Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time After Time

"If you're lost, you can look and you will find me / Time after time / If you fall, I will catch you; I'll be waiting / Time after time"

Dusty and I were cuddled up on the couch watching The Time Traveler's Wife last Friday night when Diana woke up, whimpering. We listened for a few moments, to see if the whimpering would turn into something more alarming. Like the pained cry that immediately made Dusty jump up from the couch to go to her room. Usually, Diana is soothed back to sleep with a few minutes of rocking and singing, but then I heard Dusty's shaky voice: "Mama, we need you!" I don't remember the last time I moved so fast with so much baby belly.

I won't go into the gory details of what I saw when I flicked on the light in her room, but it turns out that Diana had caught the stomach flu at daycare. As soon as Dusty got within arm's reach of me, Diana practically leaped onto my belly, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and whimpered "Mama" between racking sobs. Everything and everyone between her room and the bathroom seemed covered in yuck. I'd like to think that Dusty and I are generally fairly level-headed people who manage all right in tough situations, but this is the sickest we have ever seen our kid. We panicked.

I somehow managed to haul myself and Diana into the shower, gingerly peeling each of her trembling limbs off me one at a time and washing underneath, all the while whispering, "Shhh, it's all right. Mama is here" so she would stop freaking out. Meanwhile, Dusty scrubbed the bedroom carpet and the hallway and bathroom floors, then threw a big load of laundry in the washer. He and I nearly collided a couple of times in the bathroom and hallway as we tried to get ourselves and our daughter calmed down and cleaned up. It was the most unfunny Keystone Kops routine ever.

Diana was still listless and clingy on Saturday, eating very little and keeping down even less. She stayed in her pajamas all day and mostly sat or slept near me while I did light household chores. That evening, the bug hit me hard and I spent most of the night and the next day in misery. The long weekend was supposed to be a celebration of Family Day in Alberta, but when Dusty was taken down by nausea and chills on Monday evening, we decided that Tuesday would be Family Sick Day.

It actually turned out to be a lovely day, except for the "sick" part. I piled up a bunch of blankets and pillows on the living room floor, where we made our base camp for the day. Diana gave it her enthusiastic seal of approval: "Is cozy, Mama!" We drank juice and water from teeny tea cups. We ate English muffins and dried berries, our plates and bowls balanced on our laps, and cheered on Daddy as he played Mass Effect 2. We watched HOURS of television and napped in between episodes of Wonder Pets. Sure, we broke a few house rules, but anything goes on Family Sick Day!

Oddly enough, Family Sick Day made me reflect more on The Time Traveler's Wife, and not just because it was the last thing we were watching before everyone got sick. The movie focuses on the love story between Henry and Clare, naturally diverging a bit from the book. I enjoyed both the book and the movie on their own merits, and the love story was certainly compelling, but the movie rang truest for me whenever it explored the bonds and bounds of familial love. That theme actually resonated more for me than the romance, whether it was Henry and Clare's struggle to have a family of their own, or Henry trying to build relationships with his parents, or Henry and Alba being "parental" to themselves and each other. Time may be fleeting, but family is forever.

Like Henry and Clare, Dusty and I initially had trouble starting a family. I cried all-too-familiar tears during the scenes depicting their heartbreaking miscarriages. I remembered similar discussions and arguments that we had over whether or not we were meant to be parents. I cried again--happy tears--when they finally had their beautiful daughter. I remembered those first days after Diana was born, when we were all getting used to our new family. But I cried most when sad little Alba climbs into bed beside her grieving mother and they just hold each other close, clinging to what is still left of their wee family.

In just four short weeks, our family of three will become a family of four. It might seem like a strange time to think about my mortality, but one is never closer to death than when giving birth. Dusty recently said to me that he never feared death until he became a father. Now he is terrified of dying before Diana and her sibling have a chance to know him. The movie touches on this fear, that a time traveler like Henry will not be there to catch his child when she falls, that he will not be there for her when she feels lost.

I know that someday I will die. I know that someday sooner than that, my children will leave my home and my side. They will get sick and maybe nobody will be there to pile blankets and pillows on the floor for them to snuggle into until they feel better. They will get scared and freak out and maybe nobody will be there to calm them down. But until then, I can continue making Family Sick Day "cozy" and save a spot next to me when they just need to know that Mama is here.

"Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
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