Some of my favorite memories from childhood are from sick days. I don’t mean the older, hold a heating pad up to the thermometer so that you can skip school and get stoned sick days. What I loved were the younger sick days, when I was actually sick. Those days when my mom wheeled the small black and white tv on the cart in to my room and I spent the day dozing and watching game shows and soap operas I was too young to understand. Sometimes I would wander in to the kitchen, opening cabinets and looking for secret stashes of candy. Sometimes I would sneak in to my parents’ or my sister’s room and rifle through dresser drawers looking for diaries or proof that I was adopted.
When I was very young, my parents took me to work with them when I was sick. At my father’s office there was a separate lab office not in the same building as his regular office. When we got too bored he and I would go over there and I would spin in an old wooden spinning chair, climb up on gigantic, green metal stool to play with a huge green adding machine and make paper bracelets for the skeleton. When I went to work with my mom I would sit in the back of her classroom and draw pictures, and hide under an afghan in her office to read. Those days were fun, but they didn’t have the freedom of being slightly older and staying home sick.
Once, when I was in second or third grade and my mom thought I was asleep she slipped in to my room and left me a pitcher of 7up and a note to call her at work if I needed anything. Then she bent over the bed and put a cool hand on my forehead.
When my daughter started school I wanted to be able to recreate those feelings of love and comfort and freedom for her and I was fairly lax on what was required to stay home from school sick. Then, in second grade she had a particularly bad teacher and the sick days got a little out of hand and we had to institute a “no vomit, blood, or fever, go to school” rule. By the time she was in 5th grade, she was the world’s most responsible child and grew agitated at the idea of missing school.
She has relaxed slightly over the past two years, helped in part by the fact that she can do most of her classwork online. So, she is home sick today. She has been fighting a stuffy nose, sore throat, possible fever for days and together we decided that it would be best for her to stay in bed and lick it once and for all.
I work from home. There will be no rifling through drawers and cabinets for her, and I know better than to try and sneak into her room while she sleeps. But her father just helped her with her math homework and later maybe I can make her a smoothie and if I’m lucky, she may let me feel her forehead with the back of my hand.