She’s 7, and in the Me-centric world of a person who’s only inhabited space on this earth for a few years, she believes that everything she perceives is exactly what everyone else perceives. This is one of the purest definitions of the innocence of childhood; touching while it’s present and sad when it’s lost to reality.
She’s having a sick day at home on the living room couch. She maybe has a fever, and definitely the tummy is iffy. She wants the sheet on, then off, then on but with her feet out.
I’m a visiting, volunteer brow-soother. I change the cool cloth on her forehead, and since her mom is at work, she feels the need to explain to me exactly how this will go. Her comments are phrased in the form of questions, but she delivers them in a weary, oh-brother-here-we-go-again tone.
“You know how when you feel sick sometimes it starts in your head? But sometimes it starts in your tummy? Then you can feel it coming up from here?”
She pats her tummy.
“And then you start to cry? And then you throw up.”
The “you start to cry” part gets me.
She watches intently, to make sure I haven’t missed a step. She wants to know that her particular brand of sick is the one understood by anyone in charge, and since I’m not her mom, she’s careful to be specific, assuring herself I’ll do everything right.
“And then, will you please call mom at work and ask her if I can have some Canada Dry?’
This, she evidently believes, is a magic potion that makes the tummy stop what it’s doing. No sense reminding her that she’s keeping nothing down at the moment, so I assure her I’ll call her mom at work soon.
She flips over onto her side, curling up, turning her back to SpongeBob on T.V., clutching her tummy, struggling with the inevitability of the sequence she’s just described.
We dash to the bathroom and minutes later, with the washcloth refreshed on her forehead, I sit in a chair near her, paging through magazines, hoping she’ll get some rest. She asks,
“Did you know you can make a really cool tent with your feet? I’ll show you. You put your feet up like this.”
She’s got one foot in the air, propping up the sheet, but then the leg comes down again and she says,
“I’ll show you how later.”
Tummy calmed, within minutes she’s asleep. I’ll stay in this chair for a while, because when she wakes up, I’m sure there’ll be more specific instructions to come.