“I can’t possibly drive us to pick up Madeleine,” I gasped to Brendan. “I look green and sick.”
“No, mama. You look um-pletely reg-a-lur,” Brendan insists.
“Tired a little, but not sick.”
“Well I feel sick.”
“But you look reg-a-lur. Just the same. Get in the car.” Brendan and I have spent the last two days together, and I’ve gotten used to him bossing me around. Usually I remind him he is not the boss and may not speak to me in that tone, but this time he’s talking sense. I get in the car. Someone needs to pick up the girl. We visit a drive-up for the first time this calendar year, to fortify ourselves with hot chocolate for Brendan, and hot cider for my blazing throat.
And we drive. Brendan is sick enough that he doesn’t ask a single question for the twenty-minute drive. We make the turnaround as quickly as possible, and he doesn’t ask a single question on the way home, either.
I stayed home yesterday to nurse Brendan through a cold, and silly me, I caught the cold myself. I managed to find Madeleine a playdate after school, feeling satisfied to keep her away from our sickhouse—now of course her playmate is home with the throw-up flu today. I’d be nervously watching for symptoms, if I wasn’t too sick to care right now. It’s just a cold. Just the aches. Just the sore throat that won’t end. Just something.
The funny thing about parenting while sick? I do the exact same things as when I’m not sick. Empty the dishwasher again, move the laundry again, make dinner again. Same tasks, but without much joy. I daydream of my mother, feeding me toast and tea, changing the cool cloth on my head, and of sleeping, sleeping, sleeping until I feel better. Not for me—not today. If she were alive I would call her to elicit sympathy—but there is no one to call except other moms, who know this story well and live it everyday.
I’ve gotten a lot done this week, strategizing to publish my writing, talking shop with other writers, proposing stories, writing publishers. I’ve uncluttered vast swaths of my condo, one section at a time. Four bags of paper to the recycling, two boxes of stuff to the thrift shop, hunting down hand-looms on eBay for a friend, and teaching children to weave. I’ve given my cat a stringent refresher course on using the litter box, at the price of a few nasty blood-lettings. Even in weather below freezing, I’ve gotten kids out to play for a bit of fresh air, almost every day.
And last night we ate chicken pie for dinner, one of those miraculous combinations of leftovers, a pie more delicious than all its ingredients. I’m feeling very smart, now, that I baked two pies, so the spare pie is tonight’s dinner. My imagination exited hours ago, but that buttery crust and the mashed potatoes on top will taste just as good tonight, with the chicken, carrots and peas in gravy. It's not quite chicken soup: it's glorified chicken soup.
The children have the nerve to ask me what’s for dessert. I don’t know. I’ll make it up as I go along. Just a few more hours and we will all be in bed, with me dreaming of my mother, toast and tea, and them dreaming of another day at school, if we can only manage to all be well tomorrow