Being sick when you're a grownup isn't remotely like being sick when you're a child. When you're a child, everything is taken care of. When you're an adult, the world still expects things from you. You have to make your own soup and excuses.
I have the soup covered. I made a huge batch of chicken dumpling soup not long ago and since I always end up with way more than a family of four can actually eat, I froze fully 3/4 of it. I had forgotten about it and probably wouldn't have remembered if I hadn't gotten sick. I guess many of our habits and desires are hardwired from childhood.
Being sick when I was kid meant that you got to lounge about in Mom and Dad's bed. I don't really know why that was or why we wanted to. No television or video games or wifi. Just being there was enough. Now and then my Mom would pop in with medicine or soothing potions, but for the most part I was left to my own devices. Sometimes I would just daydream, making up elaborate romantic scenarios starring my heartthrob du jour. I can name them, in chronological order: Shaun Cassidy, Michael Gray (Shazam!), Lee Majors, Matt Dillon (Little Darlings), Greg Evigan (BJ and the Bear), Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, Simon LeBon.
But mostly I read. For my 9th birthday, I received a full set of Little House on the Prairie books, bound in powder blue to match my room. I read them over and over and over again. Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Ma and Pa were as real to me as living, breathing, flesh and blood people. I felt chilled to the bone as I read about the Long Hard Winter, my very blood boiled in my veins as they all battled Scarlet Fever, and my heart skipped a beat the first time Laura met Almanzo.
As a tween I moved on to Judy Blume novels, The Black Stallion series, Nancy Drew serial mysteries and the Madeline L'Engle Wrinkle In Time series, which seemed utterly wonderful and fantastical to me. But what really melted my butter were tomes pilfered from my parents' bookshelf; Flowers In the Attic, The Thornbirds, Valley of The Dolls, Hotel New Hampshire, The Big Chill, Hollywood Wives, Exit to Eden....
Now, lest you think my parents consumed a steady diet of salacious trash, let me explain...these were the books that they kept behind the respectable, edifying and suitably cerebral books. These were the books I wasn't supposed to know about. But I did. And I helped myself to them without a shred of compunction. My mother wasn't terribly forthcoming when it came to matters of sexuality, so I had to get my information where I could.
So anyway...I whiled away many an afternoon on my parents' double bed, wallowing in their smells and hiding away from my childish cares. The walls were drab and the carpet faded and the furniture mostly secondhand. But it didn't matter. It was a palace to me. Sometimes I feigned illness just so I could retreat to that hallowed sanctuary. I'm sure my Mother knew, but she rarely called me on it. I guess she understood that sometimes a kid just needs to escape from life for a while. And she also knew that escape as a grownup is a far more complicated endeavor, and so...she afforded us the opportunity while it was still a rather simple undertaking.
"Christina is ill today. She won't be in class".
And that was all it took to shut out the world and all it's demands. God. The simplicity.
When I was really ill and truly needed to rest, my Mother would serve me piping hot chicken soup in a mug with buttered toast. She would sit with me while I ate. I can't remember what we talked about. It didn't matter. When I was finished, she insisted that I nap. She would pull the drapes closed and carefully bend the page on my book.
"Sleep. You'll feel better."
And then she would take the tray away and return to wind up the Hummel music box on her dresser. It was a circular wooden base decorated with a raised carved figure of Little Boy Blue . His horn was raised to his lips and a bluebird sat at his feet. Mushrooms grew along the fence atop which he was perched. We weren't supposed to touch it, but we did, and over the years we broke off little bits and bobs and eventually even unseated Little Boy Blue. We didn't know it was quite rare and valuable. We did know it was one of the few pretty things my mother owned. But even that couldn't stop our curious fingers. We loved that music box, and children want to touch what they love.
It survives still, in pieces. It's in my sister's possession now. It was one of the most bargained for items when we were dividing up my mother's belongings. No...THE most bargained for.
Sometimes, to this day, when I can't sleep, I conjure up the strains of Mancini's Romeo and Juliet in my head. When my Mother died, I experienced extreme anxiety and recurrent panic attacks. Sometimes the only way to slow my racing heart and stem the tide of rising panic, was to pull the covers over my head and hum....