Santa Claus and Stomach X-rays
Whew. It’s been a long month. We did a whirlwind trip out west to see my folks. Got to spend a few days with them, with my brother & his family, and then an evening with my aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ children & assorted pets. It was overwhelming, but good. So good to see them.
Hard, but good.
Which pretty much sums up the whole holiday season.
Let’s see: We missed our friends’ Hanukkah celebration due to Hen’s sudden-onset head cold. He was over it in a couple of days, but I had that sucker for a good two weeks & am still occasionally hacking as if tubercular.
Then we toured a private school and signed Hen up for nursery school next year. I came home from dropping off his application and heard the first coverage of the Newtown shootings.
I read way too many news reports over the next few days, trying like everyone else to make some sense - any sense- of it. And I decided against posting anything here. It’s all been said before and it felt like I was trivializing stuff that should never be trivialized by writing publicly about my reactions to something that did not touch me personally–except inasmuch that we are all humans, and why can’t we be gentler with each other? I thought that blog piece that went viral “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” was heartbreaking and terrifying, and I felt compelled to try again. So I wrote stuff and deleted it. Wrote and deleted. Wrote and deleted.
Finally, instead, I just wrote a shit ton of letters to congresspeople asking for more access to mental health assistance, and more gun control across the board, and assuring them that I would go out of my way to reelect anyone–Dem or Repub who actually stood up to the boogieman of the NRA and DID something about the mess this country’s in. And then I hugged my baby boy. And tried to put a lid on my anxiety. And tried to be happy that he’s getting to be such a big kid that he’s desperately excited about getting to go to school next year. And tried not to think about how vulnerable we all are, every minute of the day.
And then we got on a plane and flew for 6 hours with a stuffy-nosed toddler. No fun flying with cement packed up in the sinuses, I must say. I had a lot of sympathy for the babies we shared the flight with; screaming on ascent & descent did not seem like an unreasonable reaction, actually. Hen, on the other hand, got the best compliment ever as we were deplaning. “You had a toddler with you?” spoken by the lady sitting in front of me. “I never heard a peep out of him! That’s the best baby ever!”
Which is true, I think, though I’m pretty sure I’m biased.
He had a marvelous time with my family, truly enjoyed (almost) every minute of his time out there. Well, not the stomach x-rays, so much.
See, he was being so good, playing by himself in another room while I visited with my mom. I went in to check on him, see if he needed anything, and he informed me that he had just eaten a piece of green plastic.
See, this kid doesn’t put stuff in his mouth. Never has. Not marbles, not toy cars, not nothing, not ever.
“What did it look like?”
He pointed to a green-capped Sharpie pen.
“You ate a pen cap? WHY? Did it hurt when you swallowed it?”
“Was it round or shaped like a pen cap?”
Round. And green. Like a chocolate from an advent calendar.
His advent calendar gave him a chocolate about the size/shape of a dime each day. So I started looking around for round, green, hard, dime-shaped stuff, and lo & behold, my dad (who was a watchseller) had a few watch batteries forgotten near his computer desk where Hen had been playing.
I’m afraid to admit that I kind of lost my shit. I mean, you read these horrible stories about kids who burn holes in their esophaguses & die from stomach acid eating their innards because they swallowed a battery, and here my kid is helpfully telling me all about the round, green, dime-shaped thingy he ate from atop a pile of round, green, dime-shaped batteries.
I have never felt like a worse mother in my life. We hightailed it to the ER in the nearest hospital–30 miles away, and they xrayed Hen & found… nothing. (Well, they found a lot of air in his tummy from the wailing he was doing as they x-rayed him.)
Relief? Oh, you have no idea (or if you DO have an idea, it must be from experience and I’m sorry anyone’s ever had to go through that sort of terror.) So we schlepped back to my folks’ house all slumpy from relief and exhaustion because we forgot Bunny (and there was no way I was going to attempt sleep without a Bunny after all the tears that the fear-of-the-xray-machine produced.) We staggered inside, & my dad held up a piece of chewed-up green chewing gum he’d pulled out of the garbage can in his office where Hen had been playing. “Henry, is this what you ate?”
I went & found that pen cap–the exact same color. The texture of the chewed up wad of gum? Pretty plasticky. And just about the same size/shape as a chocolate from an advent calendar. Especially if it’s sort of squashed in a trash can. Still smelled nice & minty, too. I can see why my candy-lovin’ kid thought it’d be tasty.
That day really sucked, but it was all ok, so it was all ok, you know? I’ll laugh about it soon, I’m sure. Maybe. Perhaps. Someday.
Then it was a red-eye flight back to NYC for Christmas Eve with The Boy’s daughters; Christmas morning in our cave of a pied a terre; Christmas afternoon/dinner with The Boy’s extended family; Day-After-Christmas with The Boy’s family & visiting a friend with a new baby; then homehomehome not a moment too soon to get the dog out of hock, de-crate the cat, start a fire in the woodstove, unpack presents, take out all the cardboard recycling and then basically just melt into a chair. It was a long trip. A good trip, but a really really really long one.
But some good things? Henry woke up on Christmas morning and saw the puny little fake tree we have in Brooklyn standing guard over his heap o’ loot, sat up straight in bed, yelled, “Santa Claus came!” and ran right past the presents to the door so he could look for Father Christmas. That warmed the cockles of my anti-consumeristic heart. He never really had a meltdown despite all the excitement, he ate his weight in cold shrimp & roast pork at my mother-in-law’s house, and Santa brought him the ‘motorcycle’ (aka: a radio-flyer Big Wheel) of his dreams. He can’t quite figure out how to pedal it yet, but he’s already put in some serious sitting time on it, and brings me over to admire it several times a day.
And it’s seed catalog season. And my husband has forgiven me for not yet finishing his Christmas cardigan–I both underestimated how very large an XL cardigan is, and overestimated the amount of time I’d have to spend knitting in secret when we’re both home all day. Plus, the last minute travel threw a wrench in my budgeted knitting time. The dog had a marvelous time at her kennel away from home. And the cat survived being locked in a basement for a week. Thanks to being sick, I didn’t gain weight over the holiday–which means that the traditional post-New Year’s diet/exercise resolutions aren’t being made from self-disgust, which is nice. And my lovely husband bought me a rug I’ve always wanted for our dining room. And a Cook’s Illustrated subscription.
(Oh yeah, and the world didn’t end. Take that, Kisin!)
And the holidays are over and I have never been as happy to get back to ‘real life’ as I was today. So good to be home.
There’s bad stuff going on still. Hard stuff. Really hard stuff. And I can’t control it the way I want to. And there are truly awful things happening all the time in the larger world that I can’t deal with rationally or intelligently or really, at all.
But there is also love. There is family. There are the people I love, who love me right back, no matter how scary I get when I think my kid is hurt, no matter how shrill I get when I’m sick and exhausted, and stretched beyond my comfort zone by emotional depletion.
Family. Friends. Love. I hope you all have all of these things and that your holidays were made up of more laughter than stomach x-rays. More joy than sorrow. More comfort than pain.
And absolutely no apocalypses.