It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while I get fully overtaken by a common cold or some strain of the flu. But when it does the full weight of what day-in and day-out parenting entails really comes down on your shoulders hard. Gone are the days of cuddling up on the couch with a box of Kleenex and all the cough drops and a Harry Potter Marathon. Instead you have to just make do as best you can and let the dishes pile up and the carpet get filthy and know that as soon as you are feeling just a wee bit better the disease will transfer to someone else in your family and sleepless nights due to your sickness become sleepless nights due to someone else’s. Who knew that being mildly ill before I had kids was actually such a luxury.
So once I felt mildly human and it became clear that Ondine was the next victim, I put on actual pants and washed my hair and resolved that we get some fresh air and Vitamin D. Because if my time in Germany taught me anything, it’s that fresh air cures everything. And Nikko in the fall is some of the freshest air with the bluest skies and temperatures that still allow for sandals. Flowers are blooming and everyone’s laundry is out every day getting the kind of dry that will become impossible to achieve come January.
On days like this, when V is happily at school and the baby is our only going concern, I realize how much different her life has been so far than V’s was at this age. How much time is spent on the go, with the voice of her sister scream-singing one line of a song repeatedly in a mon0tone voice, more time in our arms or in the carrier or in the stroller and less time just sitting silently with full attention on her. She seems unaware and unconcerned but particularly on days when she has the pathetic look of a sick infant in her eyes I get these tinges of guilt.
There was this one time, in approximately 1993, when I had a sleepover birthday party. I barricaded myself in the living room with all the adolescents I had invited and we got down to important business. Playing truth or dare and pretending to levitate each other and secretly checking out each other for who had boobs and who didn’t. Meanwhile my sister was plastered against the panes of the French doors, BEGGING to come in. We ignored her, tried to scare her, and finally one of the more clever amongst us thought to shame her out of our hair by chanting ‘BUNDY BUNDY BUNDY’ in reference to her nickname, Al, and the then popular lead character in mediocre sitcom Married With Children. I wish she had been old enough to see how pathetic that was, but instead it made her very sad, and she cried and cried until my finally came and dragged her away. I wasn’t proud of that moment even then, but now as I see things from O’s point of view, I feel really, really terrible. To 12 year old me I want to scream: Let your damn sister in! You are analyzing each other’s blackheads not cracking top secret codes! You won’t even be friends with half of these people in a few years!
Twelve year old me would have rolled her eyes, of course, and 29 year old ‘Bundy’ doesn’t seem permanently scarred. But still. Let’s all learn a lesson from this.Later I picked V up at the bus stop and her first words to me, after the Japanese she screamed that I didn’t understand at all, were ‘How is Ondine feeling!? Let’s go check on her!’ And I felt a little better. I spent the day devoted to my little one while my big one worried about her. I’ll console myself with that thought when the first Bundy Incident occurs.