It was highly unusual; the moms of Park Slope almost never get sick.
But last Tuesday, they were dropping like flies. Smartmom got a cellphone call from Divorce Diva, who had such a bad case of laryngitis that Smartmom could barely understand her tortured whisper. But she did manage to decipher the following.
Apparently, she’d been on vacation with her daughter, her fiancée and his children and she felt so sick that she had to sleep in the car while they were enjoying themselves at a skating rink in Philadelphia.
Later that day, Warm and Funny e-mailed to say that she too had fallen sick while on vacation.
Then, the unthinkable: Smartmom developed chills during her Alexander Technique session at Alexander Junction. Afterwards, she ordered hot water at ’Snice and sat sipping it in her coat, hat, gloves and scarf.
But nothing seemed to warm her up.
When she got home, she got into bed — under three blankets and one patchwork quilt. But still: brrrrrr.
When the Oh So Feisty One got home from school, she was in shock. She couldn’t remember the last time her mother was sick.
Of course, it did happen. Once. It was back in January, 2005, when Smartmom had a runny noise, sore throat, vertigo, an earache, body aches, and dizziness.
In other words, she felt like the list of symptoms on a cold medicine package.
The times when Smartmom has been sick have been few and far between, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get headaches, stomachaches and other fleeting ailments from time to time.
It’s just that she either soldiers through or ignores what she’s feeling.
Don’t worry. She’ll just sit here in the dark, as the old Jewish mother/light bulb joke goes.
Last Tuesday was an exception. Feeling alternately feverish and cold with a host of flu symptoms, she got into bed with “Wings of the Dove,” the long Henry James novel she’s been trying to finish for weeks. She tried to read, but all she felt like doing was sleeping.
And that’s what she did, off and on, for the next five days.
Every morning, she woke up and thought she felt better. Every day, she realized that she was still sick and had to get back into bed.
How did the family react?
Teen Spirit sounded sincerely concerned when he breezed through the apartment every 20 hours or so on route to his internship at Showpaper, a band rehearsal, or food with friends at Donuts.
OSFO was willing, here and there, to leap up to get Smartmom cups of hot water, Advil and Theraflu. Thank Buddha that someone raised that kid right.
Hepcat seemed a little vexed by the whole thing. (He’s really bought into Smartmom’s martyr act, no doubt.) It’s not like Smartmom waits on him hand and foot or anything — they have a very modern marriage, which means they eat too much takeout, allow their apartment to have that post-tornado look, and go weeks without clean clothes.
But still, no one can deny that Smartmom makes the family’s world go ’round.
Holy granola, if Smartmom is sick, who’s going to wake OSFO so she can take her 5:30 am shower?
Who’s going to keep the house stocked with milk, orange juice and breakfast from the Met Food?
Who’s going take the dirty clothes all the way down to the washer/dryer in the basement and bring them back up when they’re done?
Who’s going to fill and empty the dishwasher?
Who’s going to remind Hepcat to make dinner?
Who’s going to clean up after dinner?
Who’s going to…?
OK, so Smartmom feels indispensable. Sometimes she even feels like an underappreciated domestic slave (just like her friends).
But this time, Smartmom and her gang had no choice but to succumb to this ruthless bug.
Most of all, they were glad to be able to commiserate with each other by phone, e-mail, text, Facebook and even comments on The Brooklyn Paper’s Web site during their time of need.
Divorce Diva called, laryngitis and all, with hourly reports about her condition. What seemed like a common cold morphed into full-blown strep.
Then her eyes were swollen shut and she rushed to the doctor.
“You won’t believe it. I have strep in my eyes!” she told Smartmom hoarsely.
Warm and Funny, meanwhile, texted Smartmom that she received a diagnosis of bronchitis.
Later, she texted to say that the antibiotics did nothing to alleviate her symptoms.
Her fiancée was traveling, and she had to think of all sorts of creative ways to get her son to and from school.
Smartmom even posted on Facebook about how she was feeling, and got a bunch of nice responses from friends:
“Stop trying to work, etc. surrender, spend a few days in bed, with periodic baths, a lot of fluids, chicken soup and some occasional gentle stretching,” said Charlie. “Empty your head. Take two Advil at 9:30 and go to bed (large glass of water at bedside).”
Smartmom was very moved by his words. She also appreciated all the Facebook friends who told her to order spicy Thai soup from Lemongrass Grill.
Strangely, Smartmom’s flu, like the economy, seemed to get worse before it got better. On Sunday, she dragged herself to St. Ann’s Warehouse to see “Mabou Mines Dollhouse,” an avant-garde rehashing of Ibsen’s classic play.
In this version, all the women are played by actresses over 6-feet and the men are all played by dwarfs.
Much as she enjoyed Ibsen’s feminist masterpiece, she started to have the chills again and had to leave at intermission. When she got home she had a fever of 101.
Back to bed she went. But first, she texted Diaper Diva and Warm and Funny.
“Relapse. Fever is 101. This thing really lingers on.”
Once again, Smartmom lay under three blankets and a patchwork quilt. Once again, she had give into it big time and stop fighting.
Maybe it was a good lesson for all. Moms need to get sick every now and again. It’s not good to model too much stoicism (martyrdom is so unattractive).
Moms need to show the kids that it’s OK to break down. Otherwise, the next generation will have weird expectations of women. They’ll expect them to be superwomen when it’s perfectly fine to be the real, flesh and blood human kind.
So what if nothing gets done? Maybe it’ll teach their spouses and their kids to do things for themselves.