Monday, May 11, 2009

A nursemaid's tale

Last night I said to my elder daughter, "E, get some underpants!" She said, I can't! I'm waiting for L to pick them! And I said, "huh?" L had been getting her diaper changed but, newly freshened, she ran towards her sister's voice. Come on, L, pick some unders for me! E led L to her underpants drawer and L reached in and handed her a pair. Good job, L! Thanks, my sister!

L and E have a ritual. L selects her sister's daily unders. I didn't even know.

The girls sat for school pictures today and I thought L looked a little wan but I dismissed it as anxiety for the strange lady and the strobe lights and the whole forced-festive atmosphere. But not an hour later her teacher called me. Another fever.

Downstairs, I found her limp across her teacher's lap, all drained of color and fluttery of eyelid. I touched her face. "Ooh, you're so hot," I said to her. She brought her fingers to her forehead and assented. Uh-oh.

She fell asleep as we drove toward home and I meandered the upper part of the county so she could continue sleeping. As we drove past horse farm after horse farm I looked in the rear view mirror to see she had opened her eyes. Neigh! she said, pointing, and then returned to sleep.

We stopped home briefly and I changed her diaper and stopped in the bathroom to pee, which I did while she sat on my lap, so sad was she that she didn't want to be set down even momentarily. I was nearly finished and she reached for the toilet paper and ripped a piece and handed it to me.

We got back in the car to visit the pediatrician. Another ear infection. Another kind of antibiotics.

We came home, where she slept on me and next to me and across me and as long as we were touching she was peaceful. Sweaty and shallow-breathed and pallid, she slept.

She's so wondrous, this child. She's no more wondrous, fine, I know, you don't have to tell me, than any other child, but she's just so. So wondrous. She understands the convention of toilet paper and she greets animals in their native tongues and she helps her sister with her eveningwear. She knows when I worry for her and she tells me that I'm right to worry.

This marvelous magical pixie, it's just an ear infection, it's just another fever, but my heart feels heavy with crying unreleased when I watch her suffer sickness. She kicked in her dreams. She yelled and spit and a few times, smiled so big she sent herself scrambling for her lost pacifier. But I could soothe her if I neve let our skins apart. It was all I could do for her, but it was something.

But watching that little body battle within is so hard. I wish it was over. I lay with her all afternoon but I feel so tired. Pin It