Monday, March 27, 2006

fevery two

Day six of Madeleine’s fevery bug. Sigh. Two hours from now, we meet with the doctor for strep test and anything else he might recommend.

Our school was cancelled for two days last week, due to this epidemic. Brendan is both perfectly well and utterly miserable, with no available playmates and a house full of either sick or irritable people. Thank goodness for school, today, for him!

Still pacing-with-chores, here, and restless. There are two fevers, Madeleine’s and mine, though mine cannot be measured by a thermometer. I am laundering everything that might harbor a germ. I am boiling water for tea, for me. I have been indoors, by her side, for all but five hours—a shift at the store, plus two glorious hours walking yesterday, skipping church. My fellow Sunday school teachers practically threw me out, fearing I am contagious. I found a sunny rock at a nearby State park, where no one could find me and ask me for anything. The rock radiated warmth into my back until I had to peel off layers of gloves and sweaters. Church is one of my favorite places on earth, but not today—stillness and quiet are better prayers, today.

Scott is trying valiantly to fend off this illness, taking every precautionary measure I throw at him, while his throat gets more sore and his cough more violent each hour he is awake. This is an important week at his workplace, state testing for his students, and all the staff was teasingly told “there will be no sickness, this week.” I sent him to work with a thermos full of boiling tea, elderberry and Throat Coat and Breathe Easy for health, Good Earth for flavor, scattered bits of candied ginger in there and a ginger maple syrup concoction, a dollop of orange juice. I have fed both my sicklings the chicken soup of their choice, this weekend. I have fed them the “immune system” supplements with echinachea and Chinese mushrooms. I have officially Done Everything I Can.

The weather is lovely, warm for a March day in New England, and after the doctor appointment, I may need to bundle Madeleine out in the sun while I sift compost or do some other fretful chores outdoors, to fend off my own fevery cabin fever, after we find out what to do about hers. For now, she made a bed in the bay window and is watching the fishing boats, with a mug of ginger ale and juice. She is not fretting. That’s my job.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

sunset, living room window


One corner of my house looks like I am a techno-dweeb—two computers up and ready, as one has the DSL but the other has my writing. Another corner looks like I am a handicraft dweeb, sewing and felting projects strewn in a pile. The kitchen looks like I am no kind of dweeb, looks forgotten in a pile of piles.

My daughter has a fever, today, and it makes me so skittery that I cut down my coffee to just one cup, fearing nervous overload. These projects around the house are almost like pacing, trying to keep the worry at bay. When my son is sick, he just lays down and sleeps, which is easy. But Madeleine fights sleep, and needs to describe her misery. I have served her popsicles, apple sauce, ginger ale and orange juice. She asked me to come close, and she laid my head on her chest so she could pet my hair and my arm. “I’d put my head on your chest, mama, but I don’t want to sit up.” She’s sleeping now, fever hovering around 103 degrees.

Once, when she was smaller, she spiked a fever of 107 degrees, and I thought the thermometer must be broken. We went to the hospital. They used a different fever-reducer, simply a different kind we’d run out of. Her fever immediately lowered to 103, and she was happy enough to eat their popsicles. But I’m afraid I was permanently damaged, knowing the thermometer goes so high.

I realize I have not been out of the house for forty-eight hours, though the weather is beautiful. I consider asking my neighbor to come sit with her, but if Madeleine woke without me here, she would panic. It’s no fun to be sick. I will stay. And fret.

What I need to look like is a yoga dweeb, though I am not skinny enough to fit the profile of any yoga dweebs I know. I will go stretch, and try to put away dweebish obsession for an hour, while she sleeps. I will tidy up and finish folding the laundry—after I check her forehead, just one more time.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

that's me, by the car
original photo 3/9/05

Monday, March 13, 2006

kitchen sink window, or how to make dishwashing about as good as dishwashing gets

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

on the good foot

Apparently, no one told him he is a white Episcopalian from New England.

I toss James Brown’s Greatest Hits onto the CD player and “I Feel Good” shuffles onto the speakers. I turn to see Brendan, my blonde six-year-old, instinctively knows something about funk. He props his hands on his hips and nods his head, coolly, in time to the music. He struts slowly around the room, chanting the lyric, and I can practically see the glittery cape flowing behind him, the invisible entourage of backup singers. His face forms a mug that announces he is in charge. And he dances.

This boy has never seen James Brown on television. I have to remind myself he knows nothing of what James Brown looks like, because it fully seems as if the white Episcopalian New Englander is channeling him, for a few minutes, as well as any six-year-old can. The track switches to “Make it Funky.”

