Well! Wonderboy has scarlet fever. Which, when you’re raised on Mary Ingalls and Helen Keller, is a really alarming thing to hear about your own kid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am SO GRATEFUL I live in the magical age of antibiotics.
Did you know scarlet fever is when you have strep and it causes your entire body to break out in a rash? Yeah, I didn’t know that. Strep! Half the kids in our circle of friends have been down with strep in the past few weeks—strep throat, I mean. I haven’t heard about anyone else having the rash. I suppose the rest of my kids are next. Looks like we’ll be spending Easter right here at home, this year.
Poor Wonderboy. Although he is indeed very fortunate to have antibiotics come to his rescue, they wreak havoc on his system. Alas, yogurt is in the category of Foods That Do Terrible Things to him. The next ten days may be a trial. It’s rotten timing, too. (I haven’t had a chance to write—because it was going to be a big long post, I felt certain—about the really big news as far as Wonderboy is concerned: he started school a few weeks ago. I know, right? Nutshell version is: we pondered the decision for months, and giving it a try was the right choice for about ten different reasons, and it’s going swimmingly so far. He’s in a very small—ten students counting him—K/1 special ed class with two aides and a teacher, and the school is literally on the other side of our back fence. He’s loving it. The rest of us miss him like crazy while he’s away, though this is balanced by the renewed opportunities to go and do things that had become quite challenging with our dear boy in tow. Other special-needs moms know what I mean. So…the rest of us are more unschoolish than ever, and Wonderboy is getting all the directed activities his heart desires. Which is to say: a prodigious amount.)
Anyway, he’s been out on spring break (after only three weeks at school), and sending him back on Monday with a week of antibiotic-induced gastro-intestinal distress is not a pleasant notion. Poor little kid.
I went to the drugstore to pick up his medicine and it turned into a 45-minute comedy sketch. I had some household shopping to do, so I had a whole cart loaded with stuff, and the checkout line was quite long. An elderly woman got in line behind me; she had a large package of toilet paper in her cart, and some sugar, and that looked like all, so I suggested she go in front of me since I had so much stuff. She looked very surprised and hesitated, seeming as if she were going to decline, but then she took me up on it and got in front of me. From that angle I could see that she actually had a whole bunch more stuff in her cart than I’d realized. Not as much as I had, but a lot. While we were waiting to move at a glacial pace to the register, another woman got in line behind me. All she had was a jug of milk. Really all, not merely apparently all. And there I was with my mountain of 972 tiny items.
“Pat!” she cried, and the toilet-paper lady in front of me turned and lit up with a big smile. They were friends. In fact, it seemed there was an impromptu reunion occurring at the Walgreen’s, because milk-jug lady said, “I’ve just been standing in the aisle talking to Louise for ten minutes!”
“Louise is here?” Pat peered down the candy aisle but evidently Louise was off gallivanting in Cough and Cold Remedies.
I felt awkward, standing between their warm reminiscences about that wacky Louise. Plus, you know: it’s just basic checkout line etiquette that if you have 1,786 items in your cart and the woman behind you has only one, you should let her slip in front of you. So I murmured to the milk-lady, “You should go ahead of me, you only have the one thing,” and she beamed at me and scooted next to Pat.
“She let me go in front of her too,” said Pat, sounding actually a bit disapproving, or suspicious, perhaps, of my excessive goodwill.
Milk Lady (I really feel I ought to know her name) said to me, “You’re going to be here all day if you keep THAT up!”
“I’m drawing the line right here,” I said, laughing, spreading my arms. “That’s it!”
“Louise!” cried Pat. I turned to see that another elderly woman had rolled her cart into line behind me just at the moment I’d made my declaration with outstretched arms. She looked bemused, as well she might. But she fell immediately into conversation with Pat and Milk Lady.
“Gloria,” she called to yet another shopper, a tiny salt-and-pepper-haired woman in hunter green slacks. “Look, it’s Pat.”
Pat and Milk Lady made their purchases and their farewells, and then at last it was my turn. Which, of course, took forever. But Gloria and Louise were deep in conversation and did not seem at all impatient as the clerk rang up my 3,964 items and helped me cram the bags back into the cart. Balancing on top was a giant orange rubber ball. Yesterday, while I was working in the garden, Rose was trying like crazy to pump up the last surviving bouncy ball in our possession, but Huck kept grabbing and running off with it mid-pump, cackling, and all the air would hiss back out, until at last Rose gave up in disgust. So when I saw the endcap display of Giant Bouncy Balls Only 2.99, I couldn’t resist.
As I pushed my loaded cart away from the counter, steering with one hand and balancing the ball on top with the other, I heard Louise say to her friend, “Oh, I miss those days!”
She meant my days, the days when your cart is piled with stuff because you have a bunch of little kids, the days when you’re an easy mark for sales of giant bouncy balls.
I drove home to my sick little boy and his bouncy-ball of a brother and their four vivid sisters, and I felt so glad not to be missing these days, even the scarlet and fevered ones.