My home has been taken over by scattered white flags of emptied out Kleenex boxes. The boys make listless efforts to float them into the trash. Their aim is 60/40. Maybe 70/30. That leaves a lot of used tissues on the floor, the rug, and stuffed between the sofa cushions. One of them has a new way of blowing his nose, without any tissue at all. When I realized, I did not maintain the kind of calm-mother-cool I’d like to be remembered as possessing when he looks back on his childhood. Instead I offered him a “My-mom-was-an-OCD-stress-freak” image to burn into his mind, as I explained, hands on head, voice pitched high, that the tissue must cover the nostrils, directly cover them!, when any attempt to force air through said nostrils is made.
“Is it the flu?” I am asked. How should I know? Does it matter? Is the asker suggesting that if it is the flu, I bear responsibility because we had almost-but-not-quite gotten around to getting our flu shots? It’s the fever, the chills, the cough, the stuffy nose, the sneezing. “It’s a bad cold,” I answer.
It’s the second bout of the school year, and it’s only early Fall. I am grateful for World Series games to help pass the time. I exalt Bill Waterston for creating Calvin & Hobbes books, and thank the Greek gods for the new Percy Jackson epic. I make soup. I buy a humidifier (where do the old ones go every year?) I wash my hands a dozen times a day. I drink Emergen-C. And then I slow down. I could sleep for days. I could keep them home, never send them back to school. We could loll around, eating when it suits us, watching television and reading books and taking baths and naps. It’s a different pace. Everything takes a back seat to rest and recuperation. It’s our shutdown. Our powering off. We’ll be up, and running, again all too soon.