A chunk of rough cotton wool was torn from the big roll, kept for no other purpose, it seemed, though it was singularly unsuited to this one, with all the little fibres to stick and be left behind; dunked, and used to wash the grit of tarmac out of the grazed knees, the skinned elbow. The warm water was soothing, but the Dettol stung like mad. "It'll hurt a little," she'd say, and I'd grit my teeth and wait for it. Or maybe I'd scrunch up my eyes in defence, but I always let her do it, because it was part of the ritual. This is what would make it heal, make it dry up nicely under the dusky-pink fabric plaster that was never the tone of anyone's flesh, least of all my pale white freckle-dusted red-head hue.
Then came a gentle dab of the violently pink antiseptic ointment, applied with the tip of the ring finger, the selection of the right size bandage from what remained of the assortment in the box, the pulling of the tiny red thread to remove the outer wrapper. Next, the careful lining up of the pad over the affected area, and the neat pulling off of the thin paper tabs, to make the sticky arms embrace my skin in perfect symmetry.
My father would advise, always, that the plaster should come off at night to let the wound dry out, even though the ads on telly proved, with one half of the little boy's neat cut covered and the other half exposed, that scrapes healed faster with Band-Aid. I still believed my Dad, though, because he knew everything.
Much of this is the same, even here, even now. The canny symmetry of the band-aid and the magical way the sticky parts are uncovered and covering almost at the same moment never fails to provide solace. The fiddly red thread has gone, the pink ointment is still in my parents' house in Dublin, probably never to be used up, and I don't even know what Americans use in place of Dettol or TCP. I've heard tell of putting hydrogen peroxide on cuts, but that sounds unsafe to my still-Irish ears.
The plasters have to be called band-aids here or nobody understands you, and nowadays they're more often than not adorned with Dora or Buzz Lightyear or Spider-Man. My children are not so willing to let me wash their cuts as I was, and then they grab the band-aid and demand to do it themselves. It stays in place until it falls off in the pool or the bath, and I tell them, "There, that means it's better."
But the kiss, the final seal, the kiss-it-better: that never changes.