A Chance to Breathe

The last few weeks have felt overwhelming, pressing down with the weight of my to-do list. I’d gape at the number things not done while still feeling like I wasn’t contributing enough – in work, in parenting, in activism, in life. To add to my stress, a number of my plans didn’t turn out as I anticipated. A particular highlight was switching from going to the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival because of 32 F temperatures to brunch, only to find out that the brunch place had an hour and a half wait. Then after entertaining Sprout by watching the bakery and going around a rotating door at least 20 times, we discovered that they did their frying in peanut oil, barring my friend – who has a peanut allergy – from eating anything. The absolute topper seemed to come last Wednesday, the day before we were supposed to fly out on vacation. Chris texted me these dread-inducing words: “Sprout’s sick…Really sick…Everything is covered in puke.” It was accompanied by one of the most pathetic photos I have ever seen of my child, curled up on the couch, blanket pulled up to his chin. Because no one has ever thought a five-hour flight with a pukey toddler is a good idea, we canceled our reservations. But despite everything, it actually turned out to provide the little bit of breathing room I needed. Unfortunately, it was going to get worse before it got better. I stayed home Thursday to help Chris, but planned to go back to work on Friday. But by 7 AM, I knew there was no way in hell I was going anywhere beyond our bed. While I was capable of aiming – unlike Sprout – I still had the fundamental problem that everything in my intestinal tract had a desperate need to leave at once. I slept until 4 PM, only taking a break to listen to Chris read to me from Game of Thrones during Sprout’s nap. Even trying to read my phone brought on a fresh bout of intense nausea. That evening into Saturday morning, I had so little energy that I needed to rest after walking up or down stairs. Not surprising, considering the only thing I had to eat over a 36 hour period was 3 slices of toast with jam. But still a very strange feeling. We were mostly recovered by Saturday afternoon, well enough to go to the park on a day with blue skies and a high of 65 F. Sunday was even more wide open. We were supposed to be on vacation, so we had no obligations. We didn’t go to church because we were nervous about being contagious and no one expected us anyway. We could literally do whatever we wanted; the beautiful weather was beckoning. Rather than try to be ambitious, we stuck close to home and enjoyed its simple pleasures. After reading Sprout 10 different books, I got him into some proper clothes and the three of us walked to a park almost a mile away. Even though we had gone there several times last year, he certainly didn’t remember it. We’re trying to get him used to walking further distances, so we didn’t bring the stroller. Of course, that meant we were subject to every toddler whim, but we had time. We picked up seed pods, cajoled him away from walking up neighbors’ front stairs, woof-woofed at dogs, and rambled along. The other park was a good change of pace, offering a rock-wall and wobbly balance beam in addition to the usual slides and stairs. He was dragging on the way out of the park, so we had to carry him home. But I was so proud of how far he walked there. In the afternoon, we watered the garden with his new watering can, although he ended up watering his pants and shoes more than anything else. Eager to get in some more Tour de Cookie prep, we pulled out the bikes for another short ride. He was absolutely beaming about wearing his “bike hat” and clambered to climb into the trailer. Stopping at our pedestrianized town square, he butted in on other people’s soccer games (who kindly welcomed him) and refused to eat anything but a sample of chocolate scone. He clearly enjoyed the little bite though, as he somehow managed to smear chocolate all around his mouth! Everything was unplanned, straightforward and relaxed. As far as I was concerned, this felt as much like vacation as traveling would have. It was hooky from the hectic mess in my head. So even though it all began with sickness, we ended up with a freedom I often don’t give myself the opportunity to have.

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