I thought I would write up something nice for Mother’s Day. Turns out when your entire family has been down with the stomach bug for more than a week – up and down, passing it one to the other – you’re too exhausted to do or think any kind of linear thought, let alone have the space to write it down if you did.
“What’s the matter?”
Day 5? (I don’t even know anymore)
“Alright, how are you guys feeling this morning?”
“Okay, my tummy hurts.”
“Mine, too. Mine hurts worse… Look how skinny I am now!” Lifts shirt to show sinking stomach. “You could ride a sled down it… Whooosh!”
No one even knows it’s Mother’s Day around here except for my partner. He offered a groggy-eyed, pale-faced, “Happy Mother’s Day,” as he stood in the kitchen with me this morning, each of us working, blue-gloved, to make food trays and put dishes away, and wash the latest round of sheets. Everyone else has been relegated to their bedrooms – on quarantine lockdown, all stuck in a cloud of endless sick days, each one a slightly improved mirror of the last.
The good news is that my oldest still doesn’t know that he’s missed running his first 10k this morning. We’ll cry about that later. When it doesn’t make us all feel like puking or raging or falling face first into our pillows.
My mom’s definitely not the one I call when my family is sick.
She’s mostly like, “thanks for the warning, how far, exactly, do you think I should stay away?” She was once caught spraying Lysol on my sick, sleeping dad, in an effort to kill his sick germs and keep them from crawling onto her. It’s something that comes up occasionally. We all start laughing, she denies that ever happened, then laughs, and admits that, okay, maybe it did, but he was really, really sick and what was she supposed to do?
Laughter is the thing that unites my family. I’ve probably laughed harder with my mom than with most any other person. My mom loves to laugh, and she’s instilled in me a strange inability to maintain my composure when someone around me trips and falls.
One time I was at friend’s house – well, he was actually my boss at the time and we were there for a staff meeting (which makes this a terrible story, considering). As we sat around his kitchen table, he went into the office, behind me, to retrieve something. As he came out, I heard a loud crash, and turned just in time to see the papers flying and him shortly behind them, air born. When everything settled onto the floor, including hid body, I gasped, afraid he was injured. I opened my mouth to ask if he was alright, but before I could speak, behind the couch, somewhere on the floor, he exclaimed, “HOLY SHIT! Is everyone okay?”
That was it.
I laughed until I cried. The meeting was over. Every time I finally composed myself, I’d look at him and it would replay on loop in my brain, and I’d devolve into fits of giggles I couldn’t make stop.
I blame my mother for this. She instilled it every time one of us fucked up, including herself.
“Cartwheel Hill,” was the misty, mud-covered, seventy degree slope peppered with trees, that ultimately all five of my family members’ bodies went slipping, tumbling, and slamming into trees so we could save a few bucks parking at Niagara Falls. I’ll never forget my mom’s laughter-induced shaking shoulders and tears as she pulled me behind her mud-covered ass as we emerged into the largest crowd of people you could imagine. We found a gift shop and my mom, whose fashion is otherwise always on-point, was reduced to ugly, white tourist-quality sweatpants for the rest of the day.
The runner up to that was the time my family exited a restaurant and then saw my grandparents far off in the parking lot. We didn’t realize it wasn’t actually them until we drove up next to them, rolled down the window, then erupted in a fit of giggles when they leaned in, revealing their counterfeit personas. We were laughing too hard to offer a reasonable explanation, so my dad just gave up and drove away, leaving that poor old couple, without a word, and completely befuddled.
I learned to laugh so hard as a child. I learned that mistakes can be hilarious, especially when the people around you are willing to laugh, too. My mom didn’t just point and laugh, she held out her trembling arm and helped us up, then used us as a prop to lean on to laugh some more until we all couldn’t even breathe anymore. I don’t know what she did for that old couple back in the parking lot; she probably gifted them a fantastic memory – one they likely laughed about as long as we have, I suppose.
I’m so glad for my mom’s boisterous laughter. And I’m glad to have that gift, myself. Especially on days like these, where there’s not much at all to laugh at. My gift on this day, when no one’s capable of offering another, is a treasure trove of memories that leave me breathless.