Summers in New York City can be a brutal, what with its 100% humidity, high temps, and even higher frustrations. The apartments turn into angry ovens, and the streets could fry up a lumberjack breakfast in 3 minutes but who cares because it's too hot to eat. By the time you make it to the subway you're smacked with a hot gust of urine molecules as your train flies past. Minutes tick by as beads of sweat snowball down your skin, and just about everyone thinks to themselves, "Why is there no air-conditioning?!" My sisters and I would have the same thought when we visited our Grandma Lena, who'd stand next to a 425-degree oven during the swampy month of August like she was Mother Theresa in Calcutta, holding court on the latest person to "disgrace the family." She'd sit in her sticky housedress, gossiping away as we struggled to breathe in the heavy air, thick with olive oil and musky perfume. We'd stare longingly at the AC wall unit she never used yet bragged about owning; it might as well have been a styrofoam-based theatre prop (wouldn't be surprised). Maybe being from the G.I. Generation created an ability to accept life's discomforts to a fault? If Lena was born in 1920, then both she and her mother endured life riddled with:
Good thing those days are over!
This has been a pretty terrible flu season, but life on the west coast now means "hidden" seasons, where autumn is more present on a calendar than it is the air. Walking around in September during 90-degree heat can make it easy to forget about cold and flu season all together...unless you have kids. This time of year human children become nothing more than alien pathogen hosts; a mere sneeze can reduce you to a withering ball of uselessness in as little as 24 hours. We're none of us safe!
I used to joke that I avoided parenthood to mitigate my chances of contracting colds and flu, and uh, maybe there's a little bit of truth to this? Doesn't it seem like little kids have absolutely no idea when they're going to hurl? "I don't feel so-" BOOM! Before they could get the words out your clothes/car/bed become a canvas for the revolting spin-art that is vomit. Most of us had plenty of time to learn how to puke with neatness and efficiency during college, a skill Hudson will have to wait to learn. Until then Kiera and I will do our best to keep things as free and clear of germs as possible, but all the hand-washing and disinfecting in the world appears to be no match for this season's radioactive superbugs.
Back in January Hudson woke us up on a school night at about 3am. Sometimes you can hear him hop off his bed and pitter-patter to our room; other times he seems to just materialize out of nowhere, like something out of Village of the Damned. It doesn't help that he's blonde and translucent in the moonlight, but at least he doesn't have a creepy British schoolboy accent; I'd have to move out otherwise.
"Mommy? There's someth—" Hudson began.
"—Jesus Christ!" Kiera gasped, heart pounding. She didn't see or hear him until he was inches from her.
"Mommy, there's something in my bed—" he continued.
"-What? What's in your bed?" Kiera asked, confused.
"It's in my bed and smells really bad," he answered.
My eyes snapped open. I'm one of those people whose brain goes to really dark places if all it has to go on is a vague description. Suddenly his cozy suburban bedroom morphed into opium den full of filth and dying rats covered with plague-infested fleas. I kept this insane thought to myself as Kiera rolled out of bed to inspect the mess. She turned on his lights and cursed: it turns out Hudson vomited up the chocolate birthday cake Kiera made me, soiling his bed, floor, and hair. How this kid slept through it is beyond me, as the slightest bout of nausea can wake me up out of a dead sleep, but I digress. Kiera bagged up and changed his sheets while I took a washcloth and cleaned his face and neck. It was after 4am by the time we returned to bed, earning both Kiera and I headaches upon waking.
Hudson, however, was in a good little mood and ate his breakfast without incident. We guessed he ate too much cake (sugar) before bed and not much else; he had no fever or body aches. At some point in the early afternoon I took his sheets down to the curb to hose off, attempting not to puke, myself. After a few minutes I tossed everything into the washer machine and contemplated hanging a white sheet from our window...but it turned out my plague joke hit a little closer to home than planned.
Exactly 24 hours after the laundering I was at the gym doing my pathetic little bicep curls when nausea built up; I was convinced it was due to working out on an empty stomach. It's not uncommon for me to experience this, so I sat down to collect myself before returning home without the usual post-workout appetite. By 7pm I was retching every 15 minutes and would continue to do so for the next 16 hours. It was misery for sure, but overall it could have been much, much worse. In fact, the only time I had the flu as an adult was while watching The Wolf of Wall Street. I sat in the theater with that unmistakably dreadful flu-ache growing stronger with each hour, keeping my nose buried in my sweatshirt to avoid infecting my neighbors (a prime example of my inability to leave a movie before it ends). No, this illness was more like a stomach flu, the kind where there's no fever but plenty of sweating from retching. I even considered going to the ER for fluids if I hit the 24-hour mark with no improvement, but that wasn't the case—whew!
Oddly enough Kiera didn't contract this virus, which leads me to believe a microbe invaded while I rinsed Hudson's sheets. But poor Kiera had to lay next to me while I stumbled back and forth from the bed to the bathroom in an endless loop. By early afternoon I was able to keep down tablespoons of Gatorade, and later, chicken broth. Hours later Kiera was happy to find me healing, while Hudson hopped around the apartment with his iPad, oblivious to how virulent his brief bug turned out to be.