New England Journal of (Mommy) Medicine

Quinn just tipped a chair as he tried to step up on it.  He barked his shin– and we all know how much that hurts.  Uncharacteristically crying and sort of writhing, he was trying to say something while I held and comforted him.  After a moment I understood:  “Mommy, kiss it!”  So I bent over and ever-so-tenderly kissed the little red bump (which will soon be a nasty bruise) on his shin.  He relaxed and stopped crying immediately.  “Thank you,” he said.

Why does that work???  I firmly believe there are many things we don’t know about our bodies and minds and medicine.  So even though everyone knows that a kiss does nothing to alleviate pain… well, maybe it does.  There may be no anesthetic compound in the lips or saliva (besides, mommies give only DRY kisses!), but maybe there’s some other actual chemical effect.  Like maybe a kiss administered by a trusted and loved adult triggers the release of some relaxation chemical in a child’s brain, and that dulls the sensation of pain.  In any case, the effectiveness of the Mommy kiss wears off over the years– all too soon with little boys.

Wow, this space is not supposed to be all about family, but I guess I can’t help myself in the last week or so.  Focus, Micki!  Think coffee and cafe talk, or your friends’ eyes will glaze over and you will join Ogden Nash in his lament:

“So Does Everyone Else Only Not so Much”

O all ye exorcizers come and exorcize now, and ye clergymen draw nigh and clerge,

For I wish to be purged of an urge.

It is an irksome urge, compounded of nettles and glue,

And it is turning all my friends back into acquaintances, and all my acquaintances into people
who look the other way when I heave into view.

It is an indication that my mental buttery is butterless and my mental larder lardless,

And it consists not of “Stop me if you’ve heard this one,” but of “I know you’ve heard this one
because I told it to you myself, but I’m going to tell it to you again regardless,”

Yes I fear I am living beyond my mental means.

When I realize that it is not only anecdotes that I reiterate but what is far worse, summaries of
radio programs and descriptions of cartoons in newspapers and magazines.

I want to resist but I cannot resist recounting the bright sayings of celebrities that everybody
already is familiar with every word of; I want to refrain but cannot refrain from telling the same
audience on two successive evenings the same little snatches of domestic gossip about
people I used to know that they have never heard of.

When I remember some titillating episode of my childhood I figure that if it’s worth narrating
once it’s worth narrating twice, in spite of lackluster eyes and dropping jaws,

And indeed I have now worked my way backward from titillating episodes in my own childhood to
titillating episodes in the childhood of my parents or even my parents-in-laws,

And what really turns my corpuscles to ice,

I carry around clippings and read them to people twice.

And I know what I am doing while I am doing it and I don’t want to do it but I can’t help doing it
and I am just another Ancient Mariner,

And the prospects for my future social life couldn’t possibly be barrener.

Did I tell you that the prospects for my future social life couldn’t be barrener?

Ha!  Should we add quoting verse at length to his list of social crimes?  I truly can’t help myself– it’s a medical condition, I think.  Maybe a kiss on my knee would clear it up, but I can’t find anyone to kiss my knee!  And the worst symptom of this single-minded obsession with my family is that I’ve begun to drink both my hot coffee and my iced coffee at a tepid room temperature.  Somebody save me from myself!

(But if anyone likes the Ogden Nash, check out

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