And then it’s back to Brendan, the Question Man. I believe he asks a question every three seconds for every waking hour, and most of the time he genuinely is curious about the answer. He is not the kind of kid who forgets the question he just asked—he’s the kind of kid who will ask the same question twenty times in twenty different ways if he feels he is not being satisfactorily answered. He also chants questions in the manner that we chant Psalms in our church, if he feels we have not heard him adequately. It’s a question trance, relentless quest of information. And I see the strut end, so I know the questions will start.

“Why does he yell to his baby so much? Does the baby like to be yelled at?”

“Some people call people that they love ‘baby,’ even when those people are grownups, like I call you ‘honey.’ Does that make sense?”

“So he’s calling out to his honey, calling her a baby! That’s so funny! Why is he so loud?”

“I think he’s a lot like you—he’s loud when he’s happy, when he’s upset, when he feels strongly.” The next song comes on.

“Why is he saying ‘I’m black and I’m proud?’ How can he be black and why is he proud?”

“You know Boris? And Marjorie. Their skin is dark. Sometimes dark-skinned people call themselves black people, and black people have a long history in this country, all their own.”

“That’s so funny! Boris is not black! He’s brown.”

“It’s sometimes important to call people what they want to be called. And that sometimes changes.”

We cover pride a little bit, too, with Brendan wishing to be something and be proud, but it’s a tough subject, and he really just wants to dance, so I’m lucky today. There will be so much more to unwind, over time.

I jump at the CD player to skip the next track which is called “Sex Machine”—there have been enough questions for the day! We move on to “On the Good Foot,” and “Night Train,” blissful nonsense, and all our feet are the good foot, this time.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Thursday, March 02, 2006


It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I find myself unexpectedly with an open hour, close enough to my children’s school that it makes no sense to go home. I consider my options: it’s too cold to merely sit in a parking lot and wait the time out. And then it comes to me: my favorite Starbucks is merely five minutes away! Should I spend the money? Should I consume more caffeine? I remembered tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and my husband and I are giving up sugar and dairy products for two weeks, to begin the Lenten season. And that seals it: yes, caffeine, with milk and sugar.

I fully recognize that Starbucks can be completely annoying, and this Starbucks, especially, can be completely annoying. But it has saved my life a few times, too, a living room that is not my living room, with no one needing me. Last week, I read a book there, cover to cover, without moving except for my friendly barrister putting up the chairs around me near closing time.

“Do I need to move?” I asked.

“Nah, not til you get to the last page,” he answered. “How close are you?”

“Three pages,” I answered.

“No problem. Read on.” This is the guy I see here on his day off, too, working his way through graduate school at the seminary down the road. We’ve discussed Kierkegaard—we are like old pals, now.

This Starbucks can be a little strange, as it is often populated with seminary students. It is not unusual to overhear students preparing sermons, holding a Bible study, praying out loud in that earnest evangelical way. It’s endearing and somewhat homey to me, as I have some seminary coursework and spiritual focus in my background. And it’s a little weird, when contrasted with most conversations at most Starbucks, which I think are unlikely to be centered on subjects of theology, nine days out of ten.

So I walk in, and miraculously, there are seats available. I order a giant caramel macchiato in a mug, and just as the barrister calls my name, the cushy seats by the fireplace open up. And just as I sit down with my steaming mug, and pull out my journal to note some notes, Aretha Franklin begins playing on the sound system, “You’re a no-good heart-breaker,” All this and Aretha, too? If God was pleading with us to return to him, he would sound like Aretha, like we are no-good heart-breakers that he cannot bear to lose. That’s my kind of theology, the kind I feel in my bones.

Did they know I was coming? Did they know I needed respite, power, caffeine and the breath of the Holy Spirit? “Kiss me once again my darlin’, don’t you never, never say that we’re through, I ain’t never… never… never loved a man the way that I, I love you.”

I put away my journal, my pen, my reading glasses and prop my feet up by the fire. I close my eyes and skip all pretense of doing anything constructive, and sip my coffee slowly and deliberately, meditating on one pleasure after another, sweetness, darkness, bitterness, warmth, gifts, and my favorite thing about Starbucks: the feeling that I am utterly unnecessary to the functioning of the world, for a few lovely moments. My only work is not to sing along at the top of my lungs, for the sake of other customers.

“You really know this song,” the barrister-Kierkegaard fella says.

“Aretha,” I say, shaking my head.

“It’s a soul mix,” he says. So it is, for me, too.