Well, I knew this year’s birthday was bound to be a bit of a let down. Positioned as we are, with finances askew and the hubby literally working until 2 am most nights, I figured he wasn’t gonna have a lot of time or energy to put into, say, a birthday trip to Florida or even a super fancy, five-course meal made by himself, like the last couple of years. He has been so busy that I didn’t even want to mention it was coming up, nor was I sure it was even on his radar.
My dear sister, being aware of his distraction of mind, asked me what I would like to do for my big day, and I told her a nice lunch at her house (my birthday being Sunday) would be nice. Nothing fancy, just something I wouldn’t have to cook myself in the confines of the trailer.
On Saturday night the kids and I went to her house, as is our new custom, to wash away a week’s worth of grit and grime, do laundry and to touch base with the 21st century a bit ie., catching up on email and watching a movie on a big screen tv.
I also take this time to relate the week’s events to my sister and perhaps blow off a bit of steam.
I was telling her about the stomach bug that had swept through our ranks the week before- how I had never before appreciated how truly miserable a stomach bug could be until I had to face it without the modern conveniences of a washer/dryer or even hot running water, not to mention a real bathroom.
But at the end of my grisly tale, I could at least be thankful that the beastly stomach bug (realizing, no doubt, that a mother of five children could not afford to get sick) had decided to be merciful and let me off the hook.
“Well, happy almost birthday,” said my sister as I loaded all my laundry and squeaky clean, technology loaded kids into the car. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yep,” I replied confidently. But as I drove away, a sudden wave of nausea seemed to sweep over me.
“It’s all in your head,” I told myself as we got home and put laundry away in various baskets and drawers.
“It’s all in your head,” I assured myself as I tucked the boys to sleep in the tent where they have been sleeping on all these nice, dry nights.
“It’s all in your head,” I fairly shouted at myself as the hubby walked in the door, asking how my day had been and did I have any idea what I wanted to do for my birthday.
“I know what I don’t want,” I replied. “I don’t want to be sick.”
But before I went to bed, I put a bucket by my bedside.
It wasn’t the throwing up that actually woke me. It was the rain storm. We had been enjoying such a long spell of lovely, dry weather that we had become negligent in checking the weather report. I must admit, my first response to the rain was selfish. My stomach was complaining loudly and all I could think of as I stumbled to the trailer door was that I would have to go through the rain to get to the toilet. But then I saw the tent looking rather swampy and realized that, even with precautionary tarps etc., the poor boys were probably in for a wet night. I thought about going to check on them, but other things soon took precedence. The stomach bug had triumphed.
I don’t need to go into detail about the rest of that night. Suffice it to say, my birthday morning dawned chilly and wet and full of the sounds of bedraggled children making their way back to the trailer, complaining of wet blankets and soggy pillows.
I rolled over in bed where I had spent the last few hours curled up in a fetal position and told the hubby he was going to have to call my sister to cancel birthday plans and take the kids to church by himself. Even as I said it, a small, bright thought popped into my head- the thought that even though I was sick, a day off from the kids might be nice.
His reply extinguished that bright thought immediately.
“I’m sick too,” he groaned.
I’m not sure what happened to the rest of the morning. Sick as he was, the hubby took charge and got a hold of my sister, who earned several more jewels in her crown by coming and taking the boys to church herself and then kept them the entire afternoon.
We kept the baby with us and she had a glorious day toddling around the trailer, being mostly ignored. The hubby and I took turns crawling out of bed to change her diapers and make her bottles and then let her have the run of the place. I watched helplessly on as she tossed baby wipes like confetti, banged pots and pans, dumped a costco-sized pack of q-tips in the bathroom and emptied entire sleeves of crackers onto the floor, singing her little baby songs all the while. But at least she was happy.
All I could do, as the hours dragged on and I slipped in and out of sleep was to pray that this would be one of those twelve hour bugs, but the twelfth hour came and went with no relief in sight. My mother called to wish me a happy birthday, and I managed to have a conversation with her, which was a nice distraction. But throughout the day, every complaint was made worse by the elephantine headache I had, caused by the fact that I hadn’t been able to keep any coffee down that morning. The tylenol wouldn’t stay down either. I cursed my caffeine addiction and made vague and insincere resolutions that I would drink less coffee in future.
At some point in the afternoon, Steve managed to get into his car and run some work errands that absolutely had to be run before Monday. He was kind enough to take godzilla-baby with him. I then realized that in all likelihood, all the boy’s bedding was still soaking wet inside the tent. I dragged myself out there and did my best to drape the dripping blankets and sodden pillows onto a makeshift clothesline so that they might have something to sleep with that night. Then, spent with the brief effort, I went back to bed and slept like the dead.
My sister kept the boys until sundown, and when I heard the car doors slam and their cheerful voices coming up the drive way, I tried to prepare for their exuberant return by sitting up in bed and slapping a smile on my face. But as they drew near, they got very quiet and I could hardly hear their footsteps as they tiptoed into the trailer.
Then in a line, they came towards me, faces as somber as funeral marchers. One by one they each handed me a homemade birthday card, and in voices as quiet as they could make them, wished me a lugubrious “Happy Birthday, Mom”.
Despite my protesting stomach I had to laugh out loud at the pathetic scene before me, imagining how my sister must have drilled them not to disturb me too much with their well- wishing. I gave them each a hug and smiled over the brightly decorated cards, laughing at the childish messages of affection and early attempts at poetry.
My sister and her friend had written too- hilarious messages of condolence and understanding. And there was a card from my mother, who never forgets a birthday, with Target gift cards inside to boot. And thus I thought, looking at the respectable pile of paper before me and the crop of towheaded children surrounding me,
“Well Nicky, things could be worse. And next year is bound to be better……in theory.”
The stomach bug ran it’s course after 24 hours. As you can see, I woke up feeling much better this morning. And the first thing I did was to guzzle a cup of coffee. It stayed down. God is good.