Some words, while not onomatopoeias, still immediately convey their sense. “Bummer,” it seems, is such a word.

A week ago, the dear one (3 ½), fell out of bed in the middle of the night. We watched her nurse a swollen, bruised arm for twelve hours before taking her to the hospital down the road from great-grandma’s camp: both bones in her forearm are broken and she is in a cast for six weeks.


She was brave to the point of eerie stoicism. She was appropriately insistent on a pink cast and genuinely thrilled to have that demand met. Still, she was in a lot of pain all last week.

“Bummer,” I said to her, trying to conceal my distress at the beloved, perfect girl being broken and hurt. “Big bummer.”

“Big bummer,” she said, mocking my intonation perfectly. She knew just what I meant.

But, I heard myself adding, this is the kind of bummer that turns into a really good story. Maybe even, I heard myself adding, it’ll be your first memory! We’ve been working on that story ever since: how she fell out of bed (sometimes she adds an embellishment about the intruding dragons who were bothering her), how we went to the hospital and got an x-ray, how we went to another doctor two days later and got a pink cast and some stickers…

I don’t know what else to do. She has new clothes (halter dresses and fetching tanks to fit over the cast), a high-tech swimming sleeve with rubber gasket for summer water fun, and lots of stickers, but, otherwise, I’m working the literary angle. Words may not fix the broken bones, but they can help turn the pain into a good story. Sometimes I feel a bit like a tabloid journalist, exploiting her pain, but mostly I just think this is the right approach both for me and for my dear little wordsmith.