This morning I was hanging out our laundry to dry. For 7 minutes I was caught up in the task — the cool dampness of the fabric between my fingers, the bright colors of our shirts, the satisfaction of securing a wooden clothespin on the white rope line. I breathed in the woodsy smell from our back yard. I heard a train go past, then church bells. I cried a tiny bit for the first time of the day.
The second time I cried was at the grocery store. I was sent there by Zoey’s doctor to “find any manner of popsicle available until you find one your child will eat.” Zoey has been sick since Sunday night with a sore throat and fever. A really sore throat. Every time Zoey tries to eat or drink she ends up clutching her throat and screaming, “It hurts! It hurts!” This most recent advice from the doctor seemed a little pointed (“I can’t believe you’re dehydrating and starving your child!”) and a little different than the advice she gave me on Monday: “Oh, she’ll eat and drink when she needs to. Don’t worry about it.”
Our popsicle buying adventure was a difficult one. There were lengthy and loud negotiations about getting dressed, going potty, getting in the car, getting out of the car, which cart to use, where I put my purse in the cart, about why we couldn’t get a lobster. And then when we got up to the cashier, my wallet was missing. While I stood there crying about my wallet, the bagger chatted me up about her cats. And how they don’t like catnip. It was all I could do not to look her dead in the eye and say, “I. Don’t. Care. About. Your. Cats.” Instead, I gave her my tight lip smile, sniffed back my tears and said, “Sorry, we have to go.” My wallet was on the floor of the car. Thank god.
The past few days have been hard. Yesterday it was hot and sticky and our house was oppressive and boring. There was an unfortunate “marital discussion” last night and then the fire alarm started going off at random intervals. We miss our friends. We miss going to the library and the sprinkler park. Zoey and I are sick of each other. It’s hard.
It’s always hard with a sick kid. You want to make them feel better but of course you really can’t. You can make them comfortable on the couch and just kind of be there for all the whining and yelling they’re going to throw at you. But you can’t make them better. You can make 13 different snacks knowing they’re not going to eat any of them. You can transfer the juice from the yellow sippy cup to the green one and then to the pink one because that’s the favorite cup of the day. You can pour more juice because the original juice is too warm. Or too cold. You can give hugs right after your child yells at you, “I don’t like you ever again!” You can fake laugh at knock-knock jokes that don’t even make sense. You can play mermaid even if someone never let’s you hold the sparkly magic wand. You can hold your too big hand on her too small forehead and check for fevers. You can give gummie bears after yucky tasting medicine. You can read “Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy” 6 times in a row. Then you can switch to “Fancy Nancy and the Spectacular Spectacles.” You can make grilled cheese and root around in the freezer for one more orange popsicle. You can not yell when the orange popsicle ends up on the white carpet and the cheese has been stuck to the TV and the cat. You can sing that song one more time. You can do your best and still feel like you’re failing.
But then you can pull in your laundry. You can be amazed at the pinkness of your child’s tiny pajama shirt, at the lushness of the leaves behind your house. You can cry from frustration, from tiredness, and from gratefulness all at the same time. You can cry from relief at doing a task that has a beginning and an end. And a clothesline can remind you how you are tied to your daughter, to your family, forever. No matter what.