t know how I’ve missed out on the term until this year, but it rings true. For me, and for everyone. I think we all feel we could use a break from the twenty-four-hour news reports, constantly informing us about what’s going wrong in this world.
There was just too much packed into one day, that day. Sometimes it’s hard to know when too much is too much. Thankfully, my daughter went to bed easily that night. Getting in my own bed had never felt so good.
Justa Lanie Garrett is a lifelong resident of Baytown.