Shortly after a late winter storm blanketed our region with snow, someone tipped off Mother Nature about the arrival of spring.
In a matter of days our backyard went from a smooth expanse of crystalline white, to big messy swaths of slush, to sopping pools of mud and flattened grass. The thick slabs of ice I thought would never disappear drained back into the earth.
The night before the seasonal shift, after an entire winter virus-free, my daughter succumbed to the stomach bug. Within days the virus spread throughout our family, picking us off one by one.
While my son slept feverishly, I stayed in his room, fighting off my own growing nausea. In the morning when I told my husband about how I literally willed myself not to throw up, a feat he unfortunately did not share, my daughter pointed out my hypocrisy.
“Mom, you always tell me it’s better to let it out.”
It’s true. I do say this. In fact, I just doled out this advice the day before when she was sick. She’s like me. We both fight it.
“You’re right, honey, but I needed to be okay to take care of your brother.”
But this wasn’t entirely true. I also needed to be okay because I hate getting sick. I’m terrified of surrendering to the will of my body, even if it knows best.
There was a moment in the night, at the peak of nausea, when I had to look away from my son’s lava lamp because the rising yellow bubbles made my stomach roil. I closed my eyes, breathing slowly, hyper aware of every internal rumbling, when a sentence popped into my mind.
We’re all just our bodies.
I felt a sudden nostalgia for all the nights I simply went to bed, without pain, without worry of being sick. Like many people, I take my health for granted until something goes wrong. We’ve all had this kind of realization. When we’re sick, or watching over a sick loved one, when we’re battling an illness, or facing a new diagnosis, we suddenly understand what’s at stake.
Without our bodies, we don’t exist. I suppose this is up for debate, but for me, that’s how it feels.
During my sick vigil with my son, his body was restless, and he moaned a little. I put an arm around him and my palm ended up against his chest. I could feel his heart beating quickly, every surge, every whoosh, almost as if there was no barrier between my hand and his most important organ. Under my hand was the sheer preciousness, and precariousness, of his life.
When my mother died, one of the strangest, and most painful things to come to term with was the fact that I no longer had access to her body. I couldn’t hug or sit beside her. One day her body was there, lying on a bed, struggling to breathe, and the next, gone. I didn’t just miss my mom. I missed her body. I had taken it for granted.
It’s been almost a full week since my daughter came home from a birthday party feeling nauseous and our family viral saga began. In that time, the snow has melted. While we’ve been recovering, winter has surrendered to spring. Uncurling its cold claw, making room for warmth, for new life.
The backyard is muddy, the trees remain bare, but there is new green grass sprouting, and one of the daffodil buds by our mailbox has a distinct yellow casing.
I point it out to my son, warning him not to open it. He touches it gently with his finger as we marvel at what’s wrapped tightly inside.