Yesterday, I had my first glimpse of how the summer routine might look and feel at chez Bollinger. There’s always an adjustment period, moving from the school routine into those lazy, languid weeks of summer…weeks that seem to stretch endlessly before you at the start, and then disappear, slipping away one by one without your notice, until you are again scrambling from store to store on the hunt for the most durable lunchbox to begin the next school year.
About an hour after consuming one too many Eggo waffles (complete with a humongous dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkling of chocolate chips and a deep puddle of maple syrup), Charlie threatened to throw-up. He was also still suffering from a “Sleepover Hangover” (not nearly enough sleep, massive amounts of junk food, way too much sugar and an intense number of hours using various video game devices) from a couple nights before, which had his system in complete disarray. For much of the late morning into afternoon, I was forced to keep watch over him and calmly repeat my strict Vomit Protocol: 1. Throw up into the grey bucket or the toilet ONLY. 2.Try very hard to not hit the floor, the bed sheets or anywhere in between those two crucial target areas with any of your sick. 3. I repeat, BUCKET or TOILET! PLEASE! It was hard for me to write under these anxious circumstances and I kept having to pause to cock an ear so that I might hear the “Vomit Alert” which would be dutifully sounded by the sibling alarm system that roamed on the second floor of the house.
Seeing all the attention that the puke threats were drawing for her older brother, Genevieve soon joined in the “Vomit Chorus” and decided that she, too, was seriously “naus-te-ated” and needed to go back to bed. In order to feel the most comforted during these trying times, Gigi insisted she wear her blue princess nightie and that I read her ten books (with my most soothing voice) instead of the usual five. I did my best to fulfill her demands and then went back to my desk on the first floor to write. Since everyone was feeling so nauseated, there was no need to prepare lunch and I was able to concentrate for a solid twenty minutes before Chloe came to my office/bedroom to announce that she really must make a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I argued that now was really not the ideal time for such a project, what with the threat of barf looming. Besides, it was sooo hot already (it was supposed to reach 90 degrees by afternoon) that the oven would just make the kitchen feel unbearable. Also, I was really trying to finish my writing for the day. Couldn’t we wait until tomorrow to bake? No, we could not I was told. “I’ll do everything myself!” Ten minutes after the cookie announcement, I heard the loud clatter of mixing bowls and pans, the whir of the electric mixer and the constant open-and-shut of the pantry door. I tried very hard to concentrate.
Later…as the cookies were cooling on the wire racks, spread three across the green-gray granite island, and I was re-reading my attempts at thoughtful prose for the umpteenth time…Chloe escorted Genevieve into my room. Chloe was chuckling heartily in an attempt to set a positive tone because she knew she was interrupting my work. She gently pushed Gigi toward me as I sat at my desk, bent over the keyboard, re-working my word flow. Gigi’s cheeks appeared rosy pink, with lipstick splotch circles swirled all about her soft skin. Before my desk stood a lipstick-rouged clown face with pretty blue eyes and long lashes blinking up at me. I didn’t really think the situation was that funny or cute at the time, since I was trying so hard to re-configure this one sentence that bothered me so. The sentence construction was off. Something needed to be chopped. If I cut it up this way, by moving one word here and then another word there…the giggling clown face next to my desk made me lose my way inside the sentence. I chopped the wrong word as I read the prose aloud in my mind. I would need to go back a few sentences and begin reading again….
When I checked the digital time on the lower right hand of my computer screen, it was already four o’clock in the afternoon. I realized with alarm that no beds had been made. Dirty dishes, collected from various haphazard lunches that had been eaten alone (by the family members who still had appetites) as well as the “Chloe Cookie Cook-Off”, had piled up in and around the kitchen sink. Soon, there would be inquiries about dinner. (I hadn’t yet received the daily trite email from Scott, “What’s for dinner?” but I knew it was only a matter of time.) I finished re-working my last sentence, feeling satisfied at finally being able to get all the words out and onto the screen in just the right way…or almost. ( A re-write at a later time was inevitable.) Quickly, I shifted into third gear to begin squeezing all my daily household management tasks into a two hour block before I was forced to begin the dinner process. At 5:00, only one hour into my race, Scott surprised me by walking in the door far earlier than his prescribed “return-from-work” time. He wasn’t feeling well he limply told me. Oh no…stomach? (Maybe the stomach ailments experienced by a few Bollingers today were not random but indeed, sadly, connected. Maybe there was a summer stomach virus brewing within the household! Dear God…my worst nightmare. We’d need more buckets.) No, no, Scott assured me, it’s just a cold. He coughed loudly and honked his nose to clearly demonstrate the harsh symptoms of his malady. He was extremely tired, he croaked, and was relieved to find that our bed had not been made. He’d probably take a quick nap before the Stanley Cup play-off game. A win by the Devils would make him feel much better, he whimpered.
I proceeded with dinner (for those who were eating), pushed through two mounds of laundry in a flurry of sorting, washer/dryer transfers and folding before setting off on a meditative walk with Simone, the bull dog. Upon my return, the Devils had lost to the Kings, baths and showers were underway and Scott was back to dozing in the living room as post hockey game banter hummed on the television. Every once in a while, he’d erupt in a round of deep coughing, followed by a nose blow so loud that the dog would race over to where the human dad sagged in his leather recliner to make sure a strange monster was not lurking in the living room.
Finally, as I lay beside Chloe in her twin-sized bed, stroking her long locks and massaging her shoulders to ease her into sleep, I thought about this first day of summer vacation. I thought how much I was going to miss my two older children – Max and Chloe – when they went off on their summer trip to the east coast next week. I wondered, with increasing concern, how would I care for the younger set – Charlie and Gigi – without the “olders” to help me? There would be more lipstick incidents to be sure, and if I didn’t keep close enough watch on Charlie (because I somehow lost myself in my writing), situations, very bad situations, were likely to arise…as they so often do with him.
From my dangling sprawl at the edge of the narrow bed, I whispered to Chloe about what a great cooking job she had done, all on her own, this afternoon. I continued to stroke her long, still shower-damp hair. “Mmmm, those cookies were good,” I mused. Chloe stirred a bit under the bed clothes. “Please don’t talk about cookies,” she murmured. “I’m feeling a little nauseated right now. I think I might throw up.” With great calm and grace, I slid off of her bed and went to look for the grey bucket, a fitting finale for this rather challenging first day of summer.