I always know I'm going to throw-up when my ears start to ring. That’s been the sign since I was little. Before that, it could just be an upset stomach, but once I feel that warm, dizzy tingle coming up my neck it's inevitable. Now that I'm old enough to be self-aware of what those feelings mean, I start to pull my hair back and just wish for the vomit to come up. Even though I'm a mother myself, in that one sweaty, gut-wrenching heartbeat before my stomach heaves, I always want my own mom so badly.
My son is a fan of Peter Pan these days and if you've seen it, you'll remember that Wendy sings a song about mothers to convince her brothers that it's time to leave Neverland and go home. The movie gives you the impression that mothers are angels who glide calmly and selflessly through the world, speaking kindly, and making everything right and perfect and wonderful.
I'm convinced that fiction might be sustainable through about age three? Maybe.
Because most real mothers I know have to deal with poop on the wall. And milk cups dumped in the middle of the floor. And trains and toy cars that make us cuss when stepped on in the middle of the night. I don't know about you, but I don't glide calmly when there's poop on the wall. And I'm pretty sure Wendy's perfect mother would not approve of my salty word choices in general.
But my mother wasn't always perfect. On the whole, she was wonderful, but she got frustrated with me and lost her temper sometimes. She worried a lot and couldn't help but pass some of that on to me.
It was always different though when I was sick. I don't know if she just slept lightly or had a special sense but somewhere in the three minutes between my ears ringing and when I started to vomit, she would quietly appear behind me and use her hands to gently twist my hair into a pony tail. Even if I didn't call out for her to come, she was there.
After, there was always a cold cloth to wash my face and a glass of water. While I cleaned up, she would straighten my bed and plump my pillows so all that remained was to change into fresh jammies and curl up into cool sheets.
By the next morning there were crackers, 7up, and chicken and stars soup in the house. I keep meaning to ask if she just kept them on hand all the time. Hidden away. And the couch was set with pillows and blankets for a sick day of napping and watching cartoons or “The Price is Right”.
If I was feeling up to solid food by dinner time we'd order cashew chicken from a local Chinese place. It always feels odd to explain that to other people, but the sauce was mild, and the mix of protein and rice was good for a tender tummy.
Lying here in bed after being sick—with my crackers and 7up provided every bit as lovingly, if not quite as magically, by my husband—I study my memories like a manual. I know that it was more the feelings then the soup, but the words to describe the feelings are harder to parse out. Being cared for. Her patience. Knowing everything would be ok.
And so, I revert back to the more concrete memories. The cashew chicken place has since closed, but perhaps stashing a can of soup in the back of the pantry wouldn't be a bad idea. My little guy hasn't had a really bad stomach flu yet but I have a lot to live up to. I just want to be prepared.