I am Oklahoma, by which I mean, I was sleeping. I was nobody's.
From which newspaper advertisement they were heralded, I know not. But unbidden by me they came. Landgrabbers. Would-be homesteaders across my landscape. I was prairie land undemarcated by political boundaries. They, with their elbows for stakes, they said each This parcel I will claim as mine. Two children. I think I counted 14 elbows.
Everyone has been sick all week. I spent 17 hours at my 42.5 hour work week this week. I took child A to the pediatrician on Tuesday and child B on Friday. Antibiotics for one, steroids for the other. Dayquil for the husband. Cough drops and another cup of tea for me, because I'm still nursing.
And so repeatedly this week, when everyone was unwell, they sought extra comfort. They sought it next to me, across me, atop me. And night after night, the family gathered inevitably before dawn in one bed. The homesteaders spoke mostly of neighborly things, fence building and potlucks. And they mostly slept. I lay fallow, feeling raw like freshly-cleared land.
I spent so much time with sick girls this week. There are differences between sick at three and sick at one. Sick at age three loses patience with the speed of spoon-delivered food. She picks up her bowl and drinks it in. If I say, "Gross, kid" because she just drank a bowl of black beans and every last drip of black bean juice, she has no patience for my intolerance. I drink it all the time like that at school, MOM. Mom, not mama. Eye rolls are only a few years away.
Sick at age one loses patience with extrinsic spoon guidance. With each bite she grabs the spoon and insists on feeding herself. With each bite she turns the spoon upside-down as it reaches her mouth, pouring food on the table, her clothes, my lap, the floor. But hardly in her mouth. Sick at one is hungry, frustrated, and displaying no patience for someone who just wants to get the spoon back to make things easier.
Three is almost feeling better. She gets the stir-crazies. She pulls up my shirt and pours milk in my belly button. One is feeling cranky. She pulls down my shirt and asks for another drink. A tidy equation, no? One pours the milk in, one takes it out. But I still had to wipe my own belly button.
I say to E, "could I give you a kiss?" and she says, Sure! But first I need you to wipe my nose. Her kisses are close-mouthed, but a little drooly. Let's just be grateful they're not snot-filled, too. L sees, and wants a kiss of her own. Hers are open-mouthed. She licks a little and smiles. We're all sharing a germ pool. No wonder nobody's healthy.
Tonight L is extra-cranky, and we're not sure why. More teething? The cough? Her eye goo, is it infectiously building up and putting pressure on her sinuses? Generic separation anxiety? E keeps waking, yelling ouch, rubbing her ear. I know now why the milk in my navel. It was a marker. Some time around 2 or 3am they will gather across my limbs, erect a Maypole, and dance the dance of sickly sleeplessness until the sun rises.