I remember picking up my flannel pillow and pulling my twin-size down comforter off my bed. I balled them up together as best I could and then lugged the heavy bundle up the stairs, dragging a large portion of it on the floor, stepping on parts of it in my sock feet. Dragging a chair across the kitchen, I got a tea bag down out of the Good Earth tea box in the cupboard. Cinnamon filled the air. Near-boiling hot water came from the tea kettle on the wood stove, it was always there, always hot in the winter. With all my supplies ready, a book under my arm, I made a nest on the couch and eased myself into it. And there I'd camp all day, maybe even sleeping there at night, struggling to keep my eyes open during the Evening News.
Sick days. I loved them. The break from routine, the mandatory coziness, permission to do nothing but read all day.
The living room of my childhood was two walls of floor-to-ceiling, south-facing windows overlooking the apple orchard in the foreground and mountains in the background. Sunlight streamed through those windows all day long, ending in magnificent sunsets. As I lay back on the couch, the flickering reflections of the sun on the pool outside danced across the ceiling in watery, lazy apparitions. The room was book-ended with a hard-working wood stove that, in the fall, winter, and spring could raise the temperature in the room to a good 80 degrees if no one was looking. The front door opened into the living room, and from my nest on the couch I had a clear view through the kitchen all the way to the wall on the other side of the house, next to the bathroom. It was a good post for taking a break just outside the action of a five-person family. On the fringe with a good view.
Today, some 30 years later, my daughter is home sick from school. Some things have changed (what I would have given for Netflix streaming on my youthful sick days!) and some is the same: She made a nest of pillows and blankets on the couch, she has a steaming mug and toast beside her, she is happy and content to be inside the cocoon of our home today despite the illness (just a cold, thankfully).
Thinking back on my sick days, they are perhaps my fondest childhood memories, as strange as that sounds. I felt warm, secure, taken care of... And so now I want to protect my child's memories of these days, too. That's why when she is sick, I stop too. I used to get very stressed by her need for a sick day: how would I work my deadlines, conference calls, errands, dinner-making around this sudden change to my schedule? But now I realize how lucky I am for this imposed pause. I can make this day, this week (gulp!) about caring for her. She won't live here forever (despite what she may have told you); I won't always get to fuss over her. I want to savor these times. After all I can work around bringing her more tissues, making her something to eat, helping her find something to watch, tucking her in to bed, reading her a story, playing Checkers. All too soon she'll feel the pressure to ignore sickness -- to work through symptoms, to suck it up. For now I want to protect her ability to take a guilt-free sick day.
And in that way, I get a cozy break day, too.