Love Memoir

Lessons From Splinters

Splinter removal is serious business in our house

Many Junes ago, after swimming all afternoon with friends in a pool that was nestled behind a tall fence on the grounds of the apartment complex in which my grandparents lived, I decided to pay my grandmother a visit.

My decision to visit was not a completely selfless act. The ice-cream man had come and gone, and I had forgotten to bring money to go to the 7-11 down the street, so I was crazy hungry and figured my grandmother would make me some of her fabulous french fried potatoes.

To get to my grandparents’ apartment, I could have walked on an asphalt road, but I generally opted for the short-cut across a broad expanse of grass that had been allowed to grow tall and wild. The prickly weeds made quite the obstacle course, and I always made a game of zigzagging from one patch of yellow flowers to another.

On that particular day, as I raced across the field barefoot, I stepped on something that made me look around to see if I had landed on a discarded cigarette. Alas, there were no burning embers, just a partially squashed yellow-jacket clinging to me, his stinger nicely embedded into the arch of my foot.

Midway between the pool and my grandparents’ apartment, I alternately limped and hopped across the grass. It was an eternity. The grass grew taller as I walked; the sun burned my shoulders. Eventually, I hobbled up the three flights of stairs to my grandparents’ apartment and knocked on the brown door marked simply with the number “7”.

I knew my grandmother would be home.

When I told her what had happened, she looked nervous. I showed her where the stinger was lodged and asked her if she could, maybe, get it out. A pre-teen at the time, I could tell from the look on my grandmother’s face that she would not be able to help me. Rather than get upset, I simply asked for some tweezers – which she ran to retrieve. Try as I might, I couldn’t get that pesky stinger out. I asked my grandmother for a needle and some ice, and while she obliged, she turned her head as I drove the needle into my own foot, digging around for the elusive stinger.

Eventually, victory was mine and, the stinger – pinched between the tips of the borrowed tweezers and no bigger than the sliver of hair – was inspected. Sure I bled a little bit, but as I rubbed antibiotic ointment on the area and put on a little Band-Aid, I felt strangely euphoric, crazy proud that I’d been able to take care of business, independent of adult help. As I devoured the french fried potatoes my grandmother set out before me, I remember feeling that I needed to rely more on myself, a simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying realization.

I haven’t needed tweezers or a needle again as I have managed to remain splinter free for nearly 30 years.

Until this past Monday night.

Monday night, I walked around the house doing what mothers do. I was cleaning up, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be, checking that all laundry was in the bin, and taking inventory of what food would need to be purchased during the week. Basically, I was on the prowl for misplaced K’Nex, unplugged gadgets, and dirty underwear. That’s when I felt it.

I screamed out loudly and uncharacteristically enough that Hubby and Monkey called out in unison: “Are you okay?”

“I stepped on something,” I said attempting to balance gracefully on my left foot while trying to check out what was going on with the bottom of my right. Instead of awaking my inner White Swan, I succeeded in recreating a pretty pitiful imitation of an uncoordinated  pink-flamingo with a nerve palsy. Finally, using a chair for balance, I inspected the sole of my foot, where I saw a perfectly black and tiny, round something-or-other lodged in my heel.

Stooopid graphite!

I did what had worked before. I went straight for the needle. I dipped the pointed tip into rubbing alcohol and got to digging, but I couldn’t get anything out. I didn’t know what I might have stepped on, but that same stinging heat had returned. A body remembers things.

I called to my husband. “What is it?” he asked.

I have no idea, I said, “But I can’t get it.”

Hubby put on a headlamp.

“We may have to get you some lidocaine or something,” he said. “I don’t know if I can poke around without hurting you.”

“Just get it,” I said.

So Hubby took the needle and the tweezers and dug around for a good fifteen minutes, peeling away layers of skin and blotting blood, trying to grasp the foreign object which kept crumbling into dark fragments each time he announced he had it.

“Do you think it’s a rock?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Do you think it’s a twig?”


“Do you think I’m going to die?”

“You know what I think?” Hubby asked. “I think you stepped on a pencil.”

Great, I thought of my ironic obituary.

Teacher steps on pencil, dies of lead poisoning.

How rich.

“What happens if you have lead in your body?” I asked.

Hubby kept digging, “They don’t use lead in pencils anymore. These days, they use graphite.”

“Even in Ticonderogas?” I asked nervously, “Because those are really good pencils. You’re sure? Graphite?”

Hubby ignored me.

Awwwww, shizzle sticks.

