Sun 2 Jan 2011
At the dawn of the new year, I’m suppose to be looking forward…but, for the sake of humor, self-indulgence, and sanity I’m airing out a little of the past. Specifically: one week ago(ish):
I’m suppose to be packing, getting ready for Christmas travel to Vancouver, but I just can’t seem to get moving. In between folding socks and tucking away toothbrushes, I keep having to lie down. The night before, had been really great, truly Christmas-y in the sense that we were with friends, there was a tree in the room, and homemade eggnog (spiked liberally) was being passed around. OK, so I have always loved Christmas. (I also never call it Xmas, even in writing, because I can’t shake the whole, “Where would Christmas be without the Christ?” question posed to me in Bible Class). It was December 23rd, and we were getting ready to round off the holiday by heading home to my folks’ house via a three hour road trip down I-5. So much to look forward to! There would be Burgerville in Centralia, several hours of bad talk radio in the car, culminating in a happy reunion with my family. Instead, I tunneled down the inevitable path of the stomach flu.
OK, so I have to just write this out: December was a really hard month. I was going to write ‘bad’ but settled on ‘hard’ because the optimist in me still believes anything worth doing is usually really difficult. But, I have to tell you, the new year has never looked so good.
My son had already won the prize for Most Illnesses in the Month of December. The dreaded MMR vaccine kicked off an already tough month of erupting molars, (complete with blackened gums a la gum hematoma). Contrary to what Jenny McCarthy believes, my kid doesn’t seem to be sliding towards autism. But, when he wasn’t drooling, he was crying and sucking on his hand. Clearly, the kid was miserable but I hoped that all the sickness would happen before Christmas: coughing, hacking, snot running liberally down his nose for 10 days straight. Suddenly, I was carrying him around like he was 3 months old…only he just had his first birthday and is a healthy 23 pounds. For weeks he would rise at 3am and treat us to a bout of crying for TWO consecutive hours. Yes, that’s a 3am-5am shift…and I’m not getting paid. Look, I’m not saying his misery was unwarranted. I would LOVE for someone to carry me around every time I have gas, but I would at least have the decency to request this during daylight hours.
Because I like to compete, I started throwing down my own illnesses. I threw in colds, an occasional fever, and then I knocked my back out putting the kid in his crib. On the rare night my son didn’t wake up at 3am, my body got up anyway. One night, I laid awake until 5am, waiting for him…eventually, he called out, I dragged myself up for the night nursing he just won’t give up, and returned to bed for two hours of sleep. It was awesome.
Because I stared feeling insane, I started zoning out on the simplest, smallest things, like browsing through the William Sonoma catalog, watching steam rise off a wet fir tree, or drinking bourbon in store bought egg nog. Sleep deprivation makes it really hard to plan for the holidays, shop, write, wrap, cook, maybe handmake a beach ball or two. I’ve always scowled at the totally played out article “This Year I’m Canceling Christmas!” (Featured just recently in Better Homes and Garden.). It seems every year some bad writer tackles the unoriginal idea of being a Christmas Grinch because the holidays are sooooo hard. And yet, there I was, my head circling the drain, trying to bang out a creative Christmas card and realizing: I’m in over my head.
“We just need to make it until Christmas,” I told my son, as he hacked up a lung in the middle of the night next to the Vicks Humidifier. “Just be well in time for Christmas.” As fate would have it, my kid was fine by Christmas; I’m the one who didn’t make it. After stuffing the car with presents, making the long drive south, eating burgers with special sauce, and showing up in Vancouver at a reasonable hour: I’m down for the count. There goes the Burgerville, (literally).
Fact: I’ve thrown up 3 times as an adult. Never from drinking (even when I probably should have), never from alleged food poisoning, only from a very certain, very devastating, stomach flu. I’ve thrown up in 1995, 2002, and now, 2010. Fact: My mother has been by my side for each of those three times. My husband has watched me give birth, but for some reason I could not bring myself to throw up in front of him. Even though he was coaching me along, it took my mother to enter the bathroom, say, “Well, what’s going on here?” for me to finally go “BLLLLLAAAH” into the world’s smallest wastebasket. There’s nothing like Mom.
Christmas with the stomach flu means feeling like the world’s biggest martyr (but that’s what this post is about, right?) While my family stuffed themselves with extra sharp white cheese from Vermont, I rustled up some Top Ramen from my parent’s food storage (expired in 2006). While everyone drank champaign, I sipped sparkling cider (expired in 2008). Because I was having a hard time not being horizontal, we skipped the much anticipated Children’s Mass at St. Joseph’s. Five years ago I got lingerie from my husband for Christmas, this year I got a vacuum cleaner (which I requested! Lest you think my hubbie is THAT kind of dude).
While I was trying to wrestle my son down for a nap, my neighbor called my parent’s house: Turns out in my hurry to get on the road I left the baby gate to the mud room closed…which meant my cat was totally denied access to her food, water, and litter box. Luckily, my neighbor checked up on her less than 24 hours later and freed her from depravity. So, in addition to having the stomach flu I was the Worst Pet Owner in the World.
The day after Christmas, my husband went snowboarding for a full day. I went to Old Navy looking for pants in a size 12mo-18mo and felt depressed. It was so bad that I actually cheered myself up by visiting the graveside of a friend who passed away when we were in high school. Well, ‘cheered up’ isn’t the right term…rather, ‘put things in perspective,’ or ’signed up for a reality check.’ At any rate, I snapped out of it enough to realize that I was actually pretty lucky, all things considered.
The night we came back into town, back in our own beds, back in our own home…my son slept through the night. It was like Christmas.