Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our whimpering dragons

The thermometer read 103.8. My baby was burning up. It was Day Six of sickness in our house. While Little Miss bounced back from missing a week of school from a horrendous cough, cold and fever combo, it was Thumper’s turn at the wheel of misfortune. First the Pink Eye and now this. Oy.

The conjunctivitis and the cold of the century brought us pink eyes, green snot, and red cheeks - colorful, but in a not-so-attractive way. Luckily there were usually at least two bleary-eyed adults, sometimes three when My Guy wasn’t working, following each kid with tissues and affection.

Yesterday was the first day in over a week that someone didn’t wake up with a fever in our house. I think, apart from the congestion, my girls have bounced back but man, what a week. Working from home to stay close to my girls proved a little challenging as Little Miss pelted me with a constant stream of “Whatcha doing?” “Can I show you this?” “May I sit on your lap?” while I was on the computer.

On the first day, feeling bad for my sick little girl, I padded my answers with patience and sweetness: “I’m working, but let me finish this and I’ll be right with you,” “Sure – I’d love to see what you got there,” and “OK, you may sit on my lap but only for a few minutes and then I’ll have to get back to work. But let’s get the crayons out so you can color and you can show mommy what you did.”

We didn’t leave the house at all while the girls battled their respective affliction so by day four, my answers to those same questions were on the edgy side of, “No” “No” and “No”. So of course, on top of the worry and exhaustion, there’s guilt.

While Little Miss demanded attention, Thumper, the sweet-natured baby that she is, only cried when her temperature rose to a level that would debilitate an adult. Mostly she laid her head on us and wanted to be close, and who wouldn’t love that? I think we each secretly stood in line for snot-stained shoulders.

Alone in her crib, Thumper’s sleep was fitful, her breathing uneven and raspy. When I brought her into the bed with me at night, she slumbered soundly. It’s intoxicating, knowing the effect our presence had on her even when she was barely conscious.

Little Miss, who slept on her own bed, awoke multiple times each night with a coughing fit, and when it got really bad one night My Guy slept outside her door just so he wouldn’t have to wake Thumper and me when he traipsed back and forth the well-worn path between our upstairs bedroom and hers below. I found his side of the bed cold in the morning and him on the family room couch. I don’t think I could love him any more than I did at that moment.

Not surprisingly, when the world celebrated Chinese New Year, roaring into the Year of the Dragon, mine was akin to the whimpering that Thumper did when she nuzzled next to me to settle into her deepest sleep for the night. I could afford neither the time nor the effort to welcome the Dragon with grand gestures so the lone red lantern above the dining table was akin to the spirit of our Lunar New Year. As in, it’s there, only muted. Isolated.

There wasn’t a big feast this year. No shiny new garb. No hung pao (red envelope with money) from parent to child. Only a big fat IOU to my daughters, whose only red (an auspicious new year color) were worn on their fevered heads. We did gather for a small reunion dinner often celebrated on the Eve that I prepared out of a weird obligation to acknowledge the festivities. Once consumed, it was back to business as usual with a tissue in one hand and a thermometer in the other.

The Year of the Dragon is so big among the Chinese  - the best and most coveted of all Chinese horoscope signs – that I felt slightly uneasy with my lack of preparation for it. My deep-rooted and superstitious Chinese half-self worried about the significance of ushering in the Dragon with illness in our home. What could that mean for us? What is to become of the year of opportunity and growth, signified by the Dragon, especially during our time of change?

But I know what My Guy would say to that - “Rubbish!”. He, the entrepreneur that he is, believes in making our own destiny. I will buy that this time, only because the alternative is not an option. Our girls prevailed, the sickness is behind us, and miraculously, the adults are unaffected. Perhaps I should take that as a good sign and run with it.

We may not have started the Year of the Dragon with a roar, but who’s to say we can’t end it that way?

Kung Hei Fatt Choy! San Leen Fai Lok - Here’s to health, wealth and happiness to you and yours.