“We have to get it out because you could get an infection. And I can’t get it because it keeps breaking.”

So I did what any woman who does not want to spend the next eight hours at the hospital would do. I gave my husband carte blanche. “Don’t worry about how much I complain. Or scream. Or bleed. Just dig.” (Oh, and be a sport and try not to be bothered by the fact that I am asking you all the questions that I just asked you – again. And that I’m filming you. It’s for my blog.)

Eventually, Hubby was the victorious and removed the slim sliver of graphite from my foot. Seriously, there was no way I was ever going to get that thing out by myself. And you know what, it’s nice to know there is someone you can rely on in times of need. Not like I didn’t know that before, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

So anyone think it is hot to have the tattoo of a tiny, black circle on your heel?

‘Cuz, you know, I’ve got one.

Also, if you are looking to find me between now and September, I’m the one wearing flip-flops. Everywhere.

How do you do with splinters? And would you trust your spouse to do the deep probing?

Tweet this Twit @RASJacobson

33 thoughts on “Lessons From Splinters

  1. Did you really say, “Would you trust your spouse to do the deep probing?” Damn, girl!

    Love the part about, “Even in Ticonderogas?”

    I still have a black dot on the palm of my hand from a pencil incident in 5th grade. It changes a man to brush that close to death.

  2. Hee hee heeeeeee! “teacher steps on pencil” – great headline!

    When my son was 5, he got a splinter in the bottom of his foot. I was ready to remove that bugger and had all the equipment, but being a big of a drama king, my son was far from ready. I think, had it not been Sunday morning with all the neighbors sleeping in, they’d have thought I was killing him because of his hollering. It took five hours to remove that splinter (alternately chasing him, begging, cajoling, pleading, sternly lecturing, calmly approaching the caged animal etc.) and when it was finally out, my then 5-year old said, “Is that it?” and happily went on his way. (cue: fighting urge to commit bodily harm toward spouse, who is always away when these things happen, after wasting five hours of the day)

    1. “Is that it?”

      Heh heh. I could be like Chase and turn that into a “That’s what she said” moment. But I will not.

      It is amazing how a teeny tiny little thing like that can hurt soooo much.

      Ooops, I think I did it again. 😉

      Five hours, huh? Hubby was willing to give me another five minutes.

  3. Yikes! It was rather long! No, I wouldn’t allow my husband to remove a splinter. He hasn’t gotten the hang of his bifocals, and he’s had them for 2 years. I would either do it myself, or have my oldest daughter remove it.
    Glad it’s out! 🙂

    1. Sprinkles:

      I HAD to post the picture of it. The actual full splinter was longer than that; it just kept crumbling – but this was the piece Hubby was able to pull out whole. Rather impressive, no? And no lidocaine. I am one tough cookie.

      However, I am currently not speaking to the pencils.

  4. It makes me wonder what a doctor says when she removes something through an operation. “I got it!!!” as she holds the gall bladder up in triumph. Funny blog, Renee.

      1. He was going for the whole foot. He probably would have gotten it if my mom weren’t there glaring at him. He used the very tip to sort of cut it out. Hurt like hell, as I recall. Knowing me I was probably back running around without shoes on a few minutes later. I have this brilliant knack for repeating stupid mistakes.

  5. So I don’t know if you’re into this kind of stuff but I have passed the proverbial torch and awarded you the “Versatile Blogger Award” 🙂 I really like your blog- thanks for stopping by mine a few weeks ago and introducing yourself. If you would like to claim it, you can come by my painfully neglected but somehow “award-winning” website . hope you are enjoying your break- i start back next week already :/

  6. “Pencils suck.” Best pouty phrase I’ve heard in a while. True fact about me: I am an amazing splinter getter outer. I can’t believe you went 30 years w/out incident! That’s nuts. My boys almost enjoyed getting splinters once they experience the painless precision of my handiwork. Plus it made them feel way manly. But I also have worked on wimpy girls too 😉 Not that you’re one.

    1. I, too, am an amazing splinter getter-outer. And given all the surfaces I have run/stomped/danced on sans shoes, it is rather miraculous that I have not had a splinter in so long.

      I did slice my second to last toe off in 1982 but, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t count. First of all, they sewed it back on and second of all, it wasn’t a splinter. 😉

  7. LOL! I just had a splinter, too! Can’t remember the last time I had one. This bugger was planted in my palm and I let it fester for about a week before I iced it, picked at it with needle, and finally, RELIEF!! Pulling it out felt like a victory dance.
    Beautiful story. Love the images of the walk to grandmas:)

    1. Wild Child Mama:

      I hope you did do a little dance when you pulled out that bugger! I’m a firm believer that dancing is an essential way to mark the most important moments in one’s life – as well as the stupid moments. 😉

  8. I cannot imagine going 30 years . . . without a splinter to contend with. You obviously lived a charmed life. 😉

    Glad you succeeded in your efforts to remove the offending graphite.

