Lessons Learned on a Sick Day

She was up barfing at four. When I arrived hours later, she had pink cheeks, a kitty ears headband, and was play-ready. She assured me it wasn’t really being sick to barf, but pre-school wanted her to stay home. She was sad Mom wasn’t staying home, sad to miss her friends, but game for whatever Grandma brought to the day.

Lemon-lime soda was no longer needed. Water was fine. Munching many plain saltines and a cup of dry cereal made up for a missed breakfast. Within minutes we were on the sofa deep in a Brain Quest card deck working through sequencing challenges, adding, matching letters and words, talking about calendars and telling time on old-fashioned round clocks.

Those clocks sparked the first pronouncement of preschool wisdom. She thought I must have had a clock with numbers in a circle because I am old. I corrected that statement to older. She didn’t buy the change. A teenager had given me the same look when I asked if the general store in a small town carried watches.

With interest in Brain Quest waning, I suggested we start an art project. She turned down the idea because she said she loved to learn things. There wasn’t anything better she could have said if she hadn’t finished with a sympathetic sigh before sharing that it was sad that old people couldn’t learn stuff. That’s not true I replied and told her about a friend who learned another language to work with immigrants, another friend attending university classes, my own tap-dancing studies. She frowned and said maybe I had special friends. That I do.

Even at her age I couldn’t do backward summersaults, so she had me at that, but I didn’t expect to frighten her when I got down on the floor to do a plank next to her. Old people could get hurt doing planks she said. I replied anybody could get hurt doing planks, but we were both strong because we could hold a plank for almost a minute. Then I sat back to watch her attempt head stands and intricate twirls.

We rounded out the day with dressing the cat, coloring paper dolls, and baking a chocolate cake. She looked tired, but happy. Her mother looked tired after an important work day. And grandma drove home, happily tired out after an unexpected play day.

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Laughter

The faster she went the harder she laughed.

Laughter rolls out of her bedroom followed by a shriek and right after a long, “Nooooo.” More loud laughter. You’d think that she had a gaggle of girls in her bedroom.

It’s just thee Crystel as she likes to call herself.

I always wanted to know what it looked like for a child to not be abused. I’d think about that when she was 2 years old sitting on my lap. Her head resting against me. Us rocking. Her legs splayed either which way. I knew even then.

I’d do anything to protect my kids, for them to have a life that I did not. Sometimes, much to their dismay.

Juan Jose’ was five-years old and was taking an indeterminate amount of time in the Super Target men’s bathroom. I couldn’t stand it one more second. I opened the bathroom door and hollered. “Juan Jose’ are you okay?” When he didn’t answer, I walked in, asking as I went. “Juan, Juan are you okay?”

“Yeeeeees,” came his voice.

When he was older, not yet a teen, he once thought he could take refuge from Mama Beth at the Xcel Energy Center during a concert. After a length of time, I texted him, “Juan Jose’ if you don’t tell me that you’re okay, I’m coming in the bathroom.” I waited a moment. “I’m coming.” I stepped into the bathroom.

“I’m fiiiiinne,” came his voice from a stall.

“Just checking,” I said.

Crystel tries to snarl sometimes. I tell her that she’ll never get as good as me. My teenage years was one long snarl. I show it to her. She laughs.

Her laughter is delightful. She doesn’t hide her beauty under an overflowing t-shirt or use her hair to hide her face. I could just sit and look at her, she’s so confident and unafraid. Of course, I don’t. She’s a teenager. She spends a large amount of time in her bedroom.

As does Juan Jose’. Usually he has the lights off in his #manboycave.

But, when he smiles … that room lights right up.

That’s what a teenage boy can do with his smile.