If you read my last post, you know that we have tickets to Florida for this winter vacation. You also know that I called those tickets the best thing I bought this year. What you don’t know, though, is that our plane took off from Philly at 12:20pm today and at that precise moment, I was sitting in a local diner with The Who, sharing some eggs and practicing letter sounds.
We didn’t go to Florida.
I think on some level, I knew this was going to happen when, last week, The Who woke up in the middle of the night, telling me that it was “too loud in his ears” and only going back to sleep when I pressed my flat palm against the side of his head and held it there. I took him to the pediatrician the next day and she confirmed that his ears were full of fluid. (It is worth noting that by this time, I was also feeling the itchy, scratchy beginnings of a cold and his pediatrician took a peek in my ears and gave me the same diagnosis.) This was Wednesday. Flight on Monday. He’d be better, right? Piece of cake. And, miraculously, he was. He didn’t develop an ear infection, he started sleeping through again (after three solid weeks of waking up) and his appetite and color came back.
Enter: The Adult Cold. So much worse than the kid one.
I will spare you the gory and disgusting details (because there are some involving the colors yellow and green) but, the bottom line is that while The Who is chipper and well, his moms are not. I’ve got my Debra Winger voice on full-force, a migraine pounding away, and what sounds like the ocean rumbling in between my ears. Going on day 5 of this business. M* is suffering similarly, minus the migraine, but plus double pink-eye. We’re a motley crew, let me tell you.
Yesterday, m* tried to broach the topic of maybe postponing with me and, while I heard her and understood where she was coming from, I didn’t really want to hear it. There was going to be sun! Swimming! Sandal-wearing! In December! We had plane tickets, a non-refundable car rental, and a very excited Who, drawing pictures of airplanes and chattering about the whole family being on vacation. We decided, then, to push through. M* kept on with the laundry she was plowing through and I bought more Ricola and pressure-reducing earplugs.
Late last night, after m* had gone to bed, I did all I could to make the morning go smoothly, including gathering all our summer clothes and gear, hauling four suitcases up from the basement, packing our carry-on, and carefully selecting and packing a suitcase full of toys. I was up too late, I knew, but it seemed worth it. I downed two more decongestants, threw back some Advil, and pounded a bottle of water before finally going to sleep at 12:30, feeling decent, all things considered.
But then, this morning, m* came upstairs to the bedroom, with a grave, woeful look in her pink eyes, and said, “We can’t go on this trip. We just can’t.” She felt horrible, she was anxious, she had a bad feeling about it, and she just couldn’t. I have never cancelled a trip like this. The thought of breaking the news to The Who brought me right to tears. The idea of all that time at home with everyone cooped up, all the stores closed, and no plans panicked me. I had friends in Florida who had turned themselves inside out to get time off to spend with us. My brother-in-law was cooking Christmas dinner for us. And to top it all off, The Who kept popping into our conversation to show us the airplane he had drawn and the snacks he had packed for the trip, which I knew probably wasn’t going to happen.
We talked about our options. Could we postpone a few days? (No. The flights were sold out.) Could we do it in a few weeks? (No. the house we were staying at is rented for the rest of the winter.) Could just The Who and I go, leaving m* at home? (Maybe.) Could we all just stay home? (No effing way.) The only thing that we knew we could do (and had to do) was talk to The Who about it, which we did.
I have to say that, all things considered, he probably handled it the best out of all of us. He was sad. He rested his chin in his hands. He explained his sadness in a very 4-year-old way (“The lower my body is, the sadder I feel,” he said, and then he slid down to the rug and crouched into a ball.) He tried to offer up solutions (“Maybe you can take some medicine while Mama and I go out out for breakfast and when we get back, you will feel better!”) And, then finally, he accepted it, but was angry. (“You can’t be in our family anymore,” he told m*.) We mostly just listened and echoed his feelings back to him and, a few times, I cried watching him move through the disappointment. I was sad for his sadness, but also so moved by his realness and raw honesty. I was a little bit in awe of his process.
In the end, The Who felt pretty strongly about not wanting to go on this vacation if we couldn’t all go together and, as it turns out, Southwest is awesome because they allow to cancel and apply your travel funds to any other flight in the next twelve months. We even were able to get the discount name-your-own-price website to refund our car rental, which is virtually unheard of, but because we had taken The Who to the doctor about his ears, we were able to provide a medical reason for not being able to travel. (Pro tip: “Absolutely no refunds or changes” doesn’t always mean just that.) However, still faced with the dreadful notion of a solid week holed up at home with a sick wife and a stir-crazy boy, and to offer a consolation prize to both The Who and me, we re-packed our summer-clothes suitcase with warmer duds and we’re headed off to Boston for a week while m* stays home to recuperate.
All’s well that ends well. M*’s anxiety started to fade away as this new plan was hatched, The Who bounced back delightfully, having expressed his full range of reaction emotions, and is excited to see his grandparents and cousins. And, although replacing “shorts” and “tees” and “bathing suits” with “pants” and “hoodies” and “snow boots” on our packing list stings a little, I am settling into the idea of our new vacation. I’ll get to see friends I have been sorely missing. I’ll get to spend time with family and re-connect after a series of events that have put some distance between us. And, above all, I’ll get to know that we came together as a family, worked through a difficult situation, and were able to honor all of us and our many and varied needs through the process.
What more can I really ask for?