  9. I love this post, Renee. Nice weaving of past and present, which is not easy (for me) to do in writing.

    I have great memories of my mom extracting splinters. For the first 3 years of my life we lived in a house that had virtually no plumbing (except for the kitchen sink). No toilets. And horrible, horrible old wooden floors that hadn’t been refinished in 70 years. Jaggedy splinters were my reality. But my mom, who is so funny, would always tell me these funny stories as she extracted the piece of tree wedged in my foot.

    Now when my kids get splinters, I send them to my husband. I have the manual dexterity of a dog.

      1. It is more of a auditory distaste for the nasal twang than the way it looks in writing.

        And anyway, if you said it aloud, I’m sure it would sound like Snow White singing a song. 😉

        Also, it is my understanding that you can set up a mean Christmas craft, so I’m not buying that whole “lack of manual dexterity” thing, Mrs. Shirtless Shirtlifter. 😉

  10. I’d rather do it myself. I am a big chicken, really, but I’m worse if someone else is doing it. Somehow the pain is easier to manage if I am the one who has control over it. And apparently I’m a bit of a masochist! 😉

    When I was about 4 or 5, I was prancing around the driveway with my mother’s high heels on and of course, being a big ole klutz, I fell hard on my knees and got a pretty bad scrape on my knee. As my mother was washing it, I was screaming bloody murder and she wouldn’t let me do it myself. There was one tiny piece of blacktop that was stuck and she kept digging at it, and I finally just couldn’t take it anymore. I busted loose and ran!

    I still have the scar and there’s still a tiny blue dot where the piece of blacktop resides 🙂

  11. 1. I still have the point of a pencil in the palm of my hand.
    2. My wife once had to give injections in my abdomen for 3 straight days. Yeah, she’s ballsy like that. 😉

    1. Dear Scott:

      I’m going to start a club. Apparently there are a lot of us pencil-point stabbing survivors. We should be proud of our non-elite status.

      I don’t know what to say about the abdominal injections. Apparently, there are places even I cannot be probed. 😉

  12. In Cayman, where our apartment was 100% tiled floor and we always went barefoot, my husband broke a glass on the floor and spent a long time sweeping it with a flashlight to ensure there were no tiny shards waiting to wriggle their way into our footsies. A couple of days later, I stepped on something and felt that tell-tale sting. Upon hearing my sharp intake of breath, he asked what was wrong.

    “I think I’ve got a sliver of glass in my foot,” I wailed as I hopped over for his inspection.

    He took one look at it and burst out laughing. I was not impressed.

    He stopped giggling long enough to gasp, “That’s not glass, that’s a shard of hard candy.”

    9 years later and I still haven’t lived it down.

  13. “Do you think I’m going to die?” Love that. That’s I would’ve asked, too. I was always afraid of splinters. And the obit is a keeper, too. Did you know this was going to be a blog post at the time it was happening? Did your husband?

  14. Jim handles all the incidents like this in our family…I think he has more “mom” in him than I do (and his mom is a retired nurse). He takes out splinters, rubs aloe vera on sunburns, administers eye drops, deep-cleans kids’ ears with peroxide, grooms the dog and clips his toenails, and even helps the girls dye their hair!

    Glad the pencil is out of your foot!


    1. Wendy:

      It’s out, but I will forever have a black dot on my heel. The other night (and I’m not kidding, this was out “hot intimate in-bed” chat:

      Hubby: “Well, if someone ever says, ‘I’m sorry, Sir, but we’re just not sure it’s her. I mean, she’s pretty decomposed and all. And her teeth…well, somebody busted her up pretty bad. Did she have any distinguishing marks…’

      Me: “You can always show them my heel.”

      Hubby: “As long as you haven’t been too badly burned.”

      Isn’t that tender? 😉

  15. My son had a pencil encounter in his room this weekend. But after reading this, I remembered when we were in Canada in 1975 or so, my sister and I were waiting in the car with our Mom. Our Dad had gone to get milk and cookies for our dessert in the store. Sister and I pushed on the door and fell out. Long story short, she got gravel in the abrasion next to her nose which is still there today. So she smuggled a little souvenir back across the border